Growing Plants in Containers

annuals in containerannuals in container

Most annual flowers, perennials, herbs, and vegetables grow well in containers, as long as you choose the right pot and care for the plants properly. We'll guide you in how to choose containers, choose soil for your containers, proper planting techniques, and how to care for your container plants. 

There are many benefits to growing in containers:

  • You can grow plants wherever you want, as long as the light conditions match the plants' needs.
  • You can use your creativity in mixing and matching containers and plants.
  • You can grow plants that aren't hardy in your region, because you can move pots to a sheltered location during cold weather.
  • You can provide the optimal soil type for your plants. If your garden soil is heavy clay, you can grow plants that prefer well-drained soil, like lavender and rosemary, in pots filled with a fast-draining potting mix.
  • You can enjoy the beauty and fragrance of herbs and flowers close up, and harvest fresh produce right from your doorstep.
 

Choosing Containers

Drainage. First and foremost, make sure your container has drainage holes. If you'll be placing the container on a solid surface, make sure the drainage holes aren't blocked. If they are, try placing the planter on "pot feet," casters or on a tray of pebbles. The number one rule of container growing: Water must be able to drain freely.

Material.Water evaporates through the walls of porous containers, like those made from unglazed terra cotta and wood. That usually means you'll need to water more often than plants in nonporous pots. But the porosity can be a good thing for plants that prefer soil on the dry side, like most succulents. Nonporous pots, like those made from plastic, resin and glazed terra cotta, hold in moisture better.

Self-Watering. Self-watering pots contain a water reservoir and wicking system so water is delivered to the plants as they need it. This not only reduces the frequency with which you'll need to add water, it also provides a better growing environment for plants by providing consistent moisture.

Size. In general, small pots dry out more quickly that large pots. Those little unglazed terra cotta pots look lovely but may need watering multiple times on a hot, sunny day. Placing a nonporous plastic pot within a porous pot helps retain moisture. Very large containers, on the other hand, can retain too much water for small plants or those that prefer relatively dry soil. You'll need to check soil moisture before watering so you don't overdo it.

Choosing Soil for Your Containers

Use a high-quality potting soil in your containers. Don't use garden soil, which often drains poorly and may contain disease organisms. Remember that the plants' roots are confined to a relatively limited space so you want to give them everything they need for optimum growth.

Planting Techniques

Don't overcrowd vegetables, herbs and perennials in the containers. Consider their mature size and choose the pots accordingly. Overcrowded containers lead to root-bound plants and the poor air circulation around crowded plants can lead to diseases problems.

Set plants in the container at the same height as they were in their nursery pots. Don't leave roots exposed, and don't bury stems. Plant seeds at the recommended garden depth.

Care and Feeding

The biggest difference between plants growing in containers and those growing in the ground is that container plants will need more frequent watering and fertilizing, because the roots are confined and have limited soil from which to take up water and nutrients.

As with all garden plants, you'll need to keep an eye out for pest and disease problems, but container plants are often less prone to infestation and infection. Sitting on a deck or patio, they're isolated from garden plants, and they aren't exposed to the soil-borne pests in the garden.

Container Happy Plants

  1. Yarrow Moonshine, Achillea

    Moonshine is a golden yarrow that covers itself with flowers on a plant to 18 or 24 inches tall. Silvery foliage. (Achillea)...

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    Moonshine Yarrow Moonshine Yarrow Achillea x Moonshine
    $11.99 Sale $9.59
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    Moonshine is a golden yarrow that covers itself with flowers on a plant to 18 or 24 inches tall. Silvery foliage. (Achillea)
  2. Ellagance Snow English Lavender, Lavandula angustifolia Ellagance Snow

    A stunning variety, ‚Ellagance Snow‚ English Lavender has masses of beautiful white flower spikes above lovely grey-green foliage. Sweetly scented, it attracts bees and b...

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    Ellagance Snow English Lavender Ellagance Snow English Lavender Lavandula angustifolia Ellagance Snow
    As low as $15.99 Sale $12.79
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    A stunning variety, 'Ellagance Snow' English Lavender has masses of beautiful white flower spikes above lovely grey-green foliage. Sweetly scented, it attracts bees and butterflies while discouraging deer and rabbits. This award-winning variety’s compact form and abundant flowers make it an ideal addition to a small space, rock garden, border, or container. (Lavandula angustifolia)
  3. Phenomenal Lavender, Lavandula x intermedia

    Phenomenal Lavender has it all: exceptionally tolerant of both high heat and harsh winter, this easy-to-grow lavender even shows resistance to the effects of humidity. Highly fragran...

