Tips for planting flowers in containers and pots from the experts at Wilson Bros Gardens (2023)

Posted by Brent Wilson on 8/13/2016 atflower garden

Container flower garden is perfect for the person who wants to have a flower garden but is short on time or space. Container flower gardens are great for adding interest and color to patios, porches, decks, steps, walkways, pool areas, and other outdoor spaces, and they are convenient because they can be moved from one location to another.

Choose a container

The first thing you should do is select a container that suits the environment it will be placed in and one that will complement the beauty of the plants it contains without stealing the show.

Size matters.Adjust the size of the container to the size of the space you want to place. Unless you're arranging multiple containers of different sizes in a group, you don't want to place a small planter on a large back deck or patio. And you don't want to put a huge flower box on a small porch or balcony.

You should also choose a container that fits and matches the mature size of the plant(s). Otherwise, if you put tall-growing plants in a small container, the roots of your plants won't have room to grow, causing them to begin to shrink long before the season is over. Also, a large plant growing in a small pot will need more frequent watering as the plant grows, especially in summer.

Color and style are important.Choose a pot color that goes well with the colors of the plants you plan to grow in them. Also consider the other plants and building elements in the area. Choose a style of pot that matches the style of your home or space. If you live in a 1930s brick bungalow, ultra-modern planters with bold colors may not be the best choice. Many nurseries and garden centers offer a wide range of containers to choose from, but almost anything you can find that will hold the soil and drain well is a potential container for a flower garden.

Drainage is very important.Make sure the pot you choose has drainage holes or is made of a material that allows drainage holes to be drilled if necessary. Most clay and cement pots provide excellent drainage and also allow air movement through the pot. However, clay pots are porous, so the soil in them tends to dry out faster than pots made of plastic and glazed ceramic.

season of useRemember that unglazed or waterproof coated concrete and clay pots are porous and will absorb and retain water. In the summer this is not a problem, but in the winter and freezing temperatures the water freezes and expands which can potentially damage these types of pots. in winter they absorb water. Therefore, in winter it is better to use pots made of materials that do not absorb water.

The earth

Most container grown annuals appreciate moist but well-drained soil. Constantly wet soil often causes root rot or other harmful or deadly plant diseases. We therefore recommend using a high-quality professional pot.Mix, it's not cheap potting soil. However, if you grow fast-growing annuals that are known to drink more water and appreciate heavier, moister soil, you can thoroughly mix 50/50 potting mix and potting compost for use in your container garden. Avoid using native soil from your garden as it does not drain well and ventilation is very poor.

Design Tips

Basically, when choosing which plants to grow in your container flower garden, you should choose those that will grow best in the environment in which the container will be placed.

If your container can be seen from all sides, place taller plants toward the center and shorter-growing or trailing plants on the edges. If your container will be placed against a wall, plant the taller varieties towards the back.

how much sunMost plants that you buy to grow in your container garden come with a plant label that shows their light needs. "Full sun" means 6 to 8 hours or more of direct sunlight during the day. "Penumbral shade" means about 6 to 8 hours of shade or heavily filtered sun per day. "Shade" usually means all day shade or mottled shade, however most shade loving annuals such as impatiens can tolerate some early to mid morning sun.

Containers that are on the east side of a home generally receive afternoon shade, meaning shade or partial shade plants do best. Containers on the west side of the house (without trees or other sun-blocking structures) receive hot afternoon sun, meaning plants do best in full sun. Containers that are on the north or south side of a home often receive full sun throughout the day.

When combining a variety of plants in one container or grouping multiple pots in the same location, choose plants that have similar growth requirements. Obviously, sun-loving plants and shade-loving plants are not very compatible unless the sun-loving ones serve as an umbrella for the shade-loving ones.

How much wind?If your container garden is exposed to high winds, consider using lower-growing plants.

flower and leaf color.Annual plants come in an endless variety of leaf and flower colors. When choosing flower colors, you can go for a monochromatic theme, using shades of the same color, or you can mix things up. When working with two or more colors, consider choosing complementary colors as shown in the color wheel below.

A color wheel is a schematic way of showing relationships between colors. The colors on the right side of the wheel are warm. The colors on the left are great. Adjacent colors are analogous (similar). Opposite colors are complementary.

Tips for planting flowers in containers and pots from the experts at Wilson Bros Gardens (1)

With color, the perspective of the distance can be optically changed and a certain mood can be set.

warm coloursexpress action.Light tones like red, orange, yellow, and white pull an object or area toward the viewer. These colors and tints, placed near the foundation of a home, make the home appear closer to the street.

