Not every person has room for an extravagant garden with rows of fresh veggies, huge garden beds full of blooms, and a picturesque yard full of grasses, shrubs, and trees. Most of us have limited space, especially apartment renters and urban dwellers who only have a few feet of outdoor space. Container gardening is the pocket edition of the garden we dream of. Even gardeners that have the sprawling landscape for bed gardening, lawns, and trees still can enjoy container gardening in their homes and on the porch. Containers can provide flexibility and change to a space, indoors and outdoors, making them the most accessible way to start gardening.
WHAT CONTAINER IS BEST?
A question we hear often at McDonald Garden Center is “What container is best for my plant?” and the answer is simply: any! The three main choices are glazed ceramic, terracotta, and plastic.
- Glazed Ceramic: There are so many different options when it comes to color, size, and shape with glazed ceramic. It is a world of opportunities for both indoor and outdoor plants and usually the most long-lasting especially when choosing a frost-resistant outdoor glazed container.
- Terracotta: A beautifully orange-colored unglazed ceramic that is great for both indoor and outdoor container gardening. It is relatively inexpensive and holds moisture inside the ceramic which makes it great for dry-loving plants like cacti and succulents.
- Plastic: The most inexpensive as well as fairly indestructive, plastic is great for any container garden. Plastic pots retain moisture in the soil as water does not absorb into the pot as ceramic does. This is great for moisture-loving plants, especially if you are on a budget.
PRO TIP: Make sure the pot you pick has a hole at the bottom or a way for the water to drain out the pot. Sitting water can cause root rot in container gardens.
SIZING UP THE SITUATION
After picking the perfect pot, one of the most important things is the size of the plant(s) versus the size of the container. Plants are measured by the diameter length of the container that they are purchased in. For example, if you buy a plant in a “4-inch” pot, that is the diameter of the pot.
When purchasing new plants or when repotting old ones, you generally want to size up your new pot 2-4 inches from the pot the plant is currently in. This is dependent on the size of the plant's roots. You can check a plant's roots by either seeing the roots come out of the top of the pot, the holes at the bottom of the pot, or you can pull the plant completely out of it’s pot and see if the roots are wrapping around in a circular motion. Making sure that you don’t pot up too large or size down the pot is important to the health of the plant.
PICKING POTTING SOIL
The next step in container gardening after you have picked your pot and plant(s) is knowing what potting soil is the best for your plants. Make sure you are using potting soil or a mix that is pot-friendly. Topsoil, compost, and garden bed mixes are not meant to be used in pots. Potting soil has wetting properties that keep the plant roots moist longer than outdoor mixes would which is needed in containers.
Indoor plants may need different potting soil combinations depending on the plant's needs. For example, cacti will need a cactus mix or a well-draining soil with sand, rocks, perlite, or other draining materials while a fern might need a moisture-based mix with peat moss or all-purpose potting mix.
For outdoor plants, an all-purpose potting mix is suitable. Our McDonald Garden Center All Purpose Potting Soil comes in both regular and natural and organic for potting up outdoor plants in containers.
PRO TIP: Ask any of our Green Team members what potting soil is best for the plant you have.