Best Unexpected Plants You Can Grow in Containers


A lot of us love our container gardens… They allow you to grow things in a small space, or in a “no garden” space like a balcony, they cut down on maintenance chores, and they bring plants right up to the places you spend time so you can enjoy them! Oh, and they are pretty, too! But did you know you can go beyond the traditional annuals in a container? Almost anything can be grown in a container when the right requirements are met, don’t be afraid to think out of the box. (Or pot!) First, a quick refresh on the basics for container gardening.

Always match the size of the container to the size of the plants, especially large plants. Nothing makes a container garden fail faster than outgrowing it’s space too quickly!

That having been said, plants in container should be placed closer together than they would be in the ground. Everything is concentrated into a smaller space, including water and fertilizer, so they can tolerate, and look better, planted snugly. This especially applies to annuals that have shallow root systems and only last one season.

Always choose a good potting mix for your container, never use garden soil. Garden soil placed into containers is not light enough and will compact, not allowing the roots to breathe.

Containers need lots of water. In the heat of summer, especially smaller containers may need watering every day. You can set up a drip system if you group your containers together. Also, watch for pots that dry out extremely fast… Dark colored pots, metal pots or porous pots like terra cotta can be zapped of water in a few hours in the hot summer sun.

Fertilizer also leaches out of the container faster. Use a diluted liquid fertilizer every two weeks for most container grown plants. Consider using a potting mix with fertilizer pre-mixed in, like Miracle Gro.

One of the benefits of using containers is that they are mobile. Remember to outfit larger containers with wheeled platforms to make moving them easier, or use a hand truck.

Here are our picks for best unexpected plants you can grow in containers.

Our first picks are from ‘HGTV Gardens‘, both above and below. The top photo is a great example of using containers with unexpected plants. The focal plant (the taller spiky one)  in these mobile containers are artichokes! Filled in with perennials and annuals, these containers offer a great aesthetic, and veggies too. Below is an example of using containers to create a typical hedge. Instead of plantings these boxwood straight in the ground, they are higher up to block views, and can be moved if necessary. Yep, they look cool too.


Don’t think you can plant trees in containers? Think again. These birch trees are placed  in large containers, and because the root ball is kept from growing outward, the whole tree remains smaller and more manageable. Oh, yes, did we mention you can move them? Photo by ‘My Landscapes‘.

Want trees that give a little bit more? ‘A Cultivated Nest’ shows us how to grow apple trees in containers. She uses them as screens, and the apples are a bonus! There are lots of other type of fruit trees that come in dwarf or columnar varieties as well. Check out her tip on self pollinating varieties.

Citrus trees can be tough to grow in some parts of the country. Did you know that if you grow them in containers, you can bring them into a sunroom or sunny window for the winter? Photo by ‘HGTV‘.

You already know there are many veggies you can grow in pots… Watermelon? You think I’m kidding, don’t ya’? Well jump on over to ‘Gardening Know How‘ and find out how to grow these  veggies that are traditionally a space hog, in pots!

You may have seen small decorative bulbs in pots at the nursery, but what about larger bulbs and tubers, like Iris and Dahlias? They can be grown successfully in pots as well. Photo by ‘HGTV‘.

Vines can also grow in pots, you just need to make sure they have proper support. You can either set the pot in front of a wall or trellis, or provide a teepee within the container so that it can be moved when necessary. Photo by Taylors Clematis.

From ‘BHG’, learn how to grow berries in containers. These raspberries and blueberry plants do great when the right varieties are chosen, and they receive enough sun.

So don’t let the idea of using pots and containers limit you to marigolds and petunias! Use them to your full advantage and try these unexpected plants in containers!
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