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  • Writer's pictureKiersten

How to Plant a Container Garden - Flowers and Herbs

I know what you're thinking... Zach's the yard guy. Why is Kiersten telling me about how to start a container garden!? Because sometimes a girl's gotta get outside and play in the dirt too. Plus, I love browsing my favorite garden center immediately after they've gotten their first huge spring inventory in! While I usually have a "vision" for Zach to figure out how to execute in the landscaping, I am most confident in my planting abilities when it includes a pre-defined area in a pot.

Kiersten with container garden annual flowers
Our first spring garden haul from Earl May!

I love planning and changing the containers on our porch every spring. Container gardens are a really easy way to add a much needed pop of color to what has been a pretty dreary front entry for the past few months. After the Christmas decor gets put away, it's just blah out there.


With all of the different annuals you could choose from, there are hundreds of combinations that you can make with colors to suit your taste and style. I like getting these planted early in the spring to give them time to really do their thing and grow as summer arrives. It's really quite easy, you just need a container, a variety of annual plants and flowers, and some good potting soil. Add sun and water and you're growing!


Choose a Container

The great thing about container gardens is they can really go anywhere - big or small, you've got space. We have two tall square pots on our porch that we like to change out seasonally. These were cheap blue plastic pots that we found on some clearance rack somewhere a long time ago, and I keep spray painting them new colors. I sprayed them with my favorite spray paint - the same that I used on our mailbox. If you have tall pots, you don't need to completely fill them with good soil. Some people like to put plastic bottles down in the bottom to take up space but keep it light weight. This is helpful when your pots are already heavy if they're ceramic. We have a bunch of wood from cutting down trees so we chose to fill them with some logs to fill them up and weigh them down a bit.

Inside of container with logs
Starting to fill it with logs

We then filled in the pot with some old dirt that we had in other pots at one point and then about 10-12" of good new Potting Mix on top.

Container Garden Potting Mix
The Potting Mix I Used

Choose Your Plants and Flowers

Before selecting the type and color of plants you want, you'll need to know about how many hours of sunlight your space gets each day. Then, this is something Earl May recommends: fill your container with three types of plants... a THRILLER (something that grows vertically), a FILLER (something that is medium-height that fills in the pot) and a SPILLER (something that hangs down over the side.) I dare you to start shopping for these without also getting the song "Thriller" in your head! ;)


I'm always most drawn to the pinks and purples in the summer. And since we're trying to get the rest of our old landscaping cleared out and figure out what to plant that the deer will leave alone before Zach starts really planting, I figured this could be a good quick way to get color in the yard.

Container Garden Flowers
Pretty Mixture of Color and Texture

I chose a purple salvia (thriller), a bright pink star calibrachoa - these are also called million bells or trailing petunias (so it's my filler but also spills) and a bright lime green sweet potato vine (spiller). I usually go for green spikes so I'll have to see what the salvia do in here! I was hoping the base of the salvia would help "fill" more since my filler is technically a spiller, but I liked the color combo. We'll see! That's the fun part, you really don't know until you try.

Container Garden Plant Tags
Plant Tags

Since I was full of dirt, I also potted a small herb container for the back deck. We've planted a lot of herbs in containers over the years, and there are so many great benefits to having fresh herbs, but I find that I usually use Basil and Garlic Chives the most of anything so I kept it simple this year and just bought those for a small deck planter. Basil is my absolute favorite so I wen't double basil this year. Plus...symmetry. It's also about the only herb I can actually commit to using on the regular all summer long. You can also plant other veggies in containers like tomatoes, lettuce, etc. Since our current landscaping isn't really ready for us to plant a garden this year, we may be doing a few more container based plants than we usually do.

Herb Container Garden
Basil and Garlic Chives Going In

Plant Your Container

Pending how and where your container is, you can put your thriller in the center and build around it, but I decided to try something differnt this year and put my thriller in the back corner of each pot away from the entry and build my other plants around it. I used 4" potted annuals because those plants are a little bigger already than what you'd find in those little 6-packs, so I didn't need as many for each pot.

Container Gardening
My little helper - she's got her own tools... and you never know what this girl will show up wearing!

Dig a small hole slightly larger than the size of the plant's root. Lightly loosen the bottom of the plant's roots before putting into the soil, then fill and mound the potting soil around the base of the plant. Push it down gently to pack in the dirt around each plant and then when you're happy with your arrangement, give the container a good watering. If you're not into getting dirt under your nails, I'd recommend a pair of garden gloves. We make a mess usually when doing this, but with Zach's trusty leaf blower, we quickly can get all the spilled dirt right off the porch when we're done.

container gardening
Container Garden In Progress

Care For Your Containers and Enjoy!

A good potting mix is important to help give the plants nutrients but it also helps retain moisture. You'll want to plan to check the dirt every couple of days, if the dirt is dry, give it a good watering.


container gardening
Baby Container Plants

The containers always start out a little bare looking with these young baby plants, but after a few weeks, it'll start filling in! I'll share an update later this spring to show you how it's filled in (hopefully!) :)

container gardening
Front Porch Flower Containers - need to still clean off the pots and patio, but you get the jist!
Herb container garden
Back Deck Herb Container

Need a fix-up? Here's what you'll need - in addition to your favorite container and plants:

PS - I get a ton of compliments on my front porch rugs. I linked those on this post here about our outdoor lanterns if you'd like to know too..




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we're kiersten and zach

Follow along with us each week as we work to make the very 2000s home we bought during the middle of a pandemic more “us.” We’ll share everything from quick fixes to more permanent changes, along with projects you can do in your own home. Zach will also share all his lawn and garden advice as he starts over on the yard.

 

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