Home Improvement Expert Danny Lipford

Flower Containers for Beginners

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Flowers in concrete planter

Growing flowers in pots is a very satisfying way to brighten up your porch or yard, and it’s a great way to get started with gardening. Here’s everything you need to know to get going.


The container itself is part of the design.

Shopping List

Here’s what you’ll need to get started planting containers.

  • Flower pot with drainage holes in the bottom: There are all sorts of materials available – pick what you like in a size you can handle (remember that it will be heavy when filled with soil and watered!). Water must be able to drain out, or your plants will drown. If you want to use a decorative planter that doesn’t have drainage holes, plant your flowers in an inexpensive pot that does drain, and sit it in the planter on top of a little gravel.
  • Bag of potting mix for containers: Potting mix is lightweight and rich in nutrients, and some kinds have fertilizer already mixed in. Don’t use soil from your yard – it’s too heavy.
  • Piece of screen, shard of pottery, or coffee filter: This is only necessary if the drainage holes are very large (over 1/2”). Put it over the holes to keep the soil from washing out.
  • All-purpose plant food: Optional.
  • Flowering Plants: The most important part!


Purple angelonia, white portulaca, and yellow coreopsis provide contrast.

Choosing Flowers

The best flowers for containers can be found in the “annual” or “bedding plants” section of the garden center. While they only live one summer, they’ll bloom the entire season. Other flowering plants (such as perennials, bulbs, and shrubs) may be blooming beautifully right now, but the flowers will be gone in a few weeks. Read the labels to be sure your chosen spot offers the right light and temperature conditions for the plants.

Some popular container plants include:


                    Marigolds

  • African daisies
  • Angelonia
  • Begonias
  • Ferns
  • Geraniums
  • Gerbera daisies
  • Herbs
  • Impatiens
  • Ivy
  • Marigolds
  • Perennials (ivy, coreopsis, or grasses)
  • Petunias
  • Portulaca
  • Sweet potato vine
  • Verbena
  • Vinca
  • Zinnias

Container Design

Here are some ideas for designing your container:


          New Guinea Impatiens

  • Single Accent: Fill a container with the same type of flower for a bright pop of solid color. A pot full of red geraniums is always a cheerful option for a sunny spot, or pink impatiens for a shady porch, or trailing petunias flowing out of a hanging basket. Another option is to choose just one large plant, such as Boston fern or tropical hibiscus, for a more formal look. Larger plants often come pre-planted and ready to enjoy.


            Colorful mix in pot

  • Multicolor: You can also put several different varieties and colors of the same plant together. This gives you more color while keeping a fairly uniform shape and texture. Some plants (such as zinnias, portulaca, impatiens, and petunias) even come packaged as a “mix,” with a variety of different colors in the same tray. Be sure you can tell what colors you’re getting, so you can distribute them evenly in the container.


  Spikes or grasses add height

  • