Container Gardening 101

By MNR News posted 05-31-2022 15:30

Are you looking for an easy intro to gardening, but don’t want to make a permanent hole in your yard? Container gardening is one of the easiest things you can do to add curb appeal to your porch or yard, and home-grown groceries to your kitchen as well! Read on for what you need to know to plop those plants in convenient containers.

First, decide what kind of garden you would like. Do you want pretty pots of perennials and annuals lining your porch? Or a smattering of herbs and vegetables so you can always have fresh garnishes?

Vegetables & Herbs

Creating an edible container garden gives your space both greenery and practicality. For growing fresh vegetables, you need something with significant depth. Most vegetables require at least 12" of room for root growth. Herbs, on the other hand, need only about 6" for their roots. Bachman's recommends some delicious container garden combinations, like a salsa garden, pesto garden, or herbs for seasoning meat.


When it comes to arranging flowers to grow in a container, the common adage is: “frills, fills and spills.” You can choose to focus on one color, a multicolored spread of blooms, or simply the texture of foliage. Frills refer to plants that are 6–12" high, giving a focal point to the entire arrangement. Often, it’s a unique, eye-catching plant with texture and colorful blooms.
Tall, dramatic plants that are ideal for the “frill” aspect are banana plants, red or purple fountain grass, lavender, caladium, or salvia, snapdragons, geraniums, coleus, and dahlias.
The second layer is the “fill”: you can use more color and select a range of shorter plants to fill in the main part of the container. Annual flowers like petunias, begonias, aster, impatiens, lemon drops, or coral bells work very well as filler material.
The final component is adding plants that “spill” over the edges of the container. This adds more visual interest when you approach the container. There should only be a few of these, and often are complimentary foliage to the colors of the blooms. Sometimes these plants are vining and will need to be trimmed, so make sure to watch for the optimal length according to your pot size.
Plants that are ideal for “spills” are the black-eyed Susan vine, wave petunias, sweet potato vine, licorice plant, alyssum, and lobelia.
With all these selections, be aware of what type of sun or shade exposure your planter will be in and choose your plants accordingly.


Possibilities for containers are almost endless. From heavy and decorative glazed ceramic pots to simple terracotta, there are a variety of colors, textures, and sizes. Most people know that drainage holes—the holes at the bottom of a planter that drain excess water from the soil—are an important part of container gardening. Any container that is big enough for your plants and has at least four drainage holes will work.
How big is enough? For small plants or only a few in an arrangement, you will need a pot that is 8–10" in diameter. For a larger arrangement, or one with larger-sized plants, the bigger the better. Herbs and vegetables especially need ample room for root growth. Any container 12" or larger will be enough.


The best way to ensure the health of your plants is by investing in well-draining potting soil. As long as your soil is a good composition, and your planters have good drainage holes, whatever you choose to plant in them should thrive! Keeping your plants well-watered and fed with your choice of liquid fertilizer will also contribute to the success of your container garden.