Container Gardening Ideas (best guide for beginners)

Sharing is caring!

To my fellow gardeners, I understand both the delight and challenges of tending to our gardens. Perhaps you’ve faced space limitations or needed help to keep your beloved plants flourishing in your backyard. So, if you’re looking for creative solutions to grow more in less space, discovering container gardening ideas offers a unique and inviting path to explore.

Container gardening offers a delightful and accessible way to nurture your green thumb, provided you select appropriate containers with good drainage and suitable growing mediums. Due to their low-maintenance nature, succulents, tomatoes, and peppers are excellent choices for container gardening. Larger vegetables like sweet corn, pumpkins, and zucchinis are typically cultivated in more extensive, traditional garden beds because they need more root space.

various clay paper and plastic plant pots on table with green watering can with natural background

I have created this helpful guide to provide everything you need to know from container options, plant choices, and practical tips for growing and maintaining your budding container garden. Achieving success in container gardening relies on choosing the right plants and giving them the correct type of care, which helps you use your space wisely while enjoying a plentiful harvest.

Humble Highlights

  • Discover the 5 most unusual yet beneficial advantages of container gardening so you can sow your plants successfully right from the beginning – even if you’re a beginner! 
  •  Stop guessing about the correct type of pot for your plants and unlock these insider secrets to selecting the right home for your green friends so you can cultivate healthier blooms and abundant harvests. 
  •  Save time AND money with these surefire watering and fertilizing steps so you can sow herbs, vegetables, and flowers while providing them a happy home throughout each season. 

Benefits Of Container Gardening

Container gardening allows growers to cultivate healthy plants within limited space without needing larger, traditional areas. This alternative approach makes cultivation more accessible, achievable, and enjoyable no matter your experience level.

pot gardening for beginners

Below is a list of the common benefits of container gardening:

  • Reduction Of Pests And Weeds: Harmful pests are easy to spot and can be quickly addressed due to the limited space containers provide. Likewise, due to the restricted area, there is less surface area for weeds to take root and spread. 
  • Flexibility Of Space: Container gardening also offers the flexibility to rearrange and relocate your plants as needed, whether on your balcony, patio, or even within the confines of your home. 1
  • Easy Maintenance: Compared to traditional gardening, containers are more manageable. You don’t need extensive tools or equipment such as large shovels, rakes, and wheelbarrows, commonly used in conventional outdoor gardening, making this growing practice perfect for older adults or those with physical limitations. 
  • More Control: Gardening in containers provides excellent control over plant growth and placement, reducing concerns about climate change and requiring less maintenance throughout each growing season. The season can also be extended as pots can be moved indoors near warmer temperatures. 
  • Accessibility: The plants you grow in containers are more accessible to reach and care for due to their elevated or portable nature. As mentioned above, this can significantly benefit individuals with physical impairments or restricted gardening space.

Choosing The Right Type Of Container

Generally, you can use almost anything as a plant container if the vessel can hold enough soil for healthy root development and provides excellent drainage.

vegetable container gardening

Here are some important considerations in choosing your pots and planters:

  • Size and Depth: Match the container size to the plant’s root system. Larger pots are best for plants like sunflowers, peppers, and root vegetables like potatoes, beets, and carrots. Conversely, shallow containers suit smaller varieties like salad onions and leafy greens. 2
  • Container Materials: You can choose from wooden containers, self-watering containers, ceramic containers, or even make your own DIY containers. Potatoes, for example, can be easily grown in 5-gallon buckets. Each type of container has advantages, so pick one that suits your needs and style and the requirements of your selected plants.
Humble Tip:

When choosing bigger containers, provide your plants with a more extensive reservoir of soil, which can hold more water. This increased soil volume means there’s more moisture available to the plants, making them less reliant on frequent watering, promoting healthier root systems and saving you valuable time in the process.

Additionally, excess soil provides good insulation for the roots against temperature fluctuations, which can help maintain a stable and favorable environment for plant growth. This is especially true if you reside in a region with unpredictable weather.

