Spotlight on Container Gardening


What if you don’t have a lot of space, time, or money to devote to a garden? Good news: Container gardening makes it easy to grow a garden anywhere!

Container gardening applies to any plant grown in—you guessed it—some sort of vessel to contain it. From a giant outdoor terracotta pot to a tiny glass bowl on a desk, you can find a container to fit any space. You’re only limited by your imagination!

Container Plant Basics

Potted houseplants and baby succulents are some of the most common container plants, but there are lots of options from the everyday to the exotic.

Here are some container plants you can try your hand at:

  • Herbs
  • Succulents
  • Common houseplants
  • Small trees
  • Bulbs, from flowers to garlic or leeks
  • Vegetables
  • Berries
  • Bonsai trees
  • Orchids
  • Dwarf varieties of various plants

Just like with real estate, growing container plants is all about location, location, location. You don’t need a lot of space (I’m thinking of you, apartment and townhouse dwellers!), but you do need the right space for your plant.

So, ask yourself what you’ve got room for, and what you want to grow. Something to eat or cook with? Something pretty to look at? Then get planting!

How to Get Started

Pick a Spot

Think about your available space and what you want to grow. You can either start by selecting your location and figure out what might do well in that space with the available light, or you can brainstorm ideas of things you’d like to grow and see if you’ve got a good space for them.

Set a Budget

How much do you want to spend? Less than $10 can get you a packet of seeds and a starter pod planting kit. Hundreds of dollars could get you an exotic orchid.

You can do a lot with very little. I once planted a seed from a grapefruit just to see what would happen. I got a sturdy, but tiny indoor plant from it!

Select a Container

Get creative! You can go crazy with decorative pots and terrariums. We’ve also seen cinderblocks and bricks used as containers. If it can hold soil or water and has some drainage, you can grow something in it.

Use Good Soil

Grabbing dirt from the back yard just won’t cut it when you’re trying to grow a container plant. You’ll need soil with a lot of nutrients and good drainage.

The type of soil you’ll need depends on what you decide to plant. For example, succulents need a sandy base, while seedlings need lots of nutrients and fertilizers.

Go into the Light…Or Not

Believe it or not, shady areas aren’t necessarily a no-go zone for plants. If you have a darker corner, consider a fern. If you have a really dark spot, you can try growing mushrooms!

Just do a little research and make sure you have the appropriate light conditions for the plant you want to grow.

General Growing Tips

Here are a few more things to keep in mind as you start growing.

  • Hang on to the plant tag. The tag can be handy because it has great information about the light, soil and growing expectancy for your plant. And if you don’t want the clutter, at least snap a picture on your cell to help keep a record.
  • Trim and prune as needed. It’s normal for leaves to brown and wither. Trim these back to keep your plant healthy and looking vibrant.
  • Monitor the moisture. Make sure the soil isn’t too wet or too dry. Like Goldilocks, plants have a moisture level that’s just right. So, keep an eye on yours and water as needed. You can help maintain moisture with mulches, rocks, moss, and even nutshells.
  • Pick a plant that suits your lifestyle. There are lots of low-maintenance plants that can thrive even for folks with non-green thumbs. Do you want something easy to care for? Try a spider plant or succulent. Want something artistic that needs lots of TLC? Consider a Bonsai tree.
  • Don’t give up. Plants die. That’s life. Expect you may lose some as you experiment with gardening. But don’t lose faith! Try again with lessons learned or pick another plant. (Native plants are often a great bet because they’re already acclimated to your area’s environment!)

And, if you find yourself with more plants than you bargained for (which can happen if you buy seed packets or your spider plant has babies), share the love. Container plants also make great gifts!

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Where You Can Find It:

  • Anywhere! (Seriously… in a city apartment, on a sprawling ranch, in a backyard, on a windowsill, in a classroom…)
  • In almost anything! (Again, seriously… as long at it can hold soil and water with a little bit of drainage, you have a container!)

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