From living walls to narrow window ledges, container gardening is getting a new surge of interest among gardeners. It can be very fulfilling to grow plants in containers, but it does need a little bit of attention at the beginning. Containers give us a chance to grow plants that won’t survive an Ohio winter, to grow plants that require special soil conditions, to bring your garden into your living space or to complement the plant with a beautiful pot.
The first consideration in any container garden is the container. It is important that the container you select can support the needs of the plants you want to grow. If you are trying to grow vegetables or fruits, you will need to make sure that the container has adequate room for the root system to spread out. However, if you are growing flowers or foliage plants, your container will probably be smaller. If the plants are already started, it is not a good idea to increase the size of the container by more than a quarter (25 percent) of the original size. Moving a plant to a pot that is too large can create an overly wet environment that can encourage root rot.
It is also important to make sure that your plants are adaptable to this type of environment. If you are planning to grow more than one variety of plant in the same container, take the time to check the light and moisture requirements for each plant. The best container gardens will have plants that thrive in similar conditions planted together. It is also important to consider the growth habit of the plant. Plants with trailing habits should be planted at the edges of a container. Plants that have an upright habit tend to do better in the back or the center. Take the time to consider not only what the plant will look like when you plant it, but how large it will become as it matures.
Watering is the most difficult part of container gardening, but it need not be. The most important thing to remember is that moisture in a pot or container will evaporate in the wind and sun outdoors. If you are growing containers that are outside all the time, you may need to water every day. However, the same pot will need watered far less often inside. Without the drying effect of the wind, there is less transpiration through the leaves and less evaporation from the pot itself. If you aren’t sure whether to water, test the soil to see if it feels damp about an inch below the surface.
For more information about growing flowers and other ornamental plants in a container, see ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/1000/1254.html. We also have information about growing vegetables, including specific varieties that do well in a container at ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/1000pdf/1647.pdf and at ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/1000/1645.html.
Wendy Wolpert is an OSU Extension Master Gardener volunteer.