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. 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
    $11.99 Sale $10.79
    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)
  2. 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)
  3. Elijah Blue Fescue Grass, Festuca glauca

    'Elijah Blue' Fescue Grass is one of the most popular, no fuss ornamental grasses. Low growing in tight mounds with fine silvery blue-green foliage, plant 'Elijah Blue' in borders, r...

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    Elijah Blue Fescue Grass Elijah Blue Fescue Festuca glauca Elijah Blue
    As low as $11.99 Sale $10.79
    Per Plant - 3.5" Pot
    'Elijah Blue' Fescue Grass is one of the most popular, no fuss ornamental grasses. Low growing in tight mounds with fine silvery blue-green foliage, plant 'Elijah Blue' in borders, rock gardens, or as groundcover to create year-round visual interest in the garden. In late spring and early summer, blonde seed heads appear on tall stems. Compact forms are great for small gardens and containers, and wont overtake its companions in the garden. (Festuca glauca)
  4. Shady Nook Fern Collection

    The Shady Nook Fern Collection adds a touch of grace to the garden with smooth lines of flowing foliage. A soothing color palette blends layers of cool green and blue with silver and...

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    Shady Nook Fern Collection Shady Nook Fern Collection
    $37.32 Sale $35.45
    Per Collection of 7
    The Shady Nook Fern Collection adds a touch of grace to the garden with smooth lines of flowing foliage. A soothing color palette blends layers of cool green and blue with silver and burgundy accents. These deer-resistant plants are perfect for naturalizing in woodland gardens and other shady sites. Three unique growth habits make for an eye-catching grouping. Three plants.
  5. Reblooming Daylily Stella D'Oro, Hemerocallis

    Early to bloom and easy to care for, 'Stella D'Oro' Reblooming Daylily is a compact plant and a great choice for edging the front of the garden. Rich, golden yellow blooms come in st...

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    Stella D'Oro Reblooming Daylily Reblooming Daylily Stella D'Oro Hemerocallis Stella D'Oro
    As low as $12.65 Sale $10.75
    Per Bag of 3
    Early to bloom and easy to care for, 'Stella D'Oro' Reblooming Daylily is a compact plant and a great choice for edging the front of the garden. Rich, golden yellow blooms come in strong in early to mid summer, and a reblooming habit brings them on again later in the season. Fragrant. (Hemerocallis)
  6. Luna Red Hibiscus, Hibiscus moscheutos bloom

    Luna Red Hibiscus brings tropical flair to the hardy perennial garden with dramatic eight-inch cranberry red blooms produced continuously from mid to late summer. Broad, deep green f...

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    Luna Red Hibiscus Luna Red Hibiscus Hibiscus moscheutos
    $11.99 Sale $11.39
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    Luna Red Hibiscus brings tropical flair to the hardy perennial garden with dramatic eight-inch cranberry red blooms produced continuously from mid to late summer. Broad, deep green foliage provides stunning contrast to the bright blooms. More compact growth and dense branching make Luna Red an ideal specimen for containers or borders. Deer resistant. (Hibiscus moscheutos)
  7. Lush Hosta Collection

    The Lush Hosta Collection is your answer for bold color in shady nooks – with an explosion of blue, green, and variegated foliage and gorgeous summer blooms. A perfect mixture of p...

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    Lush Hosta Collection Lush Hosta Collection
    $60.65 Sale $56.99
    Per Collection of 10
    The Lush Hosta Collection is your answer for bold color in shady nooks – with an explosion of blue, green, and variegated foliage and gorgeous summer blooms. A perfect mixture of plant sizes, foliage textures, and shapes, this collection provides instant impact with very little maintenance. Fragrant bell-shaped purple and white blooms attract hummingbirds from mid- to late summer.
  8. Super Star Coreopsis

    Bright and happy, 'Super Star' Coreopsis PPAF will light up your pollinator garden or sunny perennial beds with an exciting twist on an old favorite. Huge lemon-yellow flowers have a...

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    Super Star Coreopsis Super Star Tickseed PPAF Coreopsis Super Star PPAF
    $10.65 Sale $9.59
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    Bright and happy, 'Super Star' Coreopsis PPAF will light up your pollinator garden or sunny perennial beds with an exciting twist on an old favorite. Huge lemon-yellow flowers have a ring of deep red brushstrokes, surrounding a fuzzy golden center. Held above grassy green lanceolate foliage, they'll create a low carpet of high-impact bloom from summer through fall. Deer resistant. (Coreopsis)
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