Landscaping & Nursery Information for Home Gardeners

Container Gardening

Container gardening is a fun way for anyone to garden. To those living in a condo, apartment or who are challenged by physical limitations, growing something in a container is a wonderful way to get close to nature. Growing, maturing and caring for a plant can be very therapeutic and many get satisfaction from seeing their work boom or being able to harvest fruit and vegetables they have grown.

Gardening in containers is easy. A large variety of containers are available for these gardens, but be aware of limitations. In the dry, Colorado climate, moss baskets don't do well. A gardener is better off using something that does not dry out as fast. Good choices are a plastic pot placed inside of a basket or decorative clay pot, or put a plastic pot inside of a moss basket instead of planting directly in one.

Unique containers make wonderful conversation pieces and express personality. Use old shoes, boots, animal containers, crates, or natural containers such as rocks, driftwood or old stumps with holes drilled in them. Anything that will hold soil and plants, and will drain, will do. For a more traditional container garden, whiskey barrels, terra cotta pots, ceramic pots, plastic pots and window boxes are all available at local garden centers. Most pots will hold all the plants you wish to grow.

Containers can be planted with a single plant variety or color, or various plants and hues can be mixed together. A whole pot of red geraniums, another pot full of yellow marigolds and another pot of blue petunias can also be grouped together to give a mixed-planter look.

Be sure that different kinds of plants in the same pot all require the same sun exposure and water. Use plants of varying heights and textures to contrast or complement each other. Designers use tall spiky plants like grasses mixed with low, mounding plants like petunias, together with a vine trailing down the side of the container.

Let your imagination run wild. Consider using ornamental grasses like fountain grass or blood grass. Annuals that provide a cascading effect include lobelia and sweet alyssum. Perennials such as verbena, salvia, rudbeckia and coreopsis all work very well in pots. Vining plants like variegated vinca, black-eyed Susan vine, hyacinth bean and morning glory can add a different dimension to containers. For height, use plants like canna, spider flower, spike or cosmos. Bulbs like caladium, begonia, gladiolus and hardy lilies can be used to add distinctive lines to the planting design. Dwarf trees, like dwarf Alberta spruce and other conifers work beautifully, adding winter interest.

Container gardening: basics 

When planting in a container, always use potting soil that contains perlite or bark so the pot has good drainage and enough organic material to absorb and hold moisture. The amount of water needed for container gardening will depend a great deal on whether the container is placed in a shady or sunny spot, weather conditions and the type of plants used. Smaller containers and clay pots will need to be watered more often than large pots or plastic pots. 

Check the soil every day for a couple of weeks by sticking a finger about two inches into the soil. This will help you get a sense of how often the plant needs to be watered. In hot summer months, plants may need water in the morning and again at night. On a 95 degree day with a 30 mph breeze, most pots will be dry by the end of the day.

Most container gardens will need to be fertilized regularly. Again, how often will vary depending on the type of plants and soil. Most annuals, perennials and vegetables will either need a time released fertilizer or a fertilizer mixed with water weekly.

Adapted from an article



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