A lot of us love our container gardens… They allow you to grow things in a small space, or in a “no garden” space like a balcony, they cut down on maintenance chores, and they bring plants right up to the places you spend time so you can enjoy them! Oh, and they are pretty, too! But did you know you can go beyond the traditional annuals in a container? Almost anything can be grown in a container when the right requirements are met, don’t be afraid to think out of the box. (Or pot!) First, a quick refresh on the basics for container gardening.

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  • Always match the size of the container to the size of the plants, especially large plants. Nothing makes a container garden fail faster than outgrowing it’s space too quickly!
  • That having been said, plants in container should be placed closer together than they would be in the ground. Everything is concentrated into a smaller space, including water and fertilizer, so they can tolerate, and look better, planted snugly. This especially applies to annuals that have shallow root systems and only last one season.
  • Always choose a good potting mix for your container, never use garden soil. Garden soil placed into containers is not light enough and will compact, not allowing the roots to breathe.
  • Containers need lots of water. In the heat of summer, especially smaller containers may need watering every day. You can set up a drip system if you group your containers together. Also, watch for pots that dry out extremely fast… Dark colored pots, metal pots or porous pots like terra cotta can be zapped of water in a few hours in the hot summer sun.
  • Fertilizer also leaches out of the container faster. Use a diluted liquid fertilizer every two weeks for most container grown plants. Consider using a potting mix with fertilizer pre-mixed in, like Miracle Gro.
  • One of the benefits of using containers is that they are mobile. Remember to outfit larger containers with wheeled platforms to make moving them easier, or use a hand truck.

Here are our picks for best unexpected plants you can grow in containers.

Our first picks are from ‘HGTV Gardens‘, both above and below. The top photo is a great example of using containers with unexpected plants. The focal plant (the taller spiky one)  in these mobile containers are artichokes! Filled in with perennials and annuals, these containers offer a great aesthetic, and veggies too. Below is an example of using containers to create a typical hedge. Instead of plantings these boxwood straight in the ground, they are higher up to block views, and can be moved if necessary. Yep, they look cool too.

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Don’t think you can plant trees in containers? Think again. These birch trees are placed  in large containers, and because the root ball is kept from growing outward, the whole tree remains smaller and more manageable. Oh, yes, did we mention you can move them? Photo by ‘My Landscapes‘.

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Want trees that give a little bit more? ‘A Cultivated Nest’ shows us how to grow apple trees in containers. She uses them as screens, and the apples are a bonus! There are lots of other type of fruit trees that come in dwarf or columnar varieties as well. Check out her tip on self pollinating varieties.

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Citrus trees can be tough to grow in some parts of the country. Did you know that if you grow them in containers, you can bring them into a sunroom or sunny window for the winter? Photo by ‘HGTV‘.

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You already know there are many veggies you can grow in pots… Watermelon? You think I’m kidding, don’t ya’? Well jump on over to ‘Gardening Know How‘ and find out how to grow these  veggies that are traditionally a space hog, in pots!

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You may have seen small decorative bulbs in pots at the nursery, but what about larger bulbs and tubers, like Iris and Dahlias? They can be grown successfully in pots as well. Photo by ‘HGTV‘.

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Vines can also grow in pots, you just need to make sure they have proper support. You can either set the pot in front of a wall or trellis, or provide a teepee within the container so that it can be moved when necessary. Photo by Taylors Clematis.

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From ‘BHG’, learn how to grow berries in containers. These raspberries and blueberry plants do great when the right varieties are chosen, and they receive enough sun.

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So don’t let the idea of using pots and containers limit you to marigolds and petunias! Use them to your full advantage and try these unexpected plants in containers!

Image Credits: HGTV Gardens, My Landscapes, A Cultivated Nest, HGTV, Gardening Know How, HGTV, Taylors Clematis, BHG

 

12 Comments

  1. Vanessa D. May 28, 2015 at 4:41 pm

    Just today I was thinking it was a shame I had no place to grow iris because I love the deep blue flowers. I had never thought of growing them in pots!

    Reply
  2. Cosy May 29, 2015 at 12:33 pm

    Could I plant fruit bearing fig trees in containers? I love figs but not many are grown in my area. My grandmother had one & I loved picking them off the tree & eating them when I was a child. Would love to be able to do that again.

    Reply
    1. Kathy Woodard June 9, 2015 at 9:39 am

      Yes! Check with your local nursery for the best type for containers, they should be able to help you with what grows best in your area.

      Reply
  3. Amy Leach July 16, 2015 at 2:43 am

    Great article! Not only do containers improve the appearance of the plant, but it also restricts them from growing out of control!
    Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  4. Elise July 17, 2015 at 12:30 pm

    Why are there plates in the containers with the apple trees?

    Reply
    1. Kathy Woodard August 4, 2015 at 3:04 pm

      I believe they are just decoration!

      Reply
  5. Wallysgirl July 27, 2015 at 5:34 pm

    I live in a Zone 4 area. I worry about the survival of plants in pots (particularly bushes or trees) and also in raised beds. I have a back patio that I would love to use raised beds and/or pots. Any hints or personal exprrience?

    Reply
    1. Peggy Schnuerle June 2, 2016 at 6:40 am

      We are in zone 5 and last year I got some plants late and ended up not getting them planted due to health reasons. I set them in an corner behind the house where they got sun from the south and wind protection from the north and east. This spring they look like they spent the winter in a greenhouse!

      Reply
  6. Diane February 28, 2017 at 3:17 pm

    I was told a Clematis would not grow in a container over the winter and survive. Is this true of zone 6 where we only had a couple of days below freezing.

    Reply
    1. Kathy Woodard March 7, 2017 at 4:13 pm

      Containers don’t have the insulation a plant in the ground would. However, if you only had a couple days below freezing, you have a chance! They happen to be late emergers in the spring, so you may have to wait awhile to be sure if it survived… You an scratch some bark (gently) low down on the main stem and see if it reveals any green, that would be a good indicator ’till then.

      Reply
  7. Audrey March 18, 2017 at 5:16 am

    Thank You. We moved into a new to us house and there are NO plantings anywhere. My back isn’t the greatest, so I thought we would “decorate” with potted plants and this is a good stepping stone to some ideas. Anything for full shade (north side of our house in zone 4 gets little to no sun). Thanks again!

    Reply

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