How to Start a Container Garden


Container gardening excites the imagination. Decorative containers offer the opportunity to grow food crops, flowers and herbs in unique and interesting displays that enhance your landscape. Choose containers with wide enough surface area for plants and deep enough for plant roots. All containers must have a drain hole to keep plant roots from being waterlogged. Although you can buy excellent containers, you can also creatively adapt children's toys, antique buckets, or make your own boxes.

Step 1

Decide on the purpose of your container garden, which will help you select containers, location and plants.

Step 2

Select containers and position them in the landscape, making sure that they are on a flat surface. Fill and plant large containers on the spot. Work on smaller, more mobile containers in your work area and then transport them to their final location.

Step 3

Note the availability and duration of sunlight in the locations where you want containers in order to select plants that are adapted to those conditions, or select a location whose light meets the needs of the plants you want to grow in containers.

Step 4

Select plants for your containers. Unless you are growing large food crop plants such as tomatoes, most containers look best with multiple, complementary plants that include different colors, shapes and textures. A popular theme for container garden design uses three forms: one tall, upright plant, surrounded by broad plants and accented with one that has trailing leaves.

Step 5

Add gravel or pot shards to the bottom of your container to ensure that water does not sit around the plant roots.

Step 6

Add soil mixture to the container--usually a nursery potting soil or a growing mixture composed of sawdust, wood chips, peat moss, perlite and vermiculite. Fill the container about four-fifths full, which allows room for watering the plants.

Step 7

Add fertilizer that is rich in phosphorous to promote root growth. Mix it well and water the soil.

Step 8

Remove plants from their garden-center containers by gently tapping with your trowel and easing the plant out. Be careful not to handle or damage the roots. Begin with the largest plant and then add smaller ones around it.

Step 9

Open a hole in the container's soil with the trowel. Shake the plant gently to loosen the root-ball. Place the plant at the depth it was in its original container and firm the soil around the base of the plant. Water-in the plant with a watering can and add more soil around the base if necessary to keep the plant supported.

Things You'll Need

  • Containers
  • Plants
  • Potting soil
  • Gravel or pot shards
  • Fertilizer
  • Trowel
  • Watering can


  • All About Containers
  • Gardening in Containers
  • Container Gardening
Keywords: container gardening, planting containers, growing in containers

About this Author

Barbara Brown has been a freelance writer for four years. Prior experience includes 15 years as a writer, project manager and knowledge analyst in defense systems advanced information. She is acknowledged for contributions to three books: Leadership Elements, Knowledge Acquisition, and State-of-the-Art for KA. Barbara has a masters in psychology from SMU and training in artificial intelligence and project management.