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    Phenomenal® Lavender Lavender Phenomenal® PP#24193 Lavandula x intermedia Phenomenal PP#24193
    As low as $11.99 Sale $8.99
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    Phenomenal Lavender has it all: exceptionally tolerant of both high heat and harsh winter, this easy-to-grow lavender even shows resistance to the effects of humidity. Highly fragrant with concentrated essential oils, Phenomenal's spikes of purple-blue flowers attract butterflies and bees to the garden. Edible, deer-resistant and fast-growing, this silver-leafed lavender has left all other new introductions in the dust! (Lavandula x intermedia) PP#24193
  4. Berry Chiffon Tickseed, Coreopsis verticillata Berry Chiffon

    Coreopsis Berry Chiffon has delightful petals with raspberry hued centers and white edges. Developed to be disease resistant, deer resistant, and drought tolerant ensures your enjoy...

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    Berry Chiffon Coreopsis Berry Chiffon Tickseed PP#27414 Coreopsis verticillata Berry Chiffon PP#27414
    $13.32 Sale $10.66
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    Coreopsis Berry Chiffon has delightful petals with raspberry hued centers and white edges. Developed to be disease resistant, deer resistant, and drought tolerant ensures your enjoyment of this prolific bloomer. No deadheading needed to help Berry Chiffon produce flowers from early summer to early fall. (Coreopsis)
  5. Eupatorium Baby Joe, Joe Pye Weed with Coreopsis

    ‚Baby Joe‚ Dwarf Joe Pye Weed is the solution for butterfly lovers short on space in the garden. This compact variety grows to a manageable 2-3’ tall and limits its...

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    Baby Joe Dwarf Pye Weed Dwarf Pye Weed Baby Joe PP#20320 Eupatorium dubium 'Baby Joe'
    $10.65 Sale $7.99
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    'Baby Joe' Dwarf Joe Pye Weed is the solution for butterfly lovers short on space in the garden. This compact variety grows to a manageable 2-3’ tall and limits its spread. 'Baby Joe' has gorgeous purple blooms that add sweet fragrance to the late-season garden, supplying butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees with vital nectar. Deer resistant. (Eupatorium dubium) PP#20320
  6. Martagon Mania Bulb Collection

    The Martagon Mania Bulb Collection combines a stunning trio of Martagon lilies for an unforgettable show. Featuring maroon-red, sunny orange, and coral blooms, each plant produces up...

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    Martagon Mania Bulb Collection Martagon Mania Bulb Collection Lilium martagon
    $59.98 Sale $50.99
    Per Collection of 9
    The Martagon Mania Bulb Collection combines a stunning trio of Martagon lilies for an unforgettable show. Featuring maroon-red, sunny orange, and coral blooms, each plant produces up to 50 flowers per stem. Adored by butterflies, Martagon lilies add drama and height to mixed beds and borders. Use cuttings as a focal point in floral arrangements. Collection of 9 bulbs. (Lilium martagon)
  7. Blue Spruce Sedum, Sedum reflexum Blue Spruce

    This Sedum gets its name from small, blue leaves that resemble the needles of a blue Spruce. Cheerful yellow flowers emerge in the early summer. (Sedum reflexum)...

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    Blue Spruce Sedum Blue Spruce Stonecrop Sedum reflexum Blue Spruce
    As low as $9.32 Sale $6.99
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    This Sedum gets its name from small, blue leaves that resemble the needles of a blue Spruce. Cheerful yellow flowers emerge in the early summer. (Sedum reflexum)
  8. Red Fox Veronica, Speedwell

    ‚Red Fox’ Veronica‚s fuchsia-red spikes are offset by its bright green foliage, creating a vibrant statement in the late season garden. The tall, arching flowers sh...

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    Red Fox Veronica Speedwell Red Fox Veronica spicata Red Fox
    $9.32 Sale $7.92
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    'Red Fox’ Veronica's fuchsia-red spikes are offset by its bright green foliage, creating a vibrant statement in the late season garden. The tall, arching flowers shoot upwards from dense mounds of foliage, attracting butterflies and hummngbirds to their long-lasting blooms. Gorgeous in perennial borders and when cut for bouquets. Deer and rabbit resistant. (Veronica spicata)
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