Container Size Guide

Selecting the right container size is a crucial step in successful container gardening. Your container’s size directly affects your plants’ health and growth. Below are some of the things you need to know in choosing the right size of containers:

container gardening

Consider Your Available Space

The container you choose should be dependent on the available space. If you have limited room, opt for smaller containers or vertical gardening solutions like hanging baskets and wall-mounted planters to make the most of your growing area. 3

Considering The Space Plant Needs

Different plants have varying root system sizes and space requirements. Consider the types of plants you want to grow before selecting a container. For example, larger vegetables like zucchini need more root space than smaller herbs or flowers like basil or marigolds, as do heirloom tomatoes, which can reward you with better-tasting fruit when left to spread out. 

Avoid choosing the most giant container, which can lead to overwatering and root issues. Instead, match the container size with your plant’s growth characteristics. For example, compact plants like roses and thyme can thrive in smaller containers, while vigorous growers like cucumbers and sweet corn need more room for their roots to spread.

container planting guide

Tips For Finding The Container Right Size:

Here are some additional tips for choosing the right container for your plants:

  • Make sure the container is deep enough to accommodate the plant’s roots. Tomato varieties, for example, should be cultivated in containers at least 12 inches deep.
  • Choose a container with drainage holes to prevent water from pooling and causing root rot and disease, effectively stunting the plant’s growth and ruining your crop.
  • Choose a potting mix designed for containers, such as ready-made all-purpose mixes, or create your own by combining 1 part peat moss, 1 part perlite, and 2 parts compost. Remember, you’ll want to adjust the proportions based on your plants’ nutrient requirements.

Fortunately, plenty of options exist for choosing the right pot to grow your vegetable plants. But, to select the best ones, you’ll want to watch for some essential characteristics before you sow your green friends. Check out this informative video below that details how to set your plants up for sustained success throughout the season.

Pot And Planter Container Materials

When it comes to container gardening, you have a variety of container materials at your disposal, suitable for both larger and smaller spaces. Below are some materials you can choose from to match your plants’ preferences and needs.

Wooden Containers – For Moist Soil

These are like boxes or pots made out of wood and are an option for plants that enjoy a stable environment, as wood helps keep the soil’s temperature steady. Plants that thrive in wooden containers include oregano, rosemary, and leafy greens like lettuce and spinach.

Additionally, flowers like impatiens and ferns, along with popular shade-loving hostas, can also use wooden containers due to their preference for consistent soil conditions. 4

container flower garden

Self-Watering Containers

Self-watering containers are specifically crafted to offer plants a reliable and consistent water supply. These smart pots take care of watering for you, featuring a unique system that holds extra water at the bottom.

When thirsty, the plant can access this water, meaning you don’t have to worry about daily watering. It is perfect for those busy gardeners who enjoy the practice but don’t want to be tied to a weekly routine.

Plants like tomatoes and herbs such as basil, mint, and cilantro prefer a continuous moisture supply and watering for healthy production. These popular varieties grow well and flourish in self-watering containers due to their ability to maintain soil moisture levels effectively.

Ceramic Containers – For Succulents And Hardy Plants

Ceramic containers look great and make great options for plants that don’t need a lot of water and can handle some changes in soil moisture. Ceramic pots are available in both glazed and unglazed pots, with the vital distinction being that glazed options retain more moisture than their unglazed counterparts. A notable feature of ceramic pots is their porous clay composition, enabling a degree of air and water circulation.

container gardening for beginners

Growers can cultivate drought-resistant succulents in ceramics for a touch of elegance. They also work fine for pretty flowers like geraniums and petunias. Certain shrubs, such as dwarf varieties of lavender or rosemary, can also be gracefully potted in ceramic containers, serving as charming focal points in your garden or outdoor space.

