Container Gardening: How to Grow Flowers in Pots

Container garden flower pots
Container gardening is the easiest way to start a garden in your backyard or on your patio. (DepositPhotos)

Do you lack a green thumb but desire a beautiful backyard with plants? Growing flowers in pots is a satisfying way to brighten up your porch or yard, and it’s a great way to get started with gardening.

Here’s everything you need to know to get going.

Container garden with flower pots
The containers themselves help make up the garden’s design, choose carefully! (DepositPhotos)

Shopping List

Here’s what you’ll need to start planting with containers.

Flower pot with drainage holes
Planters with drainage holes are musts — you don’t want your plants to drown! (DepositPhotos)
  • Flowerpot with drainage holes: There are all kinds of materials available — pick what you like in a size you can handle. (Just remember, it will be heavy when filled with soil and watered).
    Water must be able to drain out, or your plants will drown.
    If you want to use a decorative planter without drainage holes, plant your flowers in an inexpensive pot that does drain, and set it in the planter on top of a little gravel.
  • Bag of potting mix for containers: Potting mix is lightweight and rich in nutrients, and some kinds have fertilizer already mixed in.
    Don’t use soil from your yard — it’s too heavy.
  • Piece of screen, shard of pottery, or a coffee filter: This is necessary if the drainage holes are large (over 1/2 inch). Put it over the holes to keep the soil from washing out.
  • All-purpose plant food: Optional.
  • Flowering Plants: The most important part!
Flowers with different colors in garden
A garden with various colors is a feast for the eyes. (DepositPhotos)

Choosing Flowers

The best flowers for pots can be found in the “annual” or “bedding plants” section of the garden center.

While they only live one summer, they’ll bloom the entire season. Other flowering plants (such as perennials, bulbs and shrubs) may bloom beautifully right now, but the flowers will be gone in a few weeks.

Read the labels to be sure your chosen spot offers the right light and temperature conditions for the plants.

Marigolds in the garden
Need help picking flowers to grow? Marigolds are a popular option! (DepositPhotos)
  • African daisies
  • Angelonia
  • Begonias
  • Ferns
  • Geraniums
  • Gerbera daisies
  • Herbs
  • Impatiens
  • Ivy
  • Marigolds
  • Perennials (ivy, coreopsis, or grasses)
  • Petunias
  • Portulaca
  • Sweet potato vine
  • Verbena
  • Vinca
  • Zinnias

Flower pot with purple flowers
One option to place single-accent flowers in the pot or planter. You can’t go wrong since they’re the same type of flower and color. (DepositPhotos)

Container Design

Here are some ideas for designing your container:

  • Single Accent: Fill a container with the same type of flower for a bright pop of solid color. A pot full of red geraniums is always a cheerful option for a sunny spot, or pink impatiens for a shady porch, or trailing petunias flowing out of a hanging basket.
    Another option is to choose just one large plant, such as Boston fern or tropical hibiscus, for a more formal look.
    Larger plants often come pre-planted and ready to enjoy.
Flower pots on wheels
Placing different colors of flowers together adds diversity and visual interest to the container garden. (DepositPhotos)
  • Multicolor: You can also put several different varieties and colors of the same flower in the pot. This gives you more color while keeping a fairly uniform shape and texture.
    Some plants (such as zinnias, portulaca, impatiens and petunias) even come packaged as a “mix,” with a variety of different colors in the same tray.
    Be sure you can tell which colors you’re getting, so you can distribute them evenly in the container.
Flower pot with grass and spikes
Spikes or grasses add height to flowers in pots. (DepositPhotos)
  • Mixed: If you’re feeling more adventurous, try a mixed container. A well-planned mixed container has varieties of height and color.
    If you’ve never put together a mixed planter, you can’t go wrong with this basic formula: tall plants for height, bushy ones for width, and trailing plants that spill over the edges.
    Most annual flowers can be planted together in the same pot, so be creative! Choose colors and textures you like that complement each other.
Begonias in flowerpots
Begonias are a popular choice for container gardens.(DepositPhotos)

Buying Plants

You’ll need enough flowers to fill the pots, and to space a couple of inches between them. Plants come in different sizes, and while smaller plants will take longer to fill out, any size is fine.

Gardening Tip

Many garden centers now have pre-planted mixed containers, often with interesting plants that may not be available individually. Use them as design inspiration, or bring one home for instant gratification!

Terra cotta pot with soil
Cover your pots’ drainage holes before adding potting soil and flowers. (DepositPhotos)

How to Plant Containers

Now it’s time for the fun part – planting your flowers!

  • Start by covering your drainage holes (if they are large enough that soil would wash out), then fill the pot about two-thirds full with potting mix.
  • Set the plants in the container and decide on your arrangement. You can do a round design (tallest plants in the center and shorter or trailing plants around the edges), or a front-facing design (tall plants in back and shorter ones in front).
A homemade wooden window box installed under a window on a brick home
Building, painting and installing window boxes is an affordable way to boost your home’s curb appeal.
  • Gently remove your plants from their store-bought pots. If the plant is stuck, squeeze the pot a little to help push it out — never yank on the stem.
    Disturb the roots as little as possible, but if they are a hard-packed ball you can loosen them a little with your fingers.
    Then nestle the plants in the soil, keeping an eye on the depth to make sure they will be planted at the same level they were in their original pot.

Gardening Tip

Make the soil surface about 2” below the rim of the pot. Otherwise, water will spill out instead of soaking in.

