Growing Plants in Containers

Ideal for a small garden space or patio, container gardening is suitable for a large variety of plants.
By: DK Books - Gardeners Guide
Container Gardens are Great for Limited Spaces

Container Gardens are Great for Limited Spaces

Even the smallest patio or porch can grow a crop of vegetables or a garden of flowers in containers. Planter boxes, wooden barrels, hanging baskets and large flowerpots are just some of the containers that can be used.

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

There are thousands of plants that will thrive in containers — in fact you can grow just about anything in them, from trees to miniature bulbs, fruit and vegetables, and aquatic plants such as water lilies.

Planting Pots

Whether you want to create a vibrant display of summer color or just a focal point, the key to success with containers is to make sure all the plants’ needs are met.

Pick containers that suit your plants and style of garden. Good quality terra cotta suits a formal, classic space, while galvanized steel cubes, cylinders or conical pots look good in a more contemporary garden. Black or white terrazzo (faux marble) oozes sophistication and suits many garden styles. If you have a balcony or roof garden, use lightweight plastic pots.

The size of the pot you need depends on the plant. Make sure it is large enough for the rootball, with space around the sides and base for the roots to grow. Use large pots for trees, shrubs, or groups of plants, while smaller containers can house herbs, bulbs or perennials.

Using the correct compost is vital. Shrubs, trees and other perennials growing permanently in pots need a soil-based compost since it retains moisture well and is fairly heavy, preventing pots from toppling over. Multi-purpose compost is ideal for temporary displays of annual plants or vegetables. Once planted, add decorative mulch over the surface of the compost. It looks good, stifles weeds and locks in moisture. Containers make the perfect home for many plants and are an ideal solution if you have limited space or want herbs or plants on hand.

Group pots together to create an interesting display. Use a few different styles of pots, but keep it simple for a unified look.


Plants that are permanently grown in pots can run out of steam and should be given a boost in spring. Top-dressing is simply removing the top layer of compost and replacing it with fresh material mixed with an appropriate fertilizer. Top-dress containers with fresh compost, then cover with a mulch of bark chips or decorative pebbles to keep the moisture in and prevent weeds from germinating. 

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