DIY Containers – For Custom Needs

DIY stands for “do it yourself.” Depending on what you use, you can grow a variety of things:

  • For Herbs and Vegetables: Turning old buckets, crates, or wooden boxes into DIY containers is mainly preferred by small veggies like basil, cherry tomatoes, kale, carrots, and cucumbers.
  • Small Flowers: If you have old shoes or tin cans, you can use them to create DIY containers. These are perfect for growing small and pretty flowers like pansies and marigolds and are a unique way to reduce household waste by recycling. 
  • Succulents and Cacti: If you’re into plants like succulents and cacti that don’t like sitting in water, you can make DIY containers with good drainage, like hypertufa troughs. These distinctive containers help your plants thrive by allowing excess moisture to drain away, creating an environment suited for these plant varieties. 5
  • Grow Bags: Grow bags are a nice option for vegetables like potatoes. They are primarily made from plastic or fabric and are ideal for cultivating homegrown spuds. In containers, growers can benefit from a layered soil technique, which involves repeatedly layering soil over seed potatoes to boost growth and maximize potato yields. 
Humble Tip:

Remember, plants in containers need to “breathe” too. So ensure your DIY container has drainage holes at the bottom for water to escape. If there aren’t any, create a few by drilling or punching holes in the bottom, or look for specialized options online or at your local garden center.

Selecting The Best Container Plants

The beauty of container gardening isn’t just based on convenience but also the fact that you can choose many plant varieties like herbs, vegetables, and flowers. However, be mindful when selecting plants for your containers.

best container plants

Choose Plants For Your Containers By Considering The Following Factors:

  • Growth Habits: Choose plants that match the container’s space. Some plants are tall, while others spread out, so consider their growth tendencies before sowing for the best results. Tomatoes, for example, enjoy lots of room to spread their budding roots along with well-balanced and nutrient-dense soil.
  • Compatibility: Select plants that get along and grow well together in the same container. Favorable pairings help promote healthier and happier plant combinations in their container home.
  • Plant Choices: Opt for dwarf trees, succulents, or plants with similar container light and temperature preferences. Vegetables like tomatoes and peppers are many gardeners’ most widespread plant choices. 
growing herbs in containers

Plant Combination Ideas For Container Gardens 

  • Mix Heights and Shapes: Like a group photo, vary the heights and shapes of your plants for an exciting and captivating garden all can enjoy. 6
  • Diverse Shapes: Plants, just like people, come in different shapes. Some are tall and straight, while others are round and bushy. Mixing shapes is like creating a cast of characters within your garden, helping to foster an appealing, aesthetic look.
  • Trailing Plants: Use trailing plants that droop or hang over the container’s sides for extra charm and elegance.

Even if you’re a complete novice without experience, we’ve got you covered. Remember, starting a container garden requires you to take the first step by getting started. In fact, I wrote an entire article on choosing, cultivating, and caring for vegetables in your beginner container garden.

Providing Adequate Drainage

Think of your plant container as a bathtub for your plants. Like in a bathtub, you don’t want water to become stagnant for too long, or things can get soggy and uncomfortable.

Here’s three main container gardening tips on drainage that can provide your plants an advantage.

  1. Make sure there are holes at the bottom of your container so water can drain out quickly.
  2. If creating outdoor containers, reach for lighter-colored options, as they don’t get as hot in the sun. Remember, some plants and their roots are sensitive to excessive warming, which may harm growth and even lead to plant death. 7
  3. Avoid clay pots because even though they can soak up some water, they’re heavy, delicate, and break easily.
veg container gardening

Humble Tip:

To fix this, you can use special containers that help water flow out easily, like self-watering bins or those with double walls, which keep moisture away from the roots. You can also consider hanging baskets or window boxes, which naturally allow water to drain away, keeping the soil moist but not saturated.  

Fertilizers To Feed Your Plants

Plants, much like humans, require a balanced diet to thrive. While water is essential for their survival, they also need a steady supply of essential nutrients. However, it’s crucial not to confuse fertilizers with hazardous substances and additives.

plant combination ideas for container gardens

As a plant’s version of a nutritious meal, fertilizers can enhance root development, boost flowering, and increase fruit production when properly applied. They comprise vital nutrients like nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K), as well as calcium, magnesium, and sulfur, each serving a distinct role in a plant’s life cycle. 8

Here are the top 5 preferred natural fertilizer options for container gardening:

  • Compost: Ideal for container gardening, compost can be mixed into your potting mix or used as a top dressing, improving soil structure and enhancing nutrient-rich water retention.
  • Worm Castings: Rich in nutrients and enhancing soil structure, worm castings, when mixed into potting soil, provide slow-release fertilization and boost microbial activity in containers.
  • Fish Emulsion: A quick-acting fertilizer suitable for potted plants, fish emulsion offers rapid nutrient infusion, particularly nitrogen, promoting lush foliage. Dilute and apply as a liquid feed.
  • Organic Slow-Release Granules: Tailored for containers, slow-release organic granular fertilizers steadily provide nutrients over time, ensuring consistent plant nourishment.
  • Seaweed/Kelp Extracts: These liquid fertilizers, brimming with micronutrients and growth enhancers, boost plant resilience and health. Dilute and apply as a foliar spray or root drench.