Ceramic planter with flowers
The best thing about container gardens is that you’re not limited to the backyard — so go ahead, brighten up your patio or soften your hardscaping with a flower pot! (DepositPhotos)
  • Add soil between the plants, firming it gently with your fingers. Don’t press hard enough to break the plants.
  • Make sure everything is at the same level with no roots showing.
  • Move your container to its chosen spot, and water the plant thoroughly until water runs out the bottom.
  • Now, step back and admire your handiwork!
A single large tropical hibiscus makes a dramatic container plant.

Caring for Containers

  • Water your container every two to three days. In the heat of summer, you may need to water it every day.
  • If you want to feed your plants, use an all-purpose or bloom-boosting plant food every couple of weeks according to package instructions.
  • As you water, remove spent blooms to encourage more blooming — a practice called deadheading. Don’t just pull off the dead petals — actually pinch off the little stem beneath the flower.
  • If your plants are looking spindly, pinch off the tips of the stems to stimulate them to produce more branches.

Share your container gardening experiences and tips in the comments below!

Further Information


  1. I am doing a project for the FFA at my highschool, what flower do you suggest be: best for winter, easiest to grow, and the fastest. Because of the choice I’m thinking of growing them and painting pots to sell to the public. 🙂 please respond fast.

  2. Megan, if you’re growing flowers in winter, you’ll need something that can handle the cold weather. Pansies and ornamental cabbages are popular winter choices. Good luck!

  3. I am new at gardening and decided to get some gerbera daisies and put them in some pots I decorated. I’ve keep them outside and for the first month they did great, then they started wilted and petals fell off so I clipped them off at base of stem…. My question is, how long with it take for new flowers to bloom? Right now I only have leaves and it’s not the pretty look I was going for this summer.

  4. Hi I have a weird question, what kind of flowers are those in the initial picture, the rectangular cement planter with mutlicolored flowers? I have these and don’t know what they are (lost their tag). thanks

  5. Aloha, I just planted portulaca in a container yesterday and when I bought the plant, the blooms were full and beautiful hot pink. This morning, they look wilted. Is this temporary? Do I need to pinch the wilted flowers off?

  6. I just purchased 2 large concrete pots to go outside of our Church. The pots will be sitting on a concrete slab and they will be partially protected by an awning. I am wondering now if I need to line them with anything to prevent them from freezing and cracking. I live in zone 7. The pots are quite thick ay least 1 inch and they are wide at top and tapered bottoms.

  7. Hi. I’m planning to begin a little garden in conteiners cause I live in a little apartment, without sun. Which flowers do you recommend me? Thanks.

  8. Hi there, I have just bought some lovely cement/stone pots and put new plants in them. Should I have sealed the inside of the pots due to them being pourus? Will the soil soak through and stain the outside or is the sealing not necessary. ?

  9. Hi I’m new to gardening. I bought 4 (4 pack) of lobelia. I have 2 rectangular planters prob 9×3. I put 2 2 pack and separated them evenly into 8 singles. Is that too much for one planter? Or is that ok? I have some hanging planters if it is, I’m just unsure. Thank you

  10. I don’t think you want to seal the outside of the pots. An important advantage of using stone pots is that they are breathable. Plant roots like that. That’s one reason why you more people use terra-cotta pots than porcelain pots for plants.

  11. I live now in retirement in rural Latvia. I have built an English gentleman’s estate with formal settings vast lawns and statues but one large stone urn set high on plinth is hopeless for anything in winters in Latvia. Summers are lovely and so reliable one takes things for granted. I have made a container to fit this urn so to take it out in autumn. It is wide and shallow in the 1786 style of vase arrangement for gardens. Boxwood no, rhodies or azeleas may do well and use them in the conservatory later over winter. I can’t think of anything else. One tip is Indian mint. We have it all over now and it spreads like crazy at the pond side. It is light blue flowered and mistaken as thyme by many. I use it as a herb in lamb dishes and and nothing kills this plant. I just do not want more of it and not in a classical urn. Any ideas please.

  12. My garden soil is virtually sand. I keep planting flowers and they keep dying. Can I dig holes in the garden and bury the pot in there keeping the plants in the pots?

  13. Have purchased several pre-planted pots(plastic with bottom drain holes) filled with flowering annuals (lobelia, petunia, etc.). Afraid of plants breaking up if I try to transplant into garden pots. If I slice several sides and enlarge the existing drain holes, can I just sit the entire pot into potting soil in the concrete pots? Or do I have to remove entirely and re-plant without the stabilizing plastic pot? Thx.

  14. Should I take flowers out of the plastic hanging container and put into cement pots or can I keep them in the plastic containers. It’s for the cemetery

  15. Very helpful information! We just re did our landscaping and I’m looking forward to putting out some potted plants! Thanks for the tips!!

  16. There are so many different container for flowers. I could not choose one so I always buy plastic containers. They are simple, easy to carry.

    • You need to make sure they are Perennials. They are the type of plants that if healthy come back each year. Annuals, die off at the end of their seasons.

  17. Summer came late this year, so in the last week i have just put out 15 window boxes, 5 tubs and 4 hanging baskets found this article very helpful.

  18. I’d like to have potted plants that last all year. What are the best ones to have that only get sun in the afternoon on my front porch?

  19. I have a few very large containers with plants permanently on my limestone tile porch. Watering them results in water draining and then staining my porch from the water run-off at bottom of container. I want to pressure wash to clean my porch but I know it will stain again. How can i prevent this? Is it practical to place a bowl/dish under each container to eliminate the run-off?? Is there a better way? Thanks for suggestions.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here