A GUIDE TO CONTAINER GARDENING

Create thriving courtyards, balconies and rooftops with pot plants. While plants in pots do require a little more attention than those in the ground, they are great for softening the edges of a space and bringing it to life.

Container gardening refers to the practice of growing plants in vessels such as pots or planters. By clustering pots together, you can create lush spaces no matter how small your outdoor areas is.

The great thing about growing plants in pots is that you can move them around. This means you can position your plants in the best sunlight for the season and you also have the option to rearrange and redesign your space as you please.

Before you get started, however, there are a few rules you should stick to, in order to ensure your plants stay happy and healthy. Plants in pots are completely dependent on you for water and nourishment, and there are some species that are better suited to living in containers.

Here is our playbook for creating a productive container garden.

1. Choose quality pots and planters

Give your plants a home to thrive in by choosing a durable pot or planter. Quality pots are better suited to hot and sunny outdoor conditions, and they keep your plants protected.

In hot climates, ceramic pots and planters are a great choice because they have thick walls. The design of these pots ensures they retain moisture and the thick walls remain cool on warm days, keeping plant roots protected.

Another material to look for is glass reinforced concrete (GRC). As well as being durable, this material is also lightweight, making the pots easier to move around. Be picky about quality with GRC planters, as cheaper pots can fade in sunlight and crack from the weight of potting mix.

When space is limited, consider hanging pots to inject even more greenery into your outdoor area. Look for sculptural pots to further enhance the visual effect of the pots.

The pots and planters you choose can really enhance the look and style of your space. There are so many independent Australian design studios like Pop & Scott and The Balcony Garden producing amazing pots at the moment. Research some of the local designers in your area for inspiration.

Steel planters designed and built by The Construction Zone Repetitive planting creates a sense of rhythm and complements a minimalist aesthetic

Steel planters designed and built by The Construction Zone

Repetitive planting creates a sense of rhythm and complements a minimalist aesthetic

2. Give your plants space to grow

When choosing pots and planters, bigger is always better. Large pots give your plants room to move and they also provide better insulation from the heat. By choosing smaller pots, you’ll be making more work for yourself, as your plants will need to be repotted sooner rather than later.

3. Quality potting mix matters

Give your plants the nourishment they need by purchasing the best quality potting mix you can find. Look for Australian Standard potting mix with five red stars on the packaging. This indicates that the mix has an optimal blend of soils, barks, slow-release fertiliser and water-saving agents.

No matter which potting mix you buy, you will need to begin fertilising your plants after six months. When you start fertilising, top up the water-saving agents at the same time, in order to ensure the soil can continue holding water.

4. Pick the right plants for your space

The plants you choose will depend on the amount of sun that your space receives. Some balconies receive very little natural light, while a rooftop will require plants that can tolerate the exposed conditions. Take note of the amount of light your space receives and at what time of day, then speak to your local nursery for recommendations. Your nursery will also be able to explain how often to water your chosen plants and what types of fertiliser they prefer.

Planters designed by Willy Guhl To achieve a feeling of abundance, fill planters with a contrasting mix of plants.

Planters designed by Willy Guhl

To achieve a feeling of abundance, fill planters with a contrasting mix of plants.

Some of our favourite plants for container gardening include:

  • Laurus Nobilis (Bay Tree)

  • Adenium (Desert Rose)

  • Rhipsalis Cassutha (Mistletoe Cactus)

  • Westringia (Zena)

  • Dichondra (Silver Falls)

  • Euphorbia (Tiny Tim)

  • Carpobrotus Rossii (Pig Face)

  • Rhaphiolepis Indica (Indian Hawthorn)

Depending on how much light your space receives, you can also create an edible garden of herbs and vegetables.  Small citrus trees can also do well in pots, provided that you have enough light and space for them.

5. Cluster pots together  

Grouping pots together is visually appealing and it also helps your plants to protect each other from the elements. When arranging pots, follow the design trick of clustering in odd numbers of either three or five. Add more interest to the arrangement by choosing pots of varying size and height. If space permits, you can repeat the cluster for further effect.

L to R: Naoto Fukasawa for Serralunga cup planters and Organic shaped planters by Mondo Design Make a statement by clustering pots of different sizes, colours and shapes. 

L to R: Naoto Fukasawa for Serralunga cup planters and Organic shaped planters by Mondo Design

Make a statement by clustering pots of different sizes, colours and shapes. 

6. Try underplanting

To get greater impact from your plants, underplant larger pots with smaller plants that will spill over the sides. This adds more interest and creates the feeling of lusciousness when space is limited.

Have you created garden magic by using pots in small spaces? Share your container gardens with us on Instagram by tagging @thesmallgarden.