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cold colorsYou are quietDeep tones such as blues, greens, purples and blacks recede and can be used to make the home appear further from the road.

growth habit.Hanging or cascading plants are perfect for hanging baskets or cascading over the edges of containers or pots. Upright, taller plants make good backgrounds or centerpieces.


plant spacing.When planting annual flowers in containers, they will often be closer together than when planted in garden beds. As a rule, twice as many plants can be used in a tub as in a bed of the same size. So if your plant label suggests 12 inches apart, leave 6 inches apart in a container.

Step by step planting guide


Before filling your container with soil, we recommend lining the bottom with shade cloth or porous landscape cloth. This will prevent the drain holes from clogging with dirt.

STEP 2(Optional)

If you are working with a large, tall pot and are planting it with smaller growing plants, you can place a pot upside down in your container to keep it in the ground.

Tips for planting flowers in containers and pots from the experts at Wilson Bros Gardens (2)


Next, fill your container with the soil mix. Fill the container to the top and press down firmly so the bottom is about 1 inch below the rim. If desired, mix a slow or timed-release floral fertilizer into the soil at this time. Follow product label directions for application rates.


Remove your plant(s) from their growing containers.


Use one hand to scoop some soil into your container and with the other place a plant in the hole so the top of the root ball is 1 inch below the rim of the container. Continue this process with all other plants.


If you haven't added fertilizer to the soil mix, fertilize with a slow-release flower fertilizer or a water-soluble fertilizer. I prefer granular slow-release fertilizers.


Pour copiously until the water starts running out of the holes in the bottom of the container. Add more potting soil and adjust plants if necessary if they settle during watering.

Step 7 (Optional)

Apply a 1/2 inch layer of wood shavings or peat moss to the soil surface to retain moisture.

care tips afterwards

Irrigation.Water requirements vary significantly depending on the type of plant(s), soil mix used, type of container, amount of sun the garden receives, and weather conditions.

Regardless of these factors, container gardens should be checked daily for water needs. Some plants, like New Guniea Impatiens, drink a lot more water than others. These may need watering twice a day during the hottest parts of summer. Others, like purslane or purslane, may only need watering once or twice a week, even in hot weather.

Finger testing is the best way to check soil moisture. When the top 2 inches of soil is dry, it's time to provide some water. Pour deeply until excess water flows out of the drainage holes in the bottom of the container. Then wait for the soil to dry out a bit before watering again.

Fertilization.Annuals grown in containers have less soil from which to extract essential nutrients, and more frequent watering will leach fertilizer from the soil. This means they require more food than those grown in garden beds.

IfWhen feeding plants growing in container gardens, I like slow-release granular fertilizers best because they don't mix and release a small amount of fertilizer with each watering of the plant. Some slow-release fertilizers last an entire season, while others can last a few months or more. Other people like to use water-soluble fertilizers, which are applied much more frequently during the growing season. It's your decision. Follow product label directions and application rates.

Deadhead.Some annual flowers are self-cleaning, while others benefit from topping (removing faded flowers). Heading is a simple task that takes a few minutes. If you've never lost your mind, here's how:

First, keep a close eye on your flowering plants and pay particular attention to flowers that are past their prime. Once a flower begins to fade, remove it from the plant with a quick snip of your secateurs, or use your thumb and forefinger to snip the flower if the stems are soft enough. When it subsides, try removing just the faded blooms and leaving the new buds underneath intact.

Clipping.During the growing season, remove any damaged or dry leaves to keep plants clean and healthy. When hanging plants like petunias and verbena grow tall and long in the summer, you can rejuvenate the plant by cutting the stems to half or more of their length. Make sure there are some leaves or leaf buds on the remaining part of the stem. Plants that have been severely pruned require less water for new growth to form.

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plant species

At Wilson Bros Gardens, we plant over 100 annual flowering containers each season. We also grow many small trees, such as Japanese maples, and medium sized shrubs in larger containers in the garden. We often use extended annuals like Million Bells (Calibrachoa) as a ground cover in these.

Below are some of my favorite yearbooks.

