Beginning gardener guide to Container Gardening

In Houston, builders are choosing to build up, 3-4 story townhomes. The townhomes do not have much outside space, but the lack of yard should not stop you from gardening. It is possible to grow beautiful flowers, herbs, vegetables, and fruits in containers if you follow a few simple rules. Planting in pots allows you to enjoy and utilize spaces which previously seemed unimaginable.  Gardening in containers allows you to create a unique garden that fits in any weather climate due to their versatility.

Container gardening is very forgiving, whether you’re a pro or new to gardening. There are quick and easy fixes to container gardens. In the event of overfertilization flushing the soil with water can easily be accomplished, if not receiving enough sunlight the container can be relocated  Don't forget growing in pots will significantly reduce the threat of weeds infiltrating the planting area. These are the reasons why beginners should learn with containers first before spending money and time building out a garden.

“What kind of container can I use” Think differently, let your creativity show and express yourself through your container.  Do not just go for the solid color or terra cotta style pot. Explore your options: Rain barrels, Whisky barrels, wheelbarrows, metal troughs, hanging baskets and concrete planters to name a few. Converting almost anything into a container for planting is possible.  I have even seen an old broken fountain repurposed into a beautiful container.

Important factors when deciding on a container

  • Height- Choose a container that is tall enough to hold a fully mature plant.  Also, plant the appropriate plant/tree in the correct size pot. Do not put a fruit tree, which generally has deep roots, in a shallow container.  Root systems usually match the top growth of a tree.

  • Width-  Containers with a wide opening are the best.  These wide openings make accessing the plant easier in the event you need to report.  Also, this allows for more space for more colorful planting with more varieties.

  • Drainage- No matter which style of pot you choose drainage holes are vital.  Holes around ½” wide are perfect. Also, remember you cannot have too many drainage holes.  Do not place the container directly on the ground. Doing so can prevent the pot from properly draining.  Instead put the container on rocks, concrete or blocks, any surface that ensures proper drainage.



Plants in containers will tend to dry out quicker than if these same plants were planted directly in the garden.  The only water available is what you provide to the pot. If these same potted plants were in the ground as opposed to a container their roots would be able to spread and search for more water.  In the heat of the summer, you may have to the containers multiple times a day. A tip: Line your pots with moss carpet, or coco liners to help retain more moisture. Just as mulch is a must in any garden, container gardens do not differ; the same rules apply to containers. There are different types of mulch Read the blog post about mulching in the garden here.


Plants in containers are depending on you for fertilizer, and liquid fertilizer is the preferred method. Without fertilizer, the plant will be unable to reach peak performance. Mix slow-release fertilizer into the container along with compost at initial planting. Twice a year work more fertilizer into the top layers of the container. Fast growing crops like vegetables and flowers require a weekly application of liquid fertilizer.


Here are a few plants that do well when grown in containers. This is not an all-inclusive list just some suggestions. What you notice is that anything you can grow in a raised bed or row garden can be grown in a container. You have to make sure that the container size matches what you intend to grow. For example, long carrots should be planted in a pot that is taller than it is wide.



  • Geraniums

  • Pansy

  • Petunia

  • Snapdragon

  • Lantana



  • Broccoli

  • Onion

  • Carrot

  • Tomatoes

  • Squash

  • Cauliflower

  • Lettuce

  • Beans



  • Basil

  • Chives

  • Lemon Balm

  • Nasturtium

  • Thyme

  • Mint


Fruit Trees

  • Citrus

  • Dwarf Apple

  • Fig

  • Orange

  • Stone Fruits

  • Boxwood

  • Holly

  • Japanese maple


There are pros and cons to container gardening.  Keep that in mind before you embark on this adventure.  



  • Great for limited space

  • Plants can be rearranged to alter the landscape

  • Can be placed on the infertile soil where nothing will grow

  • Can grow non-native plants.  

  • Can move plants in case of extreme weather

  • Weed control is easier than compared to in-ground or raised bed



  • Depending on the container the initial purchase could be expensive

  • Soil dries out quickly. Multiple waterings per day in high temperatures

  • Plants can become root bound

  • When filled with dirt, large containers are extremely heavy



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