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).
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  • 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

Editorial Contributors
Danny Lipford

Danny Lipford


Danny Lipford is a home improvement expert and television personality who started his remodeling business, Lipford Construction, at the age of 21 in Mobile, Alabama. He gained national recognition as the host of the nationally syndicated television show, Today's Homeowner with Danny Lipford, which started as a small cable show in Mobile. Danny's expertise in home improvement has also led him to be a contributor to popular magazines and websites and the go-to source for advice on everything related to the home. He has made over 200 national television appearances and served as the home improvement expert for CBS's The Early Show and The Weather Channel for over a decade. Danny is also the founder of 3 Echoes Content Studio,, and Checking In With Chelsea, a décor and lifestyle blog.

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