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All About Container Gardening: The Steps to Grow Successful Container Gardens

Container gardens are wonderful solutions to small spaces but they come with built-in challenges. Without the expanse of an in-ground garden, containers need to become their own sustainable ecosystem. But you can become a container gardening pro with this extensive guide. Learn about the soil, drainage, fertilizer, choosing containers, and, arguably the most important thing: how to regulate water.

Successful Container Gardening Made Easy

There are so many things we love about container gardening. Here are just a few! You can have a garden no matter where you live. Containers can be hung from a roof, suspended on hooks, or mounted on walls, opening up a whole world of growing spaces.

Containers also have the added benefit of being beautiful, acting as showpieces in the garden or decorative accents. These tips for successful container gardening will get you well on your way to becoming a small-space gardening pro.

How to grow a beautiful container garden

Is A Container The Same As A Flower Pot?

No, a flower pot is different than a garden container. You see, a garden container is larger and set up with the right amount of drainage for the water.

A pot, however, is generally not the ideal space to grow a plant. Pots that are too small, have improper drainage, or are not weather-safe will quickly cause the demise of the plants within.

The secret to creating the perfect container garden is to create a healthy environment for plants contained in a pot. To do this we need to look at the soil, drainage, water needs, fertilizer, and the pot itself.

Garden gloves, terracotta pots and a plastic bucket filled with soil placed in front of a yellow mum

Container Gardening Tips

This is the only guide you will ever need. I’ll share everything you ever wanted to know about how to grow plants in containers. From the soil to the type of container, I’ll share it all.

Watering Maple Tree in a large container


The first thing you need to know is how to choose the best soil for your container garden.

Plants are used to having endless boundaries for their roots in the soil. Unless the soil has structural issues, it will allow for water to flow freely but retain enough moisture that the roots can absorb if they desire. Container soil is limited to a relatively small space and, as such, it needs a few extra items to allow for the proper balance of air pockets, water flow, and water retention.

Two containers filled with soil with garden gloves and two small flowerpots

Container gardens need a soil mix specially formulated for holding the water while allowing for good drainage and keeping the roots healthy. Soil mixes formulated for containers can be purchased at a garden center, which works well if you are only creating a few pots.

If you are planning for a large container garden with multiple pots, it’s easy to make your own garden soil. In fact, I wrote an entire post about the best potting soil for plants.

Close up of flowers blooming in a beautiful container garden


Next, you need to set up the correct drainage for your container garden.

Containers used both outdoors and inside should have appropriate drainage to ensure the health of the roots. Here are the different types of drainage and when to use them.

  • Indoor plants in containers with bottom drainage holes can be set on plant trays to allow the water to run off.
  • Outdoor plants can be set on trays in the dry season to help retain some extra water in warm weather. In wet seasons, set the plant up on a few bricks or stones so that the drainage hole is free-flowing and doesn’t become blocked with soil.
  • To re-hydrate a plant that has dried out, soak it in a sink or bowl filled with water for two hours.
  • Prevent soil from leaking out the drainage holes by lining the inside of the pot with a coffee filter or a sheet of newspaper.


Container gardens also need to maintain adequate moisture to ensure that the plants thrive. The type of container you choose will affect how much water your plant retains.

Terracotta or unglazed clay pots wick away moisture from the soil and dry out rapidly. Glazed clay pots, fiberglass, and plastic pots will keep more moisture in the pot and need sufficient drainage holes.

Some pots could need to be watered multiple times a day in hot summer weather. To address this, choose larger pots to hold more soil and thus more moisture, or purchase self-watering pots with a reservoir for holding extra water.

Close up of pink flowers growing inside a pot


Container soil is not the ideal space for critters like worms, insects, and microbes that convert the decomposing material in the soil into rich nutrients for the plants. Adding compost to your potting soil will go a long way in feeding the plants but as the plants grow and bloom, the nutrients will deplete.

Search for organic fertilizers like worm castings and fish emulsion to add to your containers throughout the season. Replant your containers each year with a fresh soil mix of compost, garden soil, and coir for more nutrition.

Container Care

What size of container do you need for your plants? It all depends on the size of the plant.

Choose a pot that is large enough to hold the plant at its mature size by envisioning that the plant needs as much room for the roots as it needs above the soil. This isn’t true for all plants, as some have shallow root systems or do well as a container plant with restricted root growth, but in general, buy the largest pot you can for your plant.

Container garden growing on a paved patio

Wash Your Pot Before Planting

Here is an important tip that is one of the most crucial factors to a healthy container garden. Wash your pots before planting. It is such an important point that I wrote a whole post about it. Do not skip this step, it will make all the difference to your garden.

Choose The Right Plants

One final tip for the perfect container garden is to look for plants that are suitable for container growing. Some have a container icon on the seed package or plant label, or they could be identified as “container,” “pot,” “dwarf,” or “micro” varieties.

Great Read: Garden Alchemy

I go into a lot more detail and give some additional tips and tricks for growing gardens in containers in my newest book, Garden Alchemy. It has 80 recipes and concoctions for organic fertilizers, plant elixirs, potting mixes, pest deterrents, and more!

Garden Alchemy Cover

Container Garden: Final Thoughts

There is a lot of details that you need to consider before you start a container garden. Flowers, perennials, trees, vegetables, fruit and even hardy herbs need proper water and nourishment. I hope this guide helps you prepare for your upcoming garden. If you have any further questions, please leave me a comment!

More Container Garden Resources


  1. My soil is very loose & sandy & I have 2 large containers that no what I put them on to try & raise them off the ground nothing works. I’ve used stones, slates, etc, nothing works. Can you give some advice please.

  2. A very informative post there with great tips especially for beginners!! Maintaining good drainage ensures that plant roots stays healthy.
    Thank you sharing.


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