Planting Tips for Container Gardening

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Large container garden

I spend my mother’s day weekend buying and planting flowers because I love it and  in my zone 6a part of the world it is usually safe to plant annuals outside. Still, I watch out for any nights that dip into the 30’s. If this happens I try to either cover them with tarps, plastic garbage bags or move them into the garage or my screened in porch.

One specimen in container

I love shopping for flowers; don’t we all. I try to make a list of the containers that I want to fill and mark them as mostly sun or shade. At the nursery, I walk around and fill up my cart, and check off the containers as I choose enough plants for each. I have my standard favorites, but every year  I usually end up with a few new ones that I just have to buy.


Dark Annuals in Blue Pots

Beside choosing plants for the correct sun exposure I usually think, thriller, filler and spiller, or tall and spiky, medium and bushy and short and trailing. For smaller pots, I will sometimes use only two plants with one trailing and the other either a thriller or a spiller.  Often, a smaller beautiful pot will just have one spectacular specimen.

Hanging baskets

Other Container Planting Tips

Use Filler In Your Pots

Fill bottom of your pots with old nursery cell packs, or slightly crushed aluminum cans to lighten the load and save on soil. This is especially true for nursery annual flowers that will only last a few months.

Pack Them In

A similar school-of-thought, annuals will only be around for four months or so they can afford to be crowded and will create abundant beauties similar to the ones created in floral shops and in magazines.

Water Well

This means making sure water is coming out the bottom of the pot before you stop. I water every third day unless there is rain. Some of you may need to water more, depending on your climate and the type and size of pot you use. Terra cotta while gorgeous, dries out very quickly, and smaller pots sometimes require extra watering.

Save Your Tags

Take photos of your final creations. You’ll be happy that you did next year, especially if you found a particularly good combination.

Feed Them

Even though I have bought potting soil with slow release fertilizer, I still like to give the pot a drink of the “blue stuff” once every few weeks.

Have Leftovers?

Instead of spending money on new pots try re-purposing something you already have around the house. Anything that holds water and has drainage holes will work. I’ve seen people plant in old chairs, tree stumps, boots and antique colanders.

I hope some, or all of these tips inspire you to create beautiful floral containers that you can admire all season.

Have any other suggestions? I’m always in the market for a good garden tip.


Silver Container Planting



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About Patti Estep

Patti is the creator of Garden Matter, a home and garden blog filled with projects to inspire your creative side. She loves crafting, gardening, decorating and entertaining at her home in Pennsylvania. When she is not working on a project at home or searching for treasures at nurseries and thrift stores with her girlfriends, you’ll probably find her with family and friends, at a restaurant, or home party enjoying new and different food adventures.

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  1. I found your tip about using old nursery cell packs to help save on soil interesting. However, I don’t quite understand the aluminum can part. How will potted plants benefit from aluminum?

    • Hi Faylinn,

      The aluminum cans are simply filler just like the cell packs. I crush them up a bit and throw them in the bottom to help lighten the load. Of course, sometimes I have more than enough cell packs because I buy so many flowers!
      Thanks for stopping by,

  2. Thank you for the help. My wife just got some really unique flower pots that we would like to start using really soon. I had not realized that you can use some kind of filler in the bottom of the pots. Does that not keep the plants from growing as extensive roots?

    • Hi Justin,

      For me it is not a problem, especially with large pots because our growing season for annuals is only 4-5 months long so the roots are fine. If you live in the south and have a long growing season and your pot is not that large, or you are planting perennials or conifers that you want to stay in the containers for a long time don’t use the filler or don’t use as much. Hope that helps.

  3. Thanks your tips Patti, I found your post pretty impressive. As a garden lover and DIY garden maker, your tips are helpful for me. Once again thanks for sharing with us.

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