Ideas & Inspiration

How to Start a Container Garden

Advantages of Container Gardening
A collection of potted plants sitting on gravel.

Gardening in containers is a good way to get started in gardening without spending a lot of money or time. Here are some other advantages of container gardening:

  • No space constraints: You don’t need a yard, since you can grow plants on a balcony, a window sill or in any bright spot near a window.
  • Portable: Plants in containers are easy to move indoors or out, depending on the weather or season.
  • Easy weed control: Keeping plants in a smaller space means less weeding. 
  • Less disease spread: Having plants isolated in their own pots lessens risk of soil-borne disease spreading.

Picking a Container
Three different pots on a white background.

There are several types of containers that can be used for growing vegetables or ornaments pots. Here's what to take into consideration when picking out a container for growing vegetables and other plants:

  • Size of the plant: It is important to use containers that can accommodate roots of the plants as sizes and rooting depths will vary. Consider the pot size (both diameter and depth) first and make sure it matches the growing requirements of the plant you are putting into the pot.
  • Drainage: Containers need to have good drainage. Plants grown in pots are easily suspectable to root rot due to poor drainage. Check for drainage holes in your containers or drill a few holes so water won’t stand around the roots of your plants. If your pots are really deep, use a layer of gravel or pebbles in the bottom to take up some room.
  • Type of material: Containers, pots and planter boxes are made of many types of materials, including clay, plastic, metallic, ceramic and wood.  pots, barrels and planter boxes. If you are growing edibles like salad greens, tomato plants, radishes or other vegetables and herbs, the container must be made out a food-safe material. 

Pick a Spot
A woman tending to her container garden.
  • First, decide where you want your containers. If you’re using big pots or planters, remember they’ll be heavy, so make sure the site you choose can support their weight. It’s a good idea to put them in place first and then add the soil, plants, and water.
  • If your pots are going to stand in your yard or garden, you may want to put them on top of a few bricks or pavers to help them drain when you water. Elevating the containers will also help keep dirt from splashing on them when it rains.
  • Keep your containers near a hose, so you won’t have to carry a watering can. Pots filled with shade-loving plants probably won’t need to be watered as often, but sun-lovers may need a daily drink if you live in a hot or windy climate. For even easier watering, set up a drip irrigation system and connect it to an automatic timer or use self-watering containers.
Pick the Plants
A collection of potted plants on a patio.

Almost any plants that grow in the ground can grow in a container, including trees, shrubs, herbs, vegetables, annuals, and perennials. Vines and trailing plants can be allowed to cascade over the rims or trained on a small trellis added to the pot.

Dwarf varieties grow well in containers. Try bush beans or tomatoes, or dwarf conifers, cannas or dahlias. For fun, grow a theme container garden. Plant peppers, tomatoes and basil for a pizza garden; lemon balm, chamomile and apple mint for a tea garden; or a griller’s garden with rosemary, thyme and peppers for flavoring grilled meats or fish.

Watch the Light
A collection of potted plants on a gravel patio.

Before you plant, spend a few days watching the sun to determine how many hours of sunlight the indoor or outdoor space receives. Does the spot you’ve picked out get full sun, part sun or shade? The amount of light your containers get will determine what kind of plants will thrive there.

Don’t worry if you’ve got a shady spot; there are plenty of plants that thrive in the shade. Some shade-loving vegetables include lettuce, peas, Swiss chard, broccoli. cilantro or arugula. Some colorful flowers and foliage that don’t need a lot of sun include coleus, impatiens, creeping Jenny, tuberous begonias, fuchsias, flowering maples and torenia. Dwarf hydrangeas also grow beautifully in large containers in the shade.

How to Take Care of Container Plants
A person watering potted plants.

While containers can simplify gardening, here are a few additional tips for keeping your flowering plants, fruit and vegetables or other plants healthy.

  • Watering your plants: Potted plants will need to be watered more frequently than plants in the ground. Water your plants until the water comes out of the drainage holes. This will ensure the soil is getting moisture all the way to the bottom.
  • Only water the soil: Keep water off the leaves and flowers. Wetting the foliage can lead to fungal diseases and scorched spots on leaves.
  • Don’t let pots sit in water: Empty the pot saucers after you water and after it rains to avoid root rot.
  • Feed them regularly: Plants growing in containers require more frequent fertilizing than those in the ground. Use a slow-release fertilizer at planting time to eliminate the need to fertilize often.

Growing plants in containers is a great way to maximize gardening space in small or large yards. The Home Depot has everything you need to start a container garden. Shop The Home Depot for containers, plants, potting soil, fertilizer and everything you need to create the best container garden for your home.