Planting Flowers in Containers

There are many factors which will insure good success with container flower plantings.First, larger containers work better than smaller ones because they have more room for roots and do not dry out as quickly. I prefer hanging baskets at least 10 inches in diameter. For tubs and boxes I like a minimum 12 inches in width and 16 inches in length or diameter. Make sure all containers have adequate holes for quick drainage.

Select a well drained potting soil that water flows quickly into and through. Many potting soils also contain materials which increase the water holding capacity. If not, these can be mixed into the soil before planting. Many potting soils contain slow release fertilizer which is also good. This usually lasts 4 to 6 weeks when more fertilizer should be added. If you are using last year’s potting soil, add slow release fertilizer such as Osmocote before or when you plant. There should be a ½ inch space between the top of the soil and the top of the container to hold water when you irrigate. You will need more space than that when you begin to plant because of the soil which comes with the plants.

Select plants according to their sun/shade tolerance. If containers are on the east or north sides, or under an overhang, shade tolerance is important. Plants for containers facing south or west or without any shade need to be sun tolerant.

Most plant labels indicate whether a plant prefers full sun, part shade or full shade. Some of the best plants for shady locations are pansy, viola, begonia, impatiens, lobelia, fuchsia, browalia and ivies and other non-flowering plants. Most other container flowers prefer full or part sun. A taller plant such as euphorbia or blue salvia in the center of tubs is effective.

If you use plants potted in 3 to 4 inch containers, space them so the soil balls are almost touching after planting. If you use smaller plants with 2 inch or smaller soil balls, leave about 2 inches between soil balls. Plant at least 2 plants of each kind in each container. Select colors which do not clash (avoid pink and orange together). Colors opposite each other on the color wheel are ideal such as purple and yellow. One of my favorite combinations is burgundy purple with light pink. White, yellow, blue and purple combine well with almost all other colors. Several shades of the same color can also be effective.

Water plants regularly. During hot weather, containers may need water every day.

Vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, spinach and other leaf and root vegetables may also be grown in containers.


Allen Wilson

Allen has been writing about gardening for over 30 years. He is a retired professor of Horticulture.

Scroll to top