Natural fertilizers are superior to other kinds of fertilizers because they provide essential nutrients to plants and improve soil health over time. Moreover, they enhance soil structure, microbial activity, and water-holding capacity, creating a more sustainable and eco-friendly approach to gardening while promoting healthier plant growth.

Because container gardening has become so popular over the past several years, many beginning growers are taking up the practice and achieving excellent results. The video below explains some wonderful ideas you can try in your backyard!

Successful Container Garden Ideas

Vegetable Container Gardening

The cool thing about growing vegetable plants in a container is that it’s manageable even if you’re a new gardener with little experience. You don’t need much space, fancy tools, or heavy machines to achieve success. Tomatoes, for example, are everyone’s favorite to cultivate with limited space and practice. 

Most vegetables need at least a minimum of 6 inches of soil, but larger varieties may need more. A 5-gallon container works for giant vegetables such as tomatoes or squash, while shallow-rooted greens like lettuce do just fine in smaller containers. 9

In truth, many growers are coming together and starting communal vegetable gardens that benefit all participating. If you want to discover the powerful benefits of this growing practice, check out my article on community gardening and see how it may interest you as well.

Humble Tip:

A deeper container is preferable over wider options for most gardening experts because there is more room for your plant’s roots to grow.

Wider containers are typically used when you have plants with a spreading or sprawling growth habit, such as roses, oregano, succulents like hens-and-chicks (Sempervivum), and flowering plants such as petunias and lobelia.

Herb Container Gardening

Herb container gardening allows you to cultivate flavorful and aromatic herbs like basil, rosemary, parsley, and mint in pots or boxes. These are akin to culinary secret ingredients, enhancing the taste of various dishes, and are beloved by many backyard gardeners.

For instance, basil imparts freshness to pasta sauces and salads, while rosemary elevates the flavors of roasted meats. Parsley’s vibrant green garnish enhances various dishes, and mint adds a refreshing touch to beverages and desserts. 10

herb container garden

Flower Container Gardening

Using containers, you can effortlessly add vibrant floral displays to your patio, balcony, or front porch, transforming these areas into enchanting, fragrant, and productive spaces.

Aside from marigolds and petunias, geraniums are also a great addition. Geraniums are known for their prolific blooming habits and thrive in containers, providing continuous waves of blossoms throughout the growing season.

Humble Tip:

Because flowering plants are delicate, ensure the container you choose has excellent drainage holes where excess water can empty freely. Feed your plants with organic fertilizers, understanding that you’ll likely need to reapply several times per season. 

To have a bird’s eye view of the similarities and differences of container gardening, refer to the table below. 

AspectVegetable ContainerHerb ContainerFlower Container
Container BasedYesYesYes
Easy Access To Fresh ProduceYesYesNo
Plant TypesEdible vegetablesHerbsDecorative (foliage plants)
Plant Size and MaintenanceMay need more space and maintenanceAre often compact and require less maintenanceTends to require less maintenance

Gardening In Small Spaces

Even if you only have a tiny balcony, a small patio, or a sunny indoor windowsill, you can still work your magic in gardening. It’s like saying, “I may not have a huge canvas, but I can still create a beautiful masterpiece.”

Because many vegetable growers live in the city, maximizing your space is essential by utilizing every inch of available space. I devoted an entire article to successful container gardening in small areas for urban gardeners.

Maintain Plants Needs: Water, Fertilize, & Grow

Plants growing in containers must be maintained regularly. Remember to do these things below, as needed. 

