Create a Container Garden

Learn how to create a healthy and beautiful container garden

Want to garden but don’t think you have enough room? Think again. You can garden even if you don’t have that much space. You can container garden.

The first thing you will need to start a container garden is something to grow in, and each container needs to have at least one drainage hole at the bottom. Adding a layer of coarse gravel at the bottom can improve drainage but can also add to weight. You can place smaller containers upside down in the bottom of a large pot for better drainage or even plastic water bottles that have been crushed. Both solutions add better drainage without adding weight to the pots.

Gasper carries an incredible variety of pottery and planters. The amount of colors, shapes and sizes of pottery and planters may seem endless at Gasper, so be sure to stop by and browse for as long as you wish. A Gasper associate would be happy to assist you find the perfect container for your garden.

Use a soil made for containers. If you use garden soil, it can be too heavy for potted plants. Use a potting mix and add compost on top. A potting mix will be lighter and won’t be too heavy for the plants. Add a couple of inches of compost to the top and you have a good combination for growing your plants. Flowering plants have a special need for phosphorus and potassium to realize their blooming potential. The combination of Dr. Earth Rose and Flower Food and Bumper Crop Organic Soil Builder will provide these nutrients and encourage blooms on plants. Continue to fertilize by sprinklng a teaspoon of Dr. Earth fertilizer around the base of the plant. Repeat fertilizing every other month.

Many beginners to container gardening ask how many plants should be included and where should they be placed in the container. The reality is that plants are flexible and there is no right answer. There are guidelines that can help you decide how many plants you want to use and where to place them. If you place as many plants as possible into each planter, the planter will look full immediately after planting. Such arrangements can be useful if you need to have a high impact container immediately, say for a celebration the same weekend you are planting the container, however, since the plants are crowded they tend not to have as much longevity and may be more prone to disease.

If you can allow time for plants to grow, plant with enough room between plants that the planter will look full after 2-3 weeks of growth. For this effect, generally use 3-4 plants in 10-12-inch planters, 4-6 plants in a 14-16-inch planter, 6-8 plants in a 16-20-inch planter, and so on. With generous spacing the plants will be healthier due to better root growth. Less crowded containers also have better air flow around the plants helping foliage dry faster which will decrease disease.

A garden is a grand teacher. It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift; above all it teaches entire trust.

Gertrude Jekyll, Celebrity

While these numbers are a great starting point to figuring out how many plants you need for your container there are some additional things to consider. The number of plants you use can be adjusted up or down by considering the vigor and final size of the plants. For instance, petunias tend to spread and are quite vigorous, so only 3 plants in a 14-inch container would be appropriate. Petunias tend to grow quickly and will fill out the entire planter. Give them a light trim as you plant them to encourage even more branching.

Container Gardening Tips

» Choose the right soil. Most plants will thrive in a well-balanced potting mix
» Choose the right plants. Be sure to select plants that will do well in the light conditions you have.
» Select the right pot. Know how big your plants will grow to determine the right size container. The larger the pot, the more room for the plants to root.
» Fertilize. In order to keep flowers & vegetables at their best during the summer months, It’s best to use a light dose of liquid fertilizer every time you water.
» Pruning and Deadheading. Pruning annuals will keep them full and lush and removing faded blossoms will encourage a new crop of flowers to form.

Our Favorite Annuals for Container Gardens

The following annuals thrive in containers, making them perfect candidates for the containers on your deck or balcony


Sometimes called floss flower, ageratum produces clusters of tuft-like flowers in blue, violet, white, or burgundy. Well-suited to full sun or partial shade, most varieties are less than 12-inches tall, making them great candidates for window boxes or fillers in larger containers. If you find your ageratum becoming untidy, cut back your plant to a third of its height every few weeks. This will generate sturdy new shoot growth and plenty of new flowers.


This is a graceful, compact annual, perfect for the spilling over the edges of a container effect. Its foliage is strewn with petite white or lavender flowers. Once established it will flower until a hard frost. There are several cultivars available with variegated foliage, and all will grow well in sun to partial shade.


Sometimes called callies, trailing petunia or million-bells, these relations of petunias have become a staple of many container plantings because they’re so easy to care for. Unlike petunias, you don’t need to deadhead callies to keep them flowering, as they drop their spent flowers and bloom until frost. There’s a variety of flower colors to choose from: rose, red, orange, yellow, bronze, violet, purple, and many bi-colors. Callies will grow well in full sun, and don’t collapse in high heat conditions as long as they are well-watered.


A staple of hanging containers and other planters for many years, fuchsia is a hummingbird magnet. It boasts pendulous, bell-shaped flowers in rich shades of rose, cream and purple. The flowers are often bi-color. These plants do best in partial shade, as they don’t like overly hot growing conditions. If your climate is very warm, provide protection from the sun from midday onwards to keep your fuchsias happy. Deadheading spent flowers will prolong the bloom period until frost, especially if you fertilize every 2-4 weeks with a water-soluble fertilizer.


If you love scented plants, you’ll adore heliotrope. Its fragrance ranges from a light baby powder scent, to sweeter smells like cream soda, vanilla, or cherry pie. The plant’s glossy, deep green foliage is topped by clusters of tiny florets in dark purple, or (less commonly) white. This compact (15-inch maximum) annual resents soil that is too dry, and will be chilled by cool nights, so keep it well watered and don’t plant it outdoors too early in the spring.


An ideal annual for sunny containers providing you keep it well-watered, nemesia grows less than a foot tall and is a great filler plant because it bushes out well. This plant has many shoots bearing sprays of delicate flowers in a rainbow of shades and color combinations. Nemesia grows easily from seed. Some varieties are fragrant, which makes them a great choice to for containers on decks or along walkways where everyone can enjoy their scent.


If you have a nice sunny spot, you can easily grow osteospermums, a type of African daisy. Once established, they will bloom until frost with regular deadheading. They come in a rainbow of colors from soft yellow and peach to deep purple, with some blended colors in newer varieties. If you’re looking for something a little different, one specialized line of osteospermums has petals that are spoon-shaped instead of the standard daisy shape.


Commonly known as black-eyed Susan vine, this annual is a beautiful choice for hanging baskets or for containers where you can provide some sort of trellis or stake. The heart-shaped leaves are accented by five-petaled flowers in white, cream, yellow or orange with a deep-maroon central eye. Some rare varieties have rose or variegated petals. Thunbergia also makes a great flowering plant for indoor gardeners, so consider bringing yours in for the winter.

If you have any questions about container gardening, fertilizing, or need suggestions on plants, feel free to ask any of our associates when you visit the Gasper Garden Center.