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Plenty of plants can live in a potted paradise

Container gardens sizzle – use them for herbs, vegetables, flowers and more


No time for a garden? Consider container planting.

One of the easiest ways to get your garden together is to go with containers. From potting up potatoes or a mixed salad and greens bowl to a congregation of ornamental colors and textures, container planting lets everyone enjoy summer garden fun.

Andrew Eckhoff, general manager at Bountiful Acres in Buckingham, said one of the easiest ways to get a container garden going is to begin with high-quality potting soil or products specifically formulated to be used for container growing.

“Pick a good soil mix…and an enriched product that is organic certified and mix that into your soil. You can create a rich bedding mix for veggies, plants and seeds. Everything is about the soil — whether you are planting in a (ground) garden, raised bed or containers,” he explained.

A wide variety of raised containers can be purchased to create no-bend gardens. Look for those on raised legs. Eckhoff recommends rectangular shapes about 42 x 28 inches and 30 inches high when doing container box gardening.

“Set them in a sunny condition. I fill mine with lettuce, and when the lettuce is done my wife plants zinnia seeds in them,” he said.

Containers — whether you’re using pots, tubs, boxes or other structures — will need more regular watering and feeding because they tend to dry out faster than plants grown at ground level.

Container herbs and veggies

When making up pots for edibles, look for plants and seeds specifically bred for smaller spaces.

Seeds or plants will be marked “container friendly” or the like. Look for products that are tagged and labeled suitable for growing in containers.

If doing mixed vegetable pots, keep soil and water needs, as well as sunlight requirements in mind when placing compatible plants together.

“The nice thing about herbs and vegetables is you can get some great textures that complement each other,” Eckhoff said. “I grow space saver cucumbers, and I plant these directly in my raised planter and put in a trellis.”

Peas and string bean varieties can also be successfully grown in pots, as can cucumbers and pickling cucumbers.

Permaculture Apartment ( recommends going a step beyond the basics and planting companion varieties to benefit the container’s greater good — like pest management.

Mediterranean herbs or those that are tolerant of dry spells like rosemary and oregano can play well together, while herbs requiring more water, like dill, parsley or chives, could cohabitate nicely.

Annual containers for show

Keep growth habits in mind when potting up a dazzling display of summer annuals.

“Some annuals are fast growers and can take over their planters. They could also compete with slower growing container mates,” Eckhoff advises.

Read planting instructions before placing or mixing plants in containers for best results.

When potting up containers, keep placements of “thrillers, fillers and spillers” in mind for stunning results.

Thrillers are for height, fillers are lower growth plants that plug up space and spillers are vining plants that will tumble or cascade over the container’s edges.

Plant for butterflies

Pollinator and butterfly mixed planters are a way to attract beneficial insects to the landscape. Some easy beginner plantings include milkweed varieties and annuals like shrimp plant. For nectar consider bee balm, a sturdy perennial plant you can start growing in a large container. Move it to an in-ground garden once it outgrows the container, or in late summer to acclimate it for wintering.

Annual lantana is another nectar plant, Eckhoff said.

“Swallowtails love parsley, dill and fennel, and Monarchs love milkweed,” the only plant on which they will lay their egg cases, Eckhoff said.

Foliage pots

Boston ferns may immediately come to mind when foliage is mentioned because they are relatively hardy, durable and grow well in many locations. But when it comes to foliage plants, there is a wide world of interesting varieties.

“There are many different types of ferns, and they look different and perform different. Ivies are great in pots, and they can be trained on stakes,” Eckhoff said.

For climbing plants like ivy or tropical mandevilla (“Rocktrumpet”), look for trellises, tuteurs, arches or obelisks which can also be used in container gardens.

Shrubs and trees in containers

Consider growing small trees and shrubs in containers, if you have the space and want to add textural interest year round.

Some evergreen and arborvitae varieties, Japanese maples and dwarf spruce and pine species are happy in containers as are many boxwood varieties.

“And there are more (types of) smaller dwarf trees in pots for terraces and patios” than you might expect, Eckhoff said.

“I see people moving in to age-restricted communities and they want to do a nice tree (in a container). With proper care you can get a lot of years out of them,” he said.

Look for slower growth varieties for container planting shrubs and dwarf tree types, he said.

“Dwarf and miniature plants you can have a lot of fun with in pots,” Eckhoff said.


Eckhoff said container succulents and sedums — including hens and chicks — are easy to grow, durable and low maintenance.

“Hens and chicks are an older variety. People don’t realize how resilient and low maintenance they are,” he said. “They don’t take much soil or water. They are highly resilient,” he said.

Consider planting different varieties in a single container for color and texture, or massing a single plant type for a stunning display.

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