There are all sorts of great reasons to grow plants in pots. You might live in a condo or townhouse with limited outdoor space. Perhaps the soil quality in your yard is poor. Or you may love the lush look of potted plants clustered around your patio or outdoor living room. Whatever your situation, find out more about the best plants to grow in pots — and the best pots to grow plants in.
Best plants to grow in pots: General tips
— The best plants for potting are those without a deep root system. Look for dwarf species or compact specimens that tend to grow upward rather than spreading outward.
— Choose plants that will do well with the amount of sun available. A balcony or deck attached to your house may offer only limited sunshine. A roof garden, on the other hand, could provide extremely strong sun, so you’ll have to create some shade. Wheeled pots allow you to position your plants to catch the rays they need.
— Combine an assortment of plants in one oversize pot (or several smaller ones of different heights) for the most attractive effect. Find out what your chosen species want to do — for instance droop, clump, or climb — and mix and match accordingly.
— Consider the level of care that the plants you fancy will need. Is it compatible with your schedule and gardening skills? If not, you may want to find a professional gardener to look after your mini-landscape.
Types of plants to grow in pots
Vegetables. Most fast-growing, upward-climbing vegetable species are excellent for container gardening. Easy types to try are beans (bush beans are best), zucchini or summer squash, tomatoes, and bell peppers. NOTE: You’ll need a support system … which could be as simple as a nearby porch railing. Greens like lettuce and spinach also do well in pots.
Flowers. Go for maximum beauty, minimum maintenance. Flowers that are perennials in tropical climes (or invasive) tend to be hardy — perfect for your purpose. If you’re a newbie (or even if not), geraniums are the no. 1 flower for potting. Not only do these hardy blooms thrive in containers, they provide a gorgeous array of color, delicate white to deep scarlet. Bring your potted geranium inside before the first frost, place in a sunny window, and it can live for years.
Fruit trees. Yes, fruit trees. They add so much to even a small outdoor space — good looks and with the right TLC, good eating too. Dwarf varieties are best for the confines of a pot. Check whether the fruit tree is self-fertile (such as citrus, peaches, and apricots — best if you only have room for one) or needs a partner for pollination (like apples and pears).
Best pots to grow plants in
Size. Plant pots must be deep enough to accommodate a root system — anywhere from 6-8 inches for most herbs, to 18-24 inches for a miniature tree. Potting soil is expensive, so you can add filler to the bottom third; crumbled Styrofoam works well. Make sure the base is broad enough that the pot won’t tip over.
Material. Ceramic planters are ideal but tend to be pricey. UV resistant plastic pots are another option. If you want to get creative, follow the suggestion of Rodale’s Organic Life and use galvanized trash cans or wooden barrels for large plantings.
Drainage. Whatever your container, ensure you have adequate drainage. Drill holes in the bottom, if necessary. Safeguard your floor, windowsill, etc., against the resulting runoff and condensation so it won’t stain — or rot, in the case of a wooden deck. A saucer under the pot is a good start (TIP: water into the saucer, not the pot itself, for better absorption), but terracotta "pot feet" add an extra layer of protection.
Watering. FACT: Plants need more water in pots than in the ground. Cut down watering needs by topping the soil with mulch; great gardeners I know create decorative mulch from acorns, wine corks, or seashells. If you’re planning a large-scale container garden, a drip watering system is a convenient option. For just a few potted plants, self-watering containers will reduce your workload and are handy if you’re often away from home.
— Laura Firszt writes for networx.com.