The Beginner’s Guide to Container Gardening

07/14/2018 | Ken Davis Container Gardens, Flowers, In the Garden, Pottery

by Ken Lain, the mountain gardener

Before you plant a container garden, there are only four things you need: a container, soil, plants, and water.

It can be that simple.  Of course, things can get a bit complicated when keeping your plants alive and your container gardener thriving. Here are some points that will be helpful in planting your first container garden and keeping it at its best.

The perfect pot – Container gardens can add a punch of color, elegance, creativity, and drama to every landscape. As with statuary and garden art, container gardens are the accent pieces in our gardens. The primary key to the success of container gardening is to choose a pot that has good drainage. Here are some other valuable tips for choosing your new container:

Style – First things first, pick a pot that appeals to you! What’s your style? As when you choose art and decor for your home, consider your style and what suits you and your garden when selecting containers. Pots come in all sorts of styles and materials including traditional terracotta, sleek glazed pottery, painted ceramics, plastics, and even whimsical lightweight pottery.

Size – Does matter! What you plan to plant in your container determines what size pot you need. You want to give your new plants room to grow. At a minimum, go 2 inches larger than the pots that currently house them. For trees and shrubs that you want to keep in containers for at least 2-3 years, the pots must be LARGE. Also, keep in mind that larger pots retain moisture in their potting soil longer than smaller pots that dry out more quickly.

Shape – Its surroundings might dictate the shape of the container. For example, you might want a square pot to fit into a corner or a low round bowl to sit on your outdoor dining table without hampering cross-table conversations.  Tall pots can be used to add height in the middle of a low-level garden bed.

Color – The color of the container can match other garden pottery, complement its surroundings, or stand out as a bold contrast against a landscape’s many shades of green. Match the color of the pot with the colors of plants or choose a neutral color and let the plants be the stars of the composition.

At Watters Garden Center, we have a vast selection of pottery from trendy new colors to the classic favorites.  There are lots of great new colors, styles, textures, and shapes that last for years outdoors. Browse our selection of containers, and you’ll find the perfect pot for your new container garden.

Lightweight plastics, Styrofoam, and fiberglass containers are great for balconies or porches and require less frequent watering.  Just avoid keeping them too wet in the spring and fall seasons.

Glazed pots are a bit more expensive initially, but last for decades; plastic and terracotta pots tend to crack and break after a season or two.  Glazed containers are available in multitudes of colors and patterns. Plus, they are less likely to be tipped over in a mountain windstorm!


Soil – Fill your new container with Watters ‘Potting Soil’.  This premium soil is the perfect blend for retaining water at the root level while draining enough for deeper roots; both attributes are necessary for a hardy plant.  Fill your pot ¾ full with soil, mix in Watters ‘All Purpose Plant Food,’ and then finish filling with more potting soil.
Tamp down to compress the soil. Add more soil and tamp down until your pot again reaches the ¾ full mark.

Plant Placement – Arrange plants on the soil surface.  Firm the soil around each plant, adding soil as necessary.  Place plants so the foliage of one plant is touching the foliage of the other plants.  When the container is fully planted, very little surface soil should be visible.  This ‘foliage-to-foliage’ technique prevents soil from drying out too quickly, plus it creates a more finished look from the outset.


Water –  Gardening in pots or containers is fun and easy. Container gardens require little work, are enjoyable creative outlets, and on a whim can be changed quickly. You may dedicate as much or as little time and space as you want. The only “must” requirement: regular water.  Fortunately, there are ways around demanding watering schedules.  Here’s how:

AquaBoost Crystals – For smaller pots, and if you’ve had trouble keeping container gardens irrigated in the past, add ‘AquaBoost Crystals’ to the soil around plants’ roots.  These water-holding crystals store water at the root level keeping plants moist longer, extending bloom time, and creating more drought hardiness during summer.

No Soil at the Rim – Soil should be about 2-inches below the top of the rim, allowing the space necessary to water your new container garden properly.

Thoroughly Soak – Thoroughly irrigate your newly planted creation until water is seeping out from the bottom of the pot.  Dry soil spots are common in new plantings, requiring multiple waterings to fully saturate the potting soil.  Water again 2-3 times to adjust the soil’s moisture and activate the plant food nutrients.

Use a saucer – It will protect surfaces.  An outdoor setting may not require this step, but an outdoor saucer has a secondary benefit.  Adding water to your new container until water seeps out the bottom and fills the saucer, you have effectively created a self-watering pot.  As your plants need more water during the heat of the day this water can be wicked back up to the plants’ roots.

Feed regularly with Watters ‘All Purpose Plant Food’.  Container gardens use more food than comparable plants in garden soil. Feed every 4-6 weeks for best performance and color.  Force more color from your flower and vegetable gardens by supplementing this food with Watters’ liquid ‘Flower Power 54′ at two-week intervals; you’ll be rewarded with stunning flowers and increased harvests.

Now that you’ve chosen the best container and know how to plant it, you might enjoy this video put together by a friend at Armstrong Garden Center:  How To Plant a Container Garden.  Good stuff 🙂

Until next week, I’ll see you browsing the pottery here at Watters Garden Center.

Ken Lain can be found throughout the week at Watters Garden Center, 1815 W. Iron Springs Rd in Prescott, or contacted through his web site at or .

2 Replies to “The Beginner’s Guide to Container Gardening”

  1. When do we plant potatoes in Prescott? How early can you
    plant herbs in containers. How early can we plant petunias in containers? Love your store my rosemary is great , & my agave
    and I know you call it a Yucca but I have always wanted a
    Joshua Tree here on our property so we have a Joshua tree!
    Taker care will be in next week! Vince and Linda Julian

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