Container Gardening: Tips for All Types of Gardens

Container gardens are a great way for people without access to a garden plot to still enjoy the pleasure of tending plants. Some container gardening tips are universal. Always pick a good quality potting soil, and water and feed the container garden regularly, since the plants are not able to send out deep roots to seek out water and nutrients. In multiple plant container gardens, be sure to use plants that have similar cultural requirements.

Beyond those universal container gardening tips, each type of container garden has its own unique concerns.

Container Gardening Tips for Annuals

Annuals—plants that complete their life cycles in a single growing season—are the most common types of container gardens. Whether patio gardens, hanging baskets or container arrangements, an annual container garden is an opportunity to explore color combinations.

Container Gardening Tips for Perennials
Perennial container gardens will last several years with proper care, so it is vital to select a good mix of plants. Flowering perennials tend to bloom over a period of a few weeks, rather than all season long the way annuals do, so picking a selection of plants with successive bloom periods will ensure color in the container garden all season. Take advantage of this by selecting plants with different bloom times and colors to create a kaleidoscope of shifting colors in the perennial container garden.

Repot container perennial gardens every year or so to trim up the root systems and renew the garden with fresh soil-less potting mix. Since perennials have more extensive roots than annuals, be sure to select a large container and leave enough room between plants.

Container Gardening Tips for Vegetables
The biggest challenge for container gardening with vegetables is finding vegetables and varieties suitable for container growing. Some vegetables tailor-made for container gardening are tomatoes, eggplants and peppers. These are often easier to grow in containers than in the garden, since container planting alleviates the worry of soil-borne diseases accumulating due to lax crop rotation.

Several varieties of cherry tomatoes, including Tumbler and Sweet 100, are bred to be particularly attractive cascading over a hanging basket. Bush varieties of cucumber and squash can also yield well in container gardens.

Container Gardening Tips for Shade
Shade gardening is a challenge in or out of containers. Finding shade tolerant container plants can be a challenge, since the size limitation of container gardening makes some shade standbys like ferns and hostas impractical. In addition to impatiens, the color workhorse of the shade garden, there are a variety of grasses and shade plants with interesting foliage textures and variegations. Container gardening works to the gardener’s advantage when growing lily of the valley, which can spread to the point of invasiveness in some areas. Container shade gardens allow for some cheating, though, by using plants for partial shade and moving the containers to a sunnier spot for a few hours a day.

Container Gardening Tips for Herbs
Herb gardens are the container gardens most likely to be kept indoors year-round, on a sunny kitchen windowsill where the cook has easy access to tasty fresh herbs. No container gardening tips would be complete without an admonition to rotate these windowsill container gardens so that each side of the plant has a turn facing the window. Even on the sunniest window, the light reaches the plant at an angle, encouraging the plants to grow lopsided unless they are periodically turned.