Growing plants in containers is incredibly popular and vessels overflowing with bright and beautiful flowers add instant appeal to any garden or outdoor space. It means those with just a balcony or small patio can enjoy plant life and there are few limits on what can be used to store blooms too.
Vessels, half barrels, watering cans, mason jars, pots, and tubs are just some of the containers that can be used.
In addition to growing flowers in containers, or placing cut blooms indoors, gardeners limited to a small patio, yard or balcony can produce a wide range of vegetable crops in containers too, including the likes of chives, thyme, and basil, as well as a range of other herbs, all of which can be used in everyday cooking.
Simply place them in a convenient spot right outside the kitchen door!
Making the most of space
Growing plants in containers adds versatility to gardens both large and small. Plants add an instant injection of colour to indoor and outdoor spaces while providing a focal point. If you choose wisely, you can also link your chosen container plants to the style of your home.
Either place them on the ground or on a pedestal, pop them on a windowsill, or hang them in baskets from your porch.
A pair of containers that complement each other, placed on either side of your front door will serve as a welcoming decoration, while containers placed on decking or a patio can add colour and ambiance to a variety of outdoor sitting areas.
What size of containers to use
It comes down to both personal choice and space as to whether you use single small containers, or large containers for outdoor decoration. It’s also a good idea to consider arranging pots in groups, both small and large, which can be placed on terraces, stairways or anywhere in the garden.
Crowds of pots containing a collection of your favourite plants or herbs can be used for ornamental and cooking purposes. Perennials, annuals, dwarf evergreens, or any other plants you like can be kept in such containers.
You may also wish to place houseplants outdoors in the summer months, although note that some may require different care in different conditions.
Mix and match planting
Containers planted with species of single plants, such as bold and bright ornamental grass or rosemary make stunning garden accents. Alternatively, you may wish to use a mix of plants to create a striking display – often the best combinations that feature beautiful foliage and blooms are developed over the full length of the flowering season. This way, each plant can complement the others around it.
Thriller, spiller, filler
One simple method of growing plants in containers is to follow the ‘thriller, spiller, filler’ rule. This translates to one focal-point plant (the thriller) – good options include a coleus or a geranium with multicoloured leaves – combined with a variety of blooms and plants that spill over the edge of the pots (the spiller), including the likes of bacopa, creeping zinnias, petunias, or ornamental sweet potatoes.
Finally, add the fillers to the mix, which often come in the shape of plants with slighter leaves and flowers that add hot hues to your arrangement and which bloom all season long. Good fillers include the likes of verbenas, salvias, ornamental peppers, and wax begonias, as well as rich foliage plants such as liquorice plants and parsley plants.
You may also wish to include a plant for height, like purple fountain grass. Add a pillar or trellis to the container or a vine to add height to the composition. You will require a total of five or six plants to comfortably fill a container measuring between 18 to 24 inches.
The advantages of growing plants in large containers
It’s important to keep in mind that it’s easier to grow plants in larger containers as opposed to smaller ones. This is because large containers are able to hold more soil, which is able to hold moisture for longer which makes it more resistant to quick temperature fluctuations.
An important factor to take into consideration when opting for hanging baskets is that they’re especially prone to drying out, particularly during hot summer weather. This means you may have to water them up to twice a day to keep your container plants alive.
Consider each container carefully
You’ll need to decide what plant or plants you wish to grow in each container as this will determine how deep and large the container needs to be. It’s wise to consider the size of your chosen plant’s root system and whether they’re perennial, annual, or a shrub. You’ll also need to do some research on how quickly they grow.
Root bound shrubs, which have filled up every square inch of soil available, tend to dry out pretty quickly and won’t thrive.
Choose a large container or tub for mixed plantings, and one that offers enough root space for all of the plants you wish to grow. Light-coloured containers are better options as they’re able to keep the soil cooler than darker containers.
The maximum weight and size of the container is limited to how much room you have available. Don’t forget to check how much weight the likes of balconies and windowsills are able to hold!
Whichever container you opt for, drainage holes are a must. Without drainage, soil will quickly become waterlogged and this can cause the plants to die. The holes don’t need to be large, but big enough so that excess water is able to drain out. If a container has no holes, it’s an easy task to drill some yourself.
For best results, grow your plants in ordinary nursery pots that fit inside decorative cachepots, so you can move them separately when required.
Self-watering, double-walled hanging baskets, containers and window boxes are all readily available. These are a great option for those who have opted for smaller plants that require frequent watering.
When it comes to growing plants in containers, remember that each variety of containers boasts advantages and disadvantages too, as we’ve detailed below.
Clay or terracotta containers look fantastic but can easily break. This is especially true when temperatures change – when temperatures freeze and then thaw, these containers for growing plants can become damaged.
Cast concrete is a long-lasting material that comes in a wide variety of sizes and styles. These containers can be left outside in all conditions and you can even make them yourself. They are heavy though, so it’s wise to place them in a position where they are likely to stay for the long haul.
Smaller containers for growing plants may need to be weighted down to ensure they do not fall over in the wind too.