8 Common Container Gardening Mistakes - Backyard Boss
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8 Common Container Gardening Mistakes

Container gardens are a saving grace for those with a green thumb and limited space. That being said, container gardens adorn balconies, patios, and windowsills big and small.

They’re a fun way to supercharge any area that needs a bit of foliage. And let’s be honest, all areas need a bit of foliage. For best results, avoid these 8 common container gardening mistakes.

1. Plant Like With Like

Succulents in a pot
Image credits: Jen Theodore via Unsplash

A common mistake with container gardening is grouping plants together that have different requirements. The number one rule for container gardens is to group plants according to their needs.

A good way to do this is to identify one main plant in your container garden and then only choose backup plants that match those requirements. The requirements to focus on are sun exposure, watering needs, and preferred soil.

2. No Drainage

One of the most common mistakes in container gardening is not providing adequate drainage. This leads to overwatering, root rot, and dead plants. For some reason, there are many pots designed for plants that don’t have drainage holes. Strange.

To rectify this, grab your drill and a small drill bit, and drill some holes in the bottom of the pot. And when it comes to watering your container garden, make sure you match the plants’ requirements. Overwatering is a chronic issue for many gardeners.

3. Thriller, Filler, Spiller

This fanciful trio of words is not only fun to say, but it’s also a great mantra to remember when designing a container garden. The idea here is to avoid a boring-looking container garden with a collection of plants that all have the same growth habit.

The thriller should be a stand-out plant, growing at least as tall as the height of the pot. The filler should be a dense, rounded plant, capable of filling the display. The spiller is a low-growing or trailing plant that’s encouraged to spill over the edge of the container.

The result should be a dazzling container garden.

4. Pruning

Yellow rose about to be pruned
Image credits: artursfoto via Pixabay

You might not want to prune your plants back when it’s taken them so long to grow to their current size. But, the thing is, many types of plants benefit immensely from a good prune.

Not only is this a good way to remove dead or diseased plant matter, but it’s also a way to encourage your plants to push out healthy new growth. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by how good everything looks once your plants have recovered from a good prune.

It’s always best to prune plants once they’ve finished flowering. Remember that not all plants can handle pruning. So make sure you research what kinds of species you’ve planted.

5. Thinking Ahead

Sometimes, the obvious needs to be stated. Your container garden is going to be much heavier when it’s filled. Especially if you’re designing a large container garden in a wine barrel or something.

If you’re going to supersize, fill the container in place. It’s going to be a bit messy, but cleaning up some rogue soil is way easier than moving a huge container filled with soil, plants, and water.

If you anticipate that you might have to move the container now and then, maybe to protect the plants from winter, consider putting some wheels on the base of the container. 

Again, before you fill it out. Various size wheels should be available from your hardware store.

6. Under Watering

Life needs water. It doesn’t change in the plant world. And one of the most common mistakes in container gardening is underwatering.

It often happens because people water their plants frequently, but not enough each time. You need to soak the soil, not just wet the top layer. To make sure you’ve watered enough, only stop when water is pouring out of the drainage holes.

It might seem like you’re drowning your plants, but if there’s sufficient drainage, any excess water will drain away while giving your plants a chance to quench their thirst.

7. Planting Too Densely

This one is easy to do. When planting a container garden, it’s easy to want to fill the container from the get-go. Nobody likes bare spots in a garden.

Try your best to resist. It’s better to space your plants according to the mature size of the plant. This prevents overcrowding and having to remove beautiful plants as they mature.

Besides, plants grow surprisingly quickly, so there shouldn’t be bare spots for too long.

8. Container Size

Small pot plant white background
Image credits: Parag Phadnis via Unsplash

One of the most common mistakes with container gardening is picking a pot that’s too small. This is especially problematic if you’re growing vegetables in containers because the most common symptom of too small a pot is no fruit.

Small pots are useful for starting seedlings or for helping young plants get established. But if you’re trying for any success with container gardening, ditch the small pots and look for something on the larger side of life.

To Sum Up

Container gardens can be a rewarding way of growing plants in marginal spaces. Whether you’re growing edibles or ornamentals, they really spruce up a space.

There are a few extra things to take into consideration when gardening in a container, but nothing too tricky. If you follow the advice of the container gardening pros and make sure you avoid the common mistakes above, you should have a beautiful container garden in no time.

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