Annual plants in the warm season for full sun or partial sun

Begonias (sun tolerant varieties)


Draecena Sting


Euphorbia 'Diamante Frost'

licorice plant (Helichrist)

Geranium Ivy

Juncus grass / reed


million bells (Calibrachoa)

Papyrus / Schirmpalme

Kraut Pennisetum

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Coleus der Sonne

sweet potato vines


Warm season annual plants for shade to mostly shade


Begonias (shade varieties)


Coleus (sun or shade varieties)

Creeping Jenny

elephant ears

Make some

fiberglass grass





Ivy (many varieties)


Juncus grass / reed


Lobelia (annual)

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Oxalis / Klee

Stachelmoos with Selagine

Sweet Potato Vine

Persian shield (Strobilanthes)


Cool Season Annuals for Container Gardening


blooming cabbage

blooming kale

Juncus grass / reed




dragon mouth


dusty miller

autumn fern


cast iron plant

Dwarf Albatross - Great for centerpieces and Christmas decorations

Related articles from our experts

  • How to Properly Plant a Flower Bed Garden >
  • fertilizer flower bulbs >
  • Perennial plant fertilization >
  • Perennials division >
  • Prevention of diseases in annual and perennial flowers >
  • Planting perennials in a container or hammer >
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How many plants should you put in a container? ›

Generally, using three or four plants in 10 to 12-inch planters, four to six plants in 14 to 16-inch planters and six to eight plants in 16 to 20-inch planters will fill out containers nicely while allowing room for the plants to grow without excessive crowding.

What do you put in the bottom of a garden container? ›

Pine cones, wood chips, leaves, and sticks can all be used but will break down over time—a sustainable choice for seasonal planters who repot regularly.

What is the most important factor in container gardening? ›

The most fundamental part of container gardening is—surprise—picking the right container! In general, the more space you can offer your plants' roots, the better they will grow. Most vegetables need at least 12 inches of soil to grow well, but larger vegetables will require more space.

Should container plants be watered every day? ›

A few more tips on containers. Early in spring when your plants are smaller and the temperatures are lower you may only have to water every 3 or 4 days. As the plants get larger and the mercury creeps higher be prepared to water every day, with small pots or water “pigs” you might even have to water twice a day.

Should you water potted plants every day? ›

Watering container plants.

Pots absorb heat, which can stress plant roots, and the soil in them dries out much faster than soil in the ground. Container plants generally need to be watered daily. During really hot weather, you may need to even water twice a day, especially smaller containers.

Should I water container plants everyday? ›

Watering potted plants once a day or even twice daily may be necessary, especially if the weather turns hot and windy or your outdoor containers are located in full sunlight. Watch closely, and check moisture levels often.

What do you put in the bottom of an outdoor planter for drainage? ›

Perlite is a soil amendment that improves drainage and encourages root growth. It can also help keep the soil from getting compacted in a container. Some potting soil already includes perlite, but it can be purchased separately and then mixed into soil.

How do you arrange container plants? ›

Place one large pot at the center and then add smaller plants around the outside to adorn and decorate. This will draw the eye to the focal point, but also offer a lot of beauty in the surrounding pots as well. For a more informal look you can add an odd number of pots into a cluster group.

What can I put in the bottom of my outdoor planter without drainage holes? ›

Layer rocks at the Bottom of Your Pot

Placing rocks or gravel at the bottom of your pot is a common practice to create some separation between your plant's soil and any excess water.

What are the five steps to planting a flower? ›

How to Plant Flowers and Care for Them to Ensure a Healthy Garden
  1. Step 1: Right Place, Right Plant.
  2. Step 2: Dig the Soil.
  3. Step 3: Plant Your New Flowers.
  4. Step 4: Water Deeply and Add Mulch.
  5. Step 5: Deadhead and Groom Your Flowers.
May 19, 2022

What to put down before planting flowers? ›

Add 2-3 inches of compost and work it into the top layer of soil, if possible. Work the soil when it is moist, but not wet. Do not allow compost to come into contact with plant stems. Top dress with another layer of compost to keep down weeds and preserve moisture.

Should I put anything in the bottom of my planter? ›

To keep larger planters (24 inches or more) easy to move, try filling them with lightweight, bulky items like capped empty water bottles or milk jugs. They take up space without adding weight. Plus, this is better than sending that plastic to the landfill!

What do you line the bottom of a planter with? ›

Just line the bottom of your planter with newspaper or brown paper grocery bags. The paper will allow the water to drain while keeping the dirt from falling out. Also the paper will retain moisture, so less frequent watering needed.

Why put rocks in potted plants? ›

Improve water retention.

"The pebble barrier stops the evaporation of water from the soil," the expert explains. "They are a great way to absorb excess water in a container, but also to release water when the pot is drying out. This combined with a top dressing is a natural way to aid your plant's water consumption."

