Follow the rules, and you’ll see that growing things in containers is easy (although not care-free). The four basic things you need for success are a good pot, great potting soil, fertilizer and a decent memory so you don’t forget to water.

Plastic pots by pool

Two inexpensive containers and a few 4-inch potted plants make “instant landscaping.” Use a nutrient-rich plant food like Osmocote® to keep your container plants looking their healthy best throughout the season!

Photo Credit: Joe Seals

Shell container

Interesting shapes in containers and plants are great.

There are so many kinds of containers out there, so have fun picking one – whether it’s a classic garden pot or something with a little more whimsy, like a recycled chair planter or old dresser drawer. Traditional gardeners tend to prefer the age-old look and feel of terra-cotta. (Some may argue that these types of pots are also easier to grow things in because the clay tends to regulate the temperature and moisture content of the soil.) But keep in mind that terra-cotta containers can be a problem in areas where freezes are common, since frozen water in the porous clay can crack – or even explode – a pot. Some containers can survive outdoor winters, however, including dense stoneware and ceramic pots. Plastic pots can typically make it through winter, too, or you can make a cement trough planter.

Whatever kind of pot you choose, make sure there are drainage holes on the bottom of it so excess water can run out. Some gardeners add a layer of rocks or gravel – even foam peanuts – to the bottom of their pots to speed drainage, but that’s not really necessary. It’s much more important to get the best potting soil you can find – one that drains quickly, lasts a long time (meaning it doesn’t break down into a compacted block) and maybe has some nutrient value to help plants get off to a quick start. (Always check the bag of soil you’re looking to purchase – there’s a difference between potting soil and garden soil!)

Most potting mixes contain organic matter, such as peat moss or ground bark, which hold onto moisture and nutrients. They also contain inorganic things such as perlite to help drainage and keep the mix from compacting. These potting soils that drain quickly need to be watered often – even once a day when it’s really hot out there. Frequent watering also washes out fertilizer, which is a good thing because salts in fertilizer can build up and cause problems.

That said, it’s best to fertilize frequently with the right product. (Always read the label – different fertilizers help different types of plants.) Liquid fertilizers work best in cool weather, but slow-release fertilizers are easier to use. They’re typically sprinkled on the surface and meter out small amounts each time you water. Adding a slow-release, nutrient-rich plant food like Osmocote® to the container soil at the time of planting will provide enough fertilizer for the growing season, resulting in healthy, vibrant, bloom-productive plants.

Container gardening can be fun and rewarding – just always keep in mind that pot-bound plants are completely dependent on you. Unlike the plants living in your garden, container plants can’t go out searching for more water and nutrients if they need them. With some good old-fashioned TLC, though, you can keep your contained beauties growing happy and healthy!