Container Gardening: No Space, No Problem

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Choosing the Container Size

As long as it has holes for drainage, almost anything can be used as a planter. Large containers hold more soil and water and therefore dry out more slowly and require less watering. Chose a container that will hold two cubic feet of soil for every square foot of canopy size.

Choosing the Container Type

Truly anything can be turned into a planter, however, of the more common options, each material has its pros and cons. A quick conversation with a nursery or garden center professional could help you determine just the right planter for your space, as well as choosing the right plants to thrive in the proper planters. Here are some pros and cons to help you work through the options:

Terra Cotta
Pro: Inexpensive and available in every shape, size and finish
Con: Terra Cotta’s porous texture causes it to absorb water, prematurely drying out the soil

Pro: Good, frost-proof insulator
Con: Decays over time and requires new paint or stain over time

Pro: Nice, natural look
Con: Less durable and likely to deteriorate over time

Pro: Widely available and versatile
Con: Will rust over time, can expose plant roots to extreme variations in temperature due to improper insulation

Stone & Concrete
Pro: Strong, durable and frost-proof
Con: Extremely heavy, once these pots are planted it is hard to move them.

Resin & Plastic
Pro: Easy to move, affordable, cannot be broken, and good at retaining water.
Con: Can look worn and weathered with time, some plastics may crack with age and exposure to temperature extremes.

Choosing Your Plants

You need to think ahead about the eventual height, shape and growth habits of the plants you choose. The most successful container combinations usually include at least one of each kind of plant: upright, broad and trailing- also referred to as a thriller, a filler and a spiller. Start with a tall, attention-getting, upright plant like Purple Foundation Grass or dwarf canna lily; add one or two broad, mid-height plants like African daisies or dwarf dahlias to fill out the space; and one or two trailing varieties like ivy geranium or sweet potato vine to spill over the side.

Consider Growing Conditions

Think through where you will put your container, and select plants that will thrive in those sun and moisture conditions. Sun-loving ivy geraniums will not survive on a shady porch. It’s also good to combine plants with similar water requirements.

Mix and Match Textures & Colors

The most beautiful containers have a mix of foliage, size and color. Combine complementary colors such as purple and orange or yellow and blue. And use dramatically different textures like small, lacy trailing flowers against a spiky succulent or the tuft of lemon yellow grass known as ogon.