Fast and fun to make, container gardens (literally) liven up outdoor space. And they’re doable even for those without the proverbial green thumb. The supply list is simple: a planter with a drainage hole (beyond tried-and-true terra-cotta pots, think upcycled watering cans and window boxes) plus potting soil and a few pretty starter plants. Add a little creativity and before you know it—kabloom! Gorgeousness.
Danny Watson, garden associate at The Home Depot, recommends this three-step system to create a lush, lovely little oasis.
1. Begin with an upright “thriller.” This eye-catching star player gives the container a focal point. Think bold shapes and tall, outstretched leaves.
2. “Filler” plants, such as billowy grasses or medium-sized flowers, complement the thriller and add volume to the pot’s midsection.
3. The “spiller” tumbles down prettily out of the pot. Trailing leaves and vines soften the container’s edges and anchor it to the ground.
Pick the Right Planter
Plants may change each season, but a quality pot is in for the long haul. “It’s one of the best investments you can make in your garden,” Watson says.
When choosing a planter, think first about placement. Lighter ones, such as pots made of wood or plastic, are easy to move around but can topple over in a big gust of wind. Concrete or terra-cotta containers are sturdier but dry out easily and come in limited colors. Watson recommends pots made of glazed clay because they hold moisture well and last several years.
Some blooms with long root systems need large pots, but most plants can get by with just a little room. “One of the biggest mistakes new gardeners make is completely filling a large container with soil,” Watson says. “A deep pot will oversaturate the plant, causing it to eventually drown.” Instead, stuff wood chips or pinecones into the bottom of a large container before adding dirt. (This also makes the pot lighter and saves money on soil.)
Succulents are definitely having a moment. For a trendy touch, position a potful in a dry, sunny spot.
- Fill your container with potting mix—it offers richer nutrients than garden soil, Watson says.
- Water based on the plants’ needs (check the tag when you buy) but remember, most will require extra love on hot or windy days.
- If watering is a hassle, look for moisture-control soil. It contains granules that soak up H2O and release it slowly.
- Watson recommends using a slow-release fertilizer every two weeks. (Some soil types have it mixed right in.)
- Snip and prune plants as needed. Most annuals bloom in a few weeks and last for several months.
- When summer winds down, reboot the planter for another season by swapping out warm-weather flowers for fall picks like chrysanthemums.
Photos, from top: Cameron Sadeghpour, Laurie Black, Bob Stefko, Keller and Keller Photography Inc.