What is the most common mistake made with container plants? ›

Here are the 7 most common mistakes everybody makes when growing plants in containers.
  • Choosing the wrong Container. ...
  • Poor Compost Choices. ...
  • Not Feeding. ...
  • Not choosing the right size of container. ...
  • Watering; Too much or too little. ...
  • Drainage Holes. ...
  • Not planting a container at all.
Dec 13, 2021

What are the four main issues with container grown plants? ›

Four important aspects to consider are container material, size, color, and drainage. By choosing the proper container, you protect the plant from stress that results from the container drying out too quickly, restricted root growth, or roots sitting in water and developing root rot.

Should you let tap water sit before watering plants? ›

To reduce the risk of harmful chemicals in your water, allow your tap water to sit out for at least 24 hours before using it to water your plants. This allows the chlorine to dissipate.

How many minutes should I water my plants a day? ›

During spring and summer in Southern California, she suggests drip watering three times a week for 18 minutes, then adjusting from there if the soil is too wet or dry. Don't know how to tell? Stick your finger in the soil. If it's consistently moist 2 inches down, your plants are fine.

Is it better to water potted flowers in the morning or evening? ›

Morning watering is actually preferable to evening watering as the plant has time to dry before the sun goes down. At night, water tends to rest in the soil, around the roots, and on the foliage, which encourages rot, fungal growth, and insects.

What time of day should I water my flowers? ›

Wondering when to water flowers? The best time to water flowers is in the morning between the hours of 6-10 a.m. The cooler weather reduces evaporation and helps the water stay where you need it – with the plant.

Can you overwater flowers in pots? ›

Too much water will literally drown your plants. That's because roots do need oxygen, or they will rot and die. Even with good drainage, keeping the soil constantly wet can make it hard for air to reach the roots.

Should you water plants from the top or bottom? ›

Top watering can help flush excess salts and mineral deposits to the bottom of the pot and eventually out of the drainage holes. Constantly bottom watering will keep these salts and minerals in the potting mix, so top watering can help keep the root system of your plants healthier.

Why shouldnt you water plants overnight? ›

At the time of day even if there is a lot of moisture it can be absorbed by the sun but during the night time, watering allows the water that is sprinkled to stay for an extended period as there is no sun to absorb the moisture. This will surely result in fungi and bacteria.

Should I water my plants every night? ›

1. Watering Plants At Night Isn't Needed: Although the idea has been around for years, most plants don't need extra care by watering them at night. There are a few exceptions, but 99% of your plants, indoors and out should only be watered during the day.

How often should container plants be fed? ›

As a general rule, pots and containers should be fed at least once a week from spring until the autumn. At the start of its growth, Gro-Sure All Purpose Plant Food is ideal (unless your plant is acid loving in which case use Westland Ericaceous High Performance Liquid Plant Food.

What is the best mix for container gardening? ›

Adding compost or garden soil can be beneficial

Most gardeners make potting soil by combining perlite or vemiculite with peat or sphagnum moss. Two other organic materials that you could add to your potting mix are leaf mold and compost, which offer a wide spectrum of nutrients.

What vegetables are good for container gardening? ›

The Best Vegetables for Containers

Potatoes, chard, lettuce, cherry and bush tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, summer squash, Asian greens, pole beans. And don't forget herbs! Here are the minimum soil depths for healthy growth. Keep in mind that you can get by with less depth if you use a self-watering planter.

What is the best cheap container gardening? ›

Food-grade buckets, grower's pots, and plastic dishpans are all good to use as cheap gardening containers for growing plants. Just remember to add drainage holes. Containers can often be found at yard sales, thrift stores, and other secondhand vendors.

How many seeds should I put in one container? ›

Sow seeds.

It's best to add 2-3 seeds to each pot, in case one doesn't sprout. Use the crease of the seed packet or place seeds in a creased piece of paper to help direct the seeds where you want them to go.

How should you prepare your containers for planting? ›

How to Prepare Flower Pots for Planting
  1. Check for Drainage Holes. Most ceramic pots are made with drainage holes so that excess water can drain away (if it can't, plants will rot). ...
  2. Drilling Holes. ...
  3. Stop the Rot. ...
  4. Lighten the Load. ...
  5. Reusing Old Pots. ...
  6. Lining Pots. ...
  7. Choosing the Right Soil. ...
  8. Moving Heavy Containers.


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