  • Fertilize Your Plants: Use appropriate fertilizers to provide essential nutrients. Various fertilizer options include Granular All-Purpose, Liquid, or Organic options like compost or manure.
  • Pruning and Trimming: Trim overgrown or dead parts of your plants to encourage healthy growth.
  • Protect from Pests and Diseases: Look out for pests and diseases and take preventive measures immediately. Regularly check your plants for any trouble, like chewed leaves or strange browning or yellowing spots. If you see something odd, investigate and address it quickly. 11

An excellent way to fertilize your budding vegetable plants while reducing household waste is by creating a unique space called a keyhole garden. Because this practice is a growing trend among backyard growers, I’ve written a complete guide on how you can build a keyhole garden, too.

container gardening with vegetables

Humble Tip:

Most problems or issues start with the garden soil you use. It is recommended to use potting mix or soil, as these products are designed for use in all types of pots, whether smaller pots, terra cotta pots, or larger varieties.

When you can identify what’s causing problems for your plants in containers, you can either prevent further damage or take corrective action sooner. As a garden enthusiast, knowing your adversaries will help you anticipate challenges and be prepared to address them throughout each growing season.

Raised Bed Vegetable Gardening

Consider raised beds as another option for growing vegetables, especially if you have more space and want to explore traditional gardening methods. 

Because raised beds gardens are so widespread and commonplace today, check out this entire article I wrote about how beginners can design and care for their backyard vegetable plants – even if space is limited.

How To Create An Indoor Garden Sanctuary

The concept of an indoor garden sanctuary is a delightful blend of nature and tranquility that can bring a sense of peace and beauty to your home.

To discover even more about the art of crafting your indoor greenery, here’s a link to our full article on creating an indoor garden sanctuary

Best Plants For Pot Gardening For Beginners

The great thing about pot gardening is that you can do it no matter where you live or your available space. You only need a container, rich potting soil, access to full sun, and water to get started. 

Some plants that are great for growing in pots include:

  • Tomatoes
  • Potatoes (grow bags)
  • Rosemary
  • Peppers
  • Strawberries
  • Lettuce
  • Petunias
  • Marigolds
  • Dwarf fruit trees
  • Low-maintenance succulents 12

Growing Zinnias In Pots

Growing zinnias can be a delightful addition to your container garden. Zinnias are known for their vibrant and cheerful blooms, which come in various colors like red, pink, orange, and yellow, adding a cheery, colorful pop to any flourishing garden area.

Because zinnias are so beloved by home gardeners, I devoted an entire article to how you can grow and care for these beautiful yet delicate flowers in pots at home.

creative ideas for plant containers


Container gardening offers a fantastic opportunity to cultivate various healthy and thriving plants. You can nurture multiple vegetables, including classic favorites like succulent tomatoes, vibrant bell peppers, and crisp cucumbers. By selecting plants carefully, considering their needs, growth habits, and compatibility, and providing proper care, you can keep your green friends looking their best.

Whether you’re an experienced gardener or just beginning, container gardening provides a fulfilling means to nurture and appreciate nature from the comfort of your home. All it takes is a pot, some soil, and your choice of plants to embark on a journey of container gardening success. So, seize the opportunity and watch your container garden thrive!

Are you an avid container grower? We’d love to hear about what plants you sow in pots and which have flourished in your region. Take a moment and let us know by dropping a comment below!


  1. ResearchGate – Conatiner Gardens: Possibilities And Challenges For Environmental And Social Benefits In Cities
  2. University Of Maryland, Extension – Types Of Containers For Growing Vegetables
  3. United States Department Of Agriculture – Container Gardening
  4. ASHS Journals – Container Design Affects Shoot And Root Growth Of Vegetable Plant
  5. Oklahoma State University, Extension – Container Gardening
  6. Almanac – Container Vegetable Gardening For Beginners
  7. Wikipedia – Container Garden
  8. University Of Minnesota, Extension – Fertilizing And Watering Container Plants
  9. Penn State University – The Art Of Container Gardening
  10. The National Gardening Association Learning Library – Herb Gardening In Containers
  11. University Of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, College Of Agricultural, Consumer & Environmental Sciences – Helpful Tips For Creating A Successful Container Garden
  12. Rutgers University, New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station – Container Gardening With Vegetables

Sharing is caring!

Leave a Comment