Creating a container garden is a lot easier than you might think, and it’s a great project to do with the kids. I recently inherited a set of three beautiful wooden buckets, and it took about 10 seconds of looking at them to decide they would be perfect on my back deck as a container garden arrangement.


Even buckets can serve as planting containers.

Photo Credit: Kris Stell

Haden helps

Haden was a big help with this project.

Photo Credit: Kris Stell

Finished container project

Haden and I are very happy with our end result.

Photo Credit: Kris Stell

Then it was off on a trip to my local garden center, where the real adventure began. As I knew these containers were going to be in full sun, that’s the area of the operation I went to – with my two kids in tow, me pushing the stroller and Haden (my 7-year-old) navigating the trolley (to him that’s the most fun ever!).

This fantastic garden center I go to conveniently groups and subgroups its stock. For example, in the perennials section, plants are divided into shade, sun and semi-sun subsections. How easy is that?! Knowing what kind of climate situation your plants are going to be in is the first step when selecting them.

The second step is creating a balance in the container. My buckets were only 18 inches wide. I decided three plants per bucket was the max they could hold, so I stuck with getting one 8-inch potted plant and two smaller ones for each. To create a balance in each of my containers, I chose something tall, something trailing and something showy (an annual/perennial flowering item). I was also after different textures and complementing color combinations.

So this was the part that took the longest – selecting the plants that I felt were the most pleasing that would meet my balance needs and just looked good together. It was also the best part – kind of like a kid in a candy store. My kids and I simply enjoyed the time we spent out there, and Haden really got into helping me choose the plants for our project.

Once we returned home with our precious cargo and put the baby down for a nap (he’s precious, too!), the actual creation of the containers took about 30 minutes. The only prep Haden and I had to do for the buckets was put holes in the bottoms so the water would be able to drain out. (We initially started with a hammer and nails, but I quickly figured out an electric drill was the way to go.) We put eight holes in the bottom of each container, about the width of a large nail.

Next step was placing potting soil in the bottom – enough so when the plant was placed on top of it, the plant’s soil line was just an inch below the container’s rim. (We had to put a little more soil under the 4-inch plant to make this happen.) In went the plants, more potting soil in the gaps and voilà! Beautiful containers! After watering them we went in for lunch. This was all in a morning’s work.

Here’s what we put in each container: For the one on the left, we planted a giant blue walking iris for height and color; coleus for color and texture; and ipomoea sweetpotato vine for contrasting color, as well as its trailing habit. Our center container had variegated iris for height and color, mini-mound Asiatic jasmine for trailing and shape (love the tiny leaves), and a petunia for show and as a complement to the ivy’s variegation. The container on the right showed off a regular iris for height, another ipomoea for trailing and color (plus, I love this plant), and an annual (a salvia) for color and shape.

Two of the plants in each container are perennials that I plan to keep. The third is easily replaceable as the annual expires. That’ll be part of the ongoing fun – choosing our annual replacements.

There’s no end to the displays you can create with containers. Experiment away – and get the kids involved! Just make sure you group plants together that have the same requirements (sun, shade, watering, etc.), and then have fun with it!