Container Gardening 101

By Jolene Hansen
Beauty Basics for Container Gardens

From tabletop cache pots to patio containers filled with veggies, container gardens provide daily doses of natural beauty. Containers reflect your style, increase your garden space, and up the ante on indoor and outdoor décor. Even if you're new to gardening, you can do it. This simple guide will get you on your way.

Buying Containers

Containers highlight your favorite décor trends and showcase your personality, but they need to suit plants, too. Remember these tips as you buy:

  • Give roots room. Plants need growing space, but not too much. Size your container to fit your plants, or vice versa, plus a little extra. Homegrown edibles, such as tomatoes or squash, are exceptions; they need oversize containers from the start.
Tomato plants and other edibles need large containers with room to grow.
  • Pay attention to materials. Choose container materials that suit your plants and plans. Porous materials, such as natural terra cotta, let air through, so soil dries well for water-wise plants such as succulents. Nonporous container materials, such as metal or fiberglass, help soil hold on to moisture.
  • Consider drainage. Drainage holes and saucers help prevent soggy soil and overwatering, while solid-bottom containers confine water and protect tables and flooring. Either way, you'll need to dump excess water regularly.


Whether you're planting flowers, edibles or combinations, start with strong, healthy, vibrant plants. Prep and plant with these points in mind:

  • Have a plan. Design your container planting like a centerpiece. Choose a focal plant, complementary plants to grow around it, and softer plants that will spill over the container's edge as they grow.
  • Fill your container. Use a light potting mix designed for containers, and then add an all-purpose plant food to start plants right. Leave an inch or so of space at the top for water — like room for cream in your coffee. If you're growing plants that need acidic soil, such as patio blueberries or potted hydrangeas, use plant food for acid lovers.
Container-grown hydrangeas flourish with fertilizer designed for them.
  • Combine like plants. Plant shade-loving plants, such as coleus or ferns, with others that prefer low light. Pair heat and sun lovers together, too. Place containers where they'll get the light they need.

Maintaining Gardens

Healthy, beautiful container gardens benefit from TLC. Follow these care tips:

  • Water well. Container plants dry out faster than in-ground plants. They need frequent watering, but overwatering can be fatal. Always test soil first. Stick your finger in a few inches deep. If the soil is cool and moist, you're good. If it's dry, it needs water. Self-watering planters simplify the process.
  • Feed as needed. Extra watering and growing roots in containers use up the soil's nutrients quickly. Regular feedings with a bloom-enhancing fertilizer keep flowers and veggies productive. A gentle foliar fertilizer feeds plants through leaves, so fewer nutrients are lost.
Tomato plants and other edibles need large containers with room to grow.
  • Watch the weather. Plants and containers need relief from intense sun, harsh winds and winter weather. Frost-resistant containers withstand some cold, but be sure to bring tender plants inside once temps drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Treat with a quick, pre-winter pest treatment before moving them indoors.

Making Seasonal Changes

As seasons change, so should your décor. Switch out containers completely, or replant them with fresh new looks:

  • Think spring. Fill containers with bulb gardens or tulip bulbs already forced into bloom. Give plants in combination plantings plenty of growing room for the season ahead.
  • Boost summer color. Leave what looks good, but toss fading spring bloomers. Add colorful, heat-loving plants for instant impact and a summer lift.
 Leave what looks good, but toss fading spring bloomers. Add colorful, heat-loving plants for instant impact and a summer lift.
  • Celebrate fall. Start fresh with mums, ornamental kales and other fall favorites. Pack 'em tight — they won't grow much before winter — and then throw in a mini-pumpkin or two.
  • Wind down for winter. Load containers with cut stems, such as curly willow and red- or yellow-twig dogwood. Lace in spruce tips or other evergreens. They'll hold their color and needles through cold weather.

Whatever you choose to plant in your containers, have fun and show your style. Keep these basics in mind, and soon you'll be gardening like a container pro. Pennington Garden Décor is here to help you succeed with the latest container trends and gardening advice you can trust.

Pennington® with design is a registered trademark of Pennington Seed, Inc.

Learn & Share | Pennington Garden Décor