Container Gardens 101: Tips, Trends, & Plant Combination Ideas

Ready To Start A Container Garden? Here’s What You Need To Know

April 23, 2021 Updated July 16, 2021

container-gardens (1)
Westend61/Getty Images

No yard? No problem. You can still work on your green thumb with a container garden. A container garden is basically a small garden kept in a planter, which means the possibilities for plant and vegetable combinations are practically endless. Container gardens can be kept inside, placed on porches, balconies, or even windowsills. They also make great additions to more extensive gardens — nothing says showstopper quite like a grand terracotta planter overflowing with colorful flowers placed amid a garden in full bloom.

Ultimately, building a container garden is an easy and fun activity to try your hand at gardening (or put your master gardener skills to the test if you’re already a pro). All you need to start is a container with ample drainage holes, plenty of potting soil, plant food, and, of course, plants. The trickiest part is choosing the right plants and vegetables for your lifestyle.

Some plants and vegetables are heartier than others (think succulents), and as a result, they need less tending. Other plants, like azaleas and Boston ferns, are far more high maintenance. Since a container garden tends to include multiple types of plants, you’ll want to carefully research all of their proper care instructions to ensure you’re choosing flowers or vegetables that work together. Assembling your container garden should be a fun experience, though, so don’t stress out too much during the planning phase. While every plant is different, most flowers will thrive as long as they have plenty of water, sunlight, and pruning.

Now that you know the basics, let’s dive into some container garden ideas to help you start your own mini-garden, whether you live in a loft apartment or have a spacious backyard that’s just begging to be filled up with gorgeous pots full of flowers and vegetables.

Container Gardening Ideas

As you’re planning your container garden, you may want to choose a theme. For instance, if you love cooking, you could try building an herb garden. Or, if you’re looking to create a statement piece, you could create a container garden based on your favorite color scheme. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Create a Tropical Paradise

Pick a lovely big planter with a tropical flair, and then add plants that make you feel like you’re on vacation. According to Better Homes & Gardens, pairing a bird-of-paradise with a moneywort (also known as “Creeping Jenny”) makes for a stunning tropical combo to kick off your island-themed container garden.

Mix Your Succulents

Even if you’ve had trouble keeping plants alive in the past, tending to a mixed succulent container garden should be a snap. Choose a variety of small echeverias and sedums and group them in a wide and shallow planter. Just take care not to over-water your hearty new plant friends, and you’ll have a container garden that’s sure to thrive.

Pair Your Favorite Herbs

Most herbs are sun lovers, and as a result, they tend to grow well together. For instance, Gardening Know How suggests growing Mediterranean herbs like sage, oregano, and rosemary together in a cute container.

Container Gardens For Vegetables

Flowers aren’t the only thing you grow in a container garden — vegetables will work, too. And again, you don’t need a lot of space to start a small vegetable garden in a container. However, you may need to put a little extra time into planning it. One of the first things you’ll want to do is choose a light-colored container to avoid overheating the roots of your chosen veggies. Next, you’ll want to buy some nutrient-rich potting soil before you start planting. The key to a successful container garden is knowing which plants to put in your field. Not all plants can live in this kind of habitat, but it’s important to know the ones that can. Vegetables that do well in container gardens include:

  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Eggplant
  • Summer squash
  • Zucchini
  • Spinach
  • Peas
  • Cucumbers
  • Potatoes
  • Arugula
  • Lettuce

And your produce garden doesn’t need to stop at potatoes. Here are a few fruits you can also squeeze into containers.  

  • Nectarines
  • Blackcurrants
  • Figs
  • Blueberries
  • Peaches
  • Cherries
  • Gooseberries

Plant Combination Ideas for Container Gardens

Not all plants will grow together in the same pot, so you’ll definitely want to research your potential pairings before adding them to your garden. Here are a few winning plant combinations to get you started:

  • Coleus and lantana
  • Begonias and coral bells
  • Lettuce and mums
  • Pansies and violas
  • Geraniums and poppies

Container Gardening Flowers

If you’re not quite ready to plant a variety of flowers in a single planter, you can always stick with one type of flower. Any plant you grow in a container is technically a container garden, after all, including hanging baskets and ferns. Any of these flowers will look beautiful in containers, either on their own or paired with other plants:

  • Geraniums
  • Petunias
  • Snapdragons
  • Daffodils
  • Tulips
  • Pansies
  • Lantana
  • Periwinkles

With a bit of planning, your container garden journey is sure to get off to a great start.

Unique Container Gardening Ideas

Container gardens are a chance for horticulturists to get creative. When building a container garden, you can use almost anything to hold your plants! A staple to any container garden is color, so make sure these items you choose are bright, or don’t be afraid to paint them!

  • A colored chair
  • A picture frame
  • Metal buckets
  • A kettle
  • Tires
  • An urn
  • A boot
  • Teacup/teapots
  • Tree stumps

Container Garden Tips

Containers gardens are a chance to cultivate creativity, but it’s also important to take the time to care for plants properly and to learn about the flowers in your garden.

“Especially as to the needs of the plants,” says Peter B Morris, a Plant Specialist staff horticulturist. “I believe that plant selection is key to a stress-free garden. If you put the right plant in the proper spot — it thrives! Put it where it doesn’t want to be – and bugs and diseases come knocking on the door.”