Pot Luck

Container gardening is an easy way to brighten up your outdoor spaces.

Use size and scale to create drama, or group small pots—an ideal remedy for tight spaces—for big impact.
Photo: Courtesy of Seibert & Rice

Interest in container gardening is growing for one simple reason—planting in containers offers flexible and attractive options for many gardening situations.

Dave Williams of Williams Nursery, an award-winning family-owned gardening center in Westfield, has seen this boom firsthand. He estimates that in the last five years, interest in container gardening has grown five-fold.

Container gardening can be an ideal solution for those who are spending more time outdoors but have less time to devote to their surroundings. Once planted, pots and urns full of flora are easy to care for and can help distinguish our “outdoor rooms” for years.

In fact, container gardens provide a wealth of exciting opportunities. They can be a quick fix or a long-term solution for defining spaces, hiding problem areas, or trying out decorating schemes. And they are equally useful in small spaces and large—on patios, decks, and rooftops, and in backyards, rambling gardens, and pool areas.

There are endless choices—for containers and plants
A container can be filled with a large grouping of varied plants or it can showcase one or two specimens. The possibilities are endless. So, too, are the kinds of pots available. Imports from Italy, Vietnam, China, and elsewhere have dramatically expanded the variety of shapes and sizes of pots on the market, from terra cotta to zinc, plastic to iron, stone to fiberglass. Gardeners can find classic designs in ruddy red clays from Tuscany; sleek modern styles from Vietnam with boldly colored glazes like lime green; and even biodegradable bamboo pots.

The growth of container gardening has led to the introduction of pots and urns in a range of high-end faux materials. Whether intended to mimic stone, clay, or iron, these pots enable gardeners to go larger with less concern for cost, weight, and portability.

Container gardens create drama and architectural interest

A single oversize pot or planted urn can create drama and define a space. Mara Seibert of Seibert & Rice, a Short Hills importer of fine Italian terra cotta pots, says that people are experimenting with scale and becoming more comfortable going bigger. Even in small spaces, an oversize pot can create a focal point and make the space seem larger. Some planting choices include grasses, agave, banana trees, and boxwood. Citrus or olive trees in containers give a Mediterranean appeal. A well-placed container can also provide privacy. Consider blossoming shrubs, tropical palms, or dwarf trees. Bamboo is another solution and is ideally suited to container planting. Containers planted with climbing vines and positioned next to a large trellis create privacy as well. Use vines such as clematis, honeysuckle, bougainvillea, and jasmine.

Container gardens offer an instant solution for all seasons
Containers can provide instant color to brighten a dull area of the garden and change the entire look of a landscape. They can fill an empty space while the rest of the garden is growing. Containers offer virtually immediate gratification. Feel free to mix annuals and perennials with blossoming shrubs. Good choices include dahlias, heliotrope, cosmos, and gardenias.


There are no rules to container gardening, but experts offer these suggestions:

Use pairs or rows of pots to bank an entryway or line a path.

Consider grouping several pots together to make a visual statement. As with so many design elements, think in clusters.

Plant densely. With a container garden, you don’t need to say, “It will grow in.”

When choosing plants, consider varieties that will create height as well as those that can drape over the sides.

Do not just think of flowers for containers. Give equal attention to plants with interesting foliage.

Shrubs and small trees can be planted in containers, depending upon size and space.

Rather than a random assembly of plants in one pot, think about using some repetition in color, texture, or variety to make a visual statement.

If it is an option, consider bringing containers with tropical plants or fragile perennials inside for the winter. Otherwise, you need to replace them each year.

Instead of potting soil, use container garden mixes that have been specifically designed for this purpose and weigh less.

In any one container, use plants that have similar needs for sun, shade, and moisture level.

Remember that plants in containers need more water than those planted in a garden bed and should be fertilized regularly.

Be sure to visit our Health & Wellness page.

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