Container gardening has been around for thousands of years. Legend says… in 600 BC, the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II constructed the Hanging Gardens of Babylon for his wife, Amytis of Media.
An elaborate series of private terraced gardens made for his homesick queen, who missed the trees and fragrant plants of her homeland. These examples of ancient gardens are the foundation of what we refer to as container gardening.
Today’s Container Gardens
Just like King Nebuchadnezzar II, gardeners today have the freedom to create a garden wherever we want. Containers bring the garden closer to us – on a patio, porch, driveway, or even a windowsill. Whether you choose massive planters or simple hanging baskets, containers provide instant gratification. And sometimes the containers add more visual interest than the plants.
A brightly colored pot is sure to dress up an everyday houseplant or perhaps an unusual planter like this one below.
Container gardening serves many purposes:
- Soften a hardscape with color and texture
- Provide culinary herbs nearby for snipping
- Flowering shrubs, patio trees, fruit trees
- Growing vegetables
- Indoor houseplants
- Plants that need protection in winter, such as tropicals
- Easy to move around seasonally
- Adds instant color and refresher for tired summer gardens
Tips for Container Gardening in Houston:
- Provide adequate space for plants to grow.
- Group plants with similar light and water requirements together.
- Experiment with color. Use a color wheel (see below) as a guide to creating pleasing arrangements.
- Remember to use the design techniques discussed in our recent post on Thrillers, Fillers and Spillers.
- Mixing flowers, vegetables and herbs is perfectly fine. Try adding mint and basil mixed in with flowers. Mint is a great spiller plant, and basil could be used as a thriller or filler. Keep it near the door for easy snipping.
- Replant several times a year! Containers are meant to be replanted. In our Houston climate, containers offer us the ability to refresh color with new plantings year round.
- You’ll find using larger containers more practical during our Houston summers.
- Don’t fill containers to the top of the pot with soil! Yes, there will be some settling of the soil over time, but you need space to fill when you water, especially with newly planted containers. Leave two inches at least. When you water, fill the pot to the rim with water and let it soak in. Train the roots to move down the pot for water instead of sitting at the surface.
- Ceramic glaze containers offer a visual punch of color, while reducing evaporation. Some plants prefer a porous container like terracotta for improved air flow and faster drainage. Be sure to ask about the specific needs of the plants you select.
- Avoid afternoon sun if possible during the summer. It adds unnecessary stress on most plants – especially when first planted.
- Fertilize! Plants in containers can quickly use up the nutrients in their container. There are several good fertilizer choices for containers. Try ColorStar for flowering containers. It works fast. For herbs and veggies, try Microlife and a top dressing of good compost. (These are available at Buchanan’s) – Remember strong, healthy plants are naturally resistant to pests and disease.
Recommended Container Planting Mix
For most container gardens you’ll want a light, well draining potting mix. This spring I tried Vortex Potting Soil from Lady Bug. Made right here in Texas. A blend of five beneficial composts, mineral sand, expanded shale and perlite along with Biozome to increase microbial activity (a good thing). An excellent all around potting soil.
Drainage. The practice of filling the bottom of your containers with broken pottery shards, pea gravel or rocks actually impedes drainage and adds extra weight. This is no longer recommended. For very large containers, try these lightweight packing pearls. They raise the bottom of the container, and reduce the amount of soil you need. (Available at Buchanan’s)
Tip for smaller containers: To prevent soil from washing out the bottom of the container, try laying a coffee filter over the hole before adding your potting mix. Water will still drain, but the soil won’t wash out.
Don’t be afraid to experiment. It is okay to change out your plants when it strikes your fancy. Containers are a playground for gardeners. Have some fun and mix it up.
Need help choosing the right container and plants? Buchanan’s can help. Come in to the nursery and browse for inspiration. You’ll find lots of pottery to choose from and a wide variety of seasonal color selected for our area.
Learn more about color in the garden
Learn about color and how to use it in your garden. There really is no right or wrong color combinations in nature, but understanding how color works in the garden, can help you create a polished look.
If you are not familiar with using the color wheel in your garden, you can learn more about it here.
Share your favorite container photo on our Facebook page!
Head over to our Facebook page and share your favorite container photo from your garden. If you have any suggestions, tips or questions, share them below in the comments. We’d love to hear from you!