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Get to know your garden intimately -container grown plants.

Updated on October 2, 2015

Hanging baskets in the Town of Thornbury England


European honey bee collecting nectar its body gets covered in pollen which it takes to the next flower



This series of articles is aimed at the beginner or those who are unsure of the prospect of creating and maintaining their garden. Here in this article we look at container grown plants. When growing plants in containers we have a huge responsibility for the plants,feeding and watering being the primary ones. in small gardens,on patios or even a balcony in cities container grown plants add colour and enhance the most bare and drab situations with their beauty.

Containers in this context will mean pots,tubs,hanging baskets,old chimney pots,buckets and window boxes etc. It helps the gardener in the first instance to understand the life cycle of flowering plants. keeping the text as simple as possible there are four basic stages in the life cycle of a plant. Stage one is germination-once the seeds have fallen from a plant they are stimulated into growth when they have enough water,light and warmth.{ see part six in this series }.

Stage two- Once germination has commenced the seed leaves {as opposed to the true leaves} known as cotyledons appear first. The true leaves appear next,these help the plant to build up food reserves for the young plants.

Stage three- the first leaves and stems rapidly develop into a mature shoot system. Their primary function is to gather energy from the sunlight ,essential for photosynthesis a process which uses a complex series of chemical reactions to produce glucose from carbon dioxide. The initial growth of the leaves often slows down to allow the plant to put its energy into developing flowers. At this stage all the plants energy is focused on flowering and reproduction.

Stage four-Once the flowers have been fertilized by insects or indeed self pollination they develop what is termed as the fruit {a vessel containing the seeds}. Once the seeds have ripened they are dispersed by various methods { see my hub Fruits and Seed dispersal}, and the life cycle begins all over again.

Armed with this knowledge we may now look at some suitable containers.

Window box with Geraniums

Originally posted to Flickr,uploaded to commons by FlickreviewR2
Originally posted to Flickr,uploaded to commons by FlickreviewR2 | Source

Window Boxes

Window boxes are a great way for those who live in a crowded city where the lack of space make the window box a suitable alternative for growing plants. The modern gardener can visit the Garden centre/nursery and by a ready made 'window box'. They are often handsomely furnished with ornamental tiling and bracket work of wood or iron 'horse trough' containers and many other types.

These may be desirable,but not necessary especially if you are working on a limited garden budget.A stout box of a length corresponding to the width of your window,about ten inches wide and six inches deep answers quite well to our requirements. With some thoughtful planting using trailing plants the sides of the box will soon be concealed with flowers and foliage.

In this box a few,but important,small holes drilled into the bottom of the box will allow excess water to run off. Some grit or small pebbles about one inch deep at the bottom will also aid drainage.The box must be well secured to the window ledge.

Because our window box has limited space some cramping of the roots will occur, as a consequence the compost used to fill it must be fresh and new and feeding will also be a requirement. here again the modern gardener has an advantage over his forefathers by having readily available slow release fertilizer and liquid feed for his plants in whatever container they are occupying. Ask at your nursery for advise.

Some acquaintances i know leave the plants in their pots and surround them with compost. This is probably the best method for winter window boxes, but for summer boxes I would plant straight into the compost after removing them from their pots.


Lobelia erinus


Considering the plants

To cover the sides of the window box we must now consider we must consider the types of plants needed to achieve the job. We need to select those with a drooping or hanging habit such as trailing Lobelia,Nasturtium and the like,such plants will occupy the front row of our window garden. At the back of these we must now plant the erect growing types such as Geraniums,Fuchsias,Begonias etc.

For your particular choice of plants you need to consider the exposure your window garden will have. For the shady side of the street,the more delicate kinds of plants can be used For full exposure to the sun it will be necessary to choose the more vigorous growing kinds. In the sunny aspect plants such as those previously mentioned and or with trailing Petunias.For shaded areas plants such as Ivy {varieties} and Tradescantia,with erect growing such as ferns,Palms,Coleus,Centaurea,Spotted Call and others. seek advise at the Garden centre or Nursery.

Once the box is filled with roots a weak liquid feed may be applied to give them the necessary nourishment in their crowded confinement.One every one or two weeks will be suffice during the watering regime.

Petunias make impressive displays

Originally posted to Flickr uploaded to Commons by Bdesham {talk}
Originally posted to Flickr uploaded to Commons by Bdesham {talk} | Source

Plants in containers,on a front Porch


Give new life to a metal bucket such as this one


Try Novel containers.

Baskets ,pots,tubs {such as those pictured above} indeed, there are so many types of containers that a gardener could ever require to grow their plants in, are readily available at Garden centres,Nurseries or on line. They vary much in price from relatively cheap to very expensive. Have you considered using other cheaper alternatives which look just as attractive with a little thought and planning ?

Take an aluminium bucket or pail for instance. metal in my opinion compliments plants wonderfully and an aluminium bucket can be given a new life as a plant container. Drill { or hammer by means of a large nail} a hole in the bucket close to the rim .This will be used for hanging our bucket to the wall. In the same manner put holes in the bottom of the bucket.

If you are hanging your bucket on a stone wall you will also need to drill a hole in the wall and a wall plug placed in it before screwing to the wall. If you are drilling or screwing into wood this will not be necessary. Plant up the bucket and screw into place or just leave it standing in a suitable position.

Bucket planted up


Chimney Pots

Chimney pots bought from a reclamation yard is an ideal container that stands out and adds interest to your garden. There are also cheaper but realistic plastic Chimney pots available at some Garden Centres. These plastic replicas can be made to look deceptively realistic.

The advantage of chimney pots and indeed other containers,is that they can be moved around to give the best visual effect and to fill gaps that may occur in borders. Chimney pots also give height where it may be needed.

chimney pots as containers outside an English cottage

Geograph | Source

Wheel barrows

Wheel barrows have also become popular as a container and can be planted up to give a wonderful display of colour,these,however, are more suitable in a cottage garden situation and would look out of place in a formal garden or pristine patios.

Plastic pots and tubs are much lighter than clay or terracotta ones and are much lighter,so advantageous if you need to move them around.When planting containers,as with small borders,do not try to mix to many different varieties and colours . Keep it simple. Choose just one or two varieties and colours that will make a long lasting visual display.

Don't forget to water and feed your containers,the plants depend on you.


Pansies in a container,making an impressive display



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    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from Lancashire north west England


      Hi Deb, Your welcome. The tires filled with compost is a great idea and was once popular on this side of the pond, however,they seem to have fell out of favour. Best wishes to you.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks for the great ideas. There are so many things to choose from. I knew someone that painted his old tires and he just filled the hole with dirt and planted flowers. Nothing beats recycling!


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