How to Plant a Container Garden

By Erna

Container gardens have taken a steady climb into popularity recently. While they had their humble beginnings in 1950’s suburbia, the trends of that time look particularly uninspired compared to some of the wild creativity these days. Traditional containers were about stuffing as many of the same dozen popular plants into a pot as possible to make a single-tone assault of colour. Whether you’re looking at magazines, online, or even just have container-envy peeking over at your neighbours’ yards, it’s clear that today’s containers have kicked it up a notch.

So you want to plant your own containers? It can be pretty intimidating with all the polished designs and exotic plants in containers these days. Stop being intimidated – you can make your own container gardens and they are going to be absolutely awesome.

Find a Method – Getting Started

We love container gardens because they are so flexible. You can find so many fun varieties to fall in love with at your local garden centres these days. With those, you can make a creation based on whatever your heart sets itself on in the store. 

Containers are also really freeing – there aren’t a lot of rules, so there aren’t many wrong choices! We have some suggestions to help you create the best container you can with plants that look and grow together well. In the end, though, it really comes down to what you want. And at the end of the season, when your annuals are finished growing, you get to reset back to the beginning in the spring to make something new. Containers aren’t about commitment, so it’s easier to take the first step in making something creative that you love.

Of course, when you put together your container, you’ll want to set yourself up for success by pairing plants that have similar needs together. They’ll all be sharing one tiny root system so matching needs will give you healthier and more vibrant plants. Past that, the garden centre is your oyster! Explore and fall in love with new plants to bring home. Depending on how free-spirited and artistic you feel, there are a few approaches (ranging from “boldly artistic” to “structured and safe”) to exploring the world of plants out there. Here are a couple ways you can piece your container together. Have fun, get creative, and get ready to fall in love with plants and colours while you’re shopping:

Easy Beginnings – The Recipe Method

If you’re still a bit intimidated about starting, or are a bit of a perfectionist that doesn’t want to leave anything to chance, or want a big and showy container without the fuss, go ahead and grab a container recipe. Look anywhere online for something that catches your eye, but we’ve found lots of ones we like on and Better Homes and Gardens.  These sites (and many others) give you a planogram to lay out your planting and a glossy picture to show you your impressive container before you even start.

If this sounds a little too good to be true, it’s because it is. Container recipes are still a great starting point and can definitely give great results. Keep in mind while browsing, however, that most online gardening material caters to the Eastern and Southern States, where more of their customers are. The plants suggested in many recipes might be best suited for those more temperate climates and may struggle this far north. It doesn’t have to be a deal breaker, but you’ll want to double-check their ingredients to make sure they’ll last outside up here.

Another thing to keep in mind is that many of these recipes are built in order to sell their own plants, and some popular or spectacular recipes might include new or rarer plants to encourage people to buy. You’ll often struggle to find one or two items in a recipe. This isn’t the end of the world, but if you have your heart set on a look, we recommend trying to find something that looks and grows similar instead of embarking on a wild goose chase.

For the Moderates – Napkin Planning

Using a recipe gives predictable and planned results, but can be a little less fun for the creatively inclined. If you don’t want to be chained to a plan, but also aren’t ready to walk into the garden centre cold turkey, try sketching out your ideas first! Have a look at where you want your container, and think about what you’ve liked (and disliked!) in other containers you’ve seen. Build from there to create a container you love.

For the Ambitious – Go Commando

We always encourage this one! You’ll need all your creative forces to walk into the garden centre and let your heart guide you. A container and gardening are all about expressing yourself, so the most beautiful container for your home will be filled with plants that speak to you. Your best container will be centred around plants that make you smile, and that beauty is sure to show when you put them together.

To get started, find something that you love. It’ll probably call to you like a little puppy at the pound, waiting to be taken home. Once you ’ve found “The One,” you can build the rest of your container around it. It doesn’t even need to be the biggest or showiest part of your container, but you’ll know you love it when you see it.

Take this plant with you, and start to pair others with it that you think blend and match well. You might not think that you’re very artistic, but many people are surprised at what they find when they’re shopping! If it looks good to you, it’ll probably look great to others, too (and if it doesn’t, you still love it and that’s the important part). Pair together plants that will play well with each other and look good together to create a container until you have something the same size as your pot’s diameter. You’ll only need to find about 3-5 different plants to make a totally original container.

When it comes down to it, planting a “successful” container garden is much more about finding plants that make you happy than matching what you see in other people’s yards or online. Your container garden is a part of your home and outdoor space and is a fun way to experiment and enjoy gardening for our short summer season. No matter what method you use to create your container garden, we hope to help you put together something that makes you smile every day of the summer!