How to Have a Garden in Pots


The confined spaces of a patio, balcony or small back yard require innovative techniques for creating a garden. Don't be deterred by small spaces. Creating a garden in pots allows considerable flexibility in plant choices. Potted gardens also offer the bonus of choosing containers that fit the décor of your outdoor living space. Bulbs, vegetables, flowers or small shrubs provide a lasting impact as potted gardens. Creating gardens in pots requires planning and proper plant selection so your choices thrive in the growing conditions.

Step 1

Determine the sunlight availability for your porch, patio or deck. Each location features different exposures to sunlight. Full sun receives direct exposure for most of the day. Full shade experiences no sun throughout the day and can include those areas with light appearing through mature tree foliage. Partial sun areas receive four to six hours of sun, preferably in the early morning or later afternoon. Partial shade locations experience early morning or later afternoon sun for two to four hours each day.

Step 2

Find your location on the USDA hardiness zone map. This information provides assistance in choosing plants for the garden pots. Growers print the USDA hardiness zones on plant labels to show the lowest temperature tolerated by cold-tolerant plants for your location.

Step 3

Visit the garden center. Most local nurseries showcase plants tolerant to your climate. Decide if you want annuals that flower for a single season, perennials that return each year, or vegetables for an edible home garden.

Step 4

Choose plants based on light requirements and planting space requirements. This information is listed on each plant label. Plants must have adequate room for roots to spread. The close confines of a container garden limit root expansion. Consult with the garden center specialist to determine which plants will best suit your needs.

Step 5

Select pots to accommodate the root spread of your plant choices. Don't limit choices to a single large pot. Select various widths and heights to create a true garden in pots. Grouping the pots in your outdoor living space creates a garden atmosphere with plenty of color, texture and decorative pizazz to catch the eye. Check the bottom of each pot for drainage holes spaced every 5 inches along the bottom of the pot.

Step 6

Pour fresh potting soil into each pot until the planter is two-thirds full. Pair plants with the same sunlight, watering or fertilizing needs. Compress the outside of each plastic plant pot to loosen the roots. Place your hand over the top of the pot and tip it upside down into your palm.

Step 7

Flip the plant over and place it root-first into the garden pot so the root ball lies about 2 inches below the pot rim. Place additional plants into the container and fill in with soil. Trim back dying flowers or foliage with pruning shears.

Step 8

Water the roots of each plant right above the soil. This method of watering provides water directly to the roots and limits foliage damage. Garden pots require frequent watering, so monitor the plants carefully. Water when the soil appears dry.

Step 9

Apply a water-soluble all-purpose fertilizer to the garden pots every two weeks.

Things You'll Need

  • Pots
  • Potting soil
  • Plants
  • Pruning shears
  • Watering can
  • All-purpose fertilizer


  • West Virginia University: Container Gardening
  • University of Rhode Island: Making a Container Garden

Who Can Help

  • USNA: USDA Hardiness Zone Map
  • Texas A&M University: Vegetable Gardening in Containers
Keywords: garden in pots, potted gardens, container gardens

About this Author

S.F. Heron is an avid gardener with three years of experience in online writing and a working background in aviation and earth and ocean sciences. She is published on various sites, including Helium, eHow and Xomba. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism from the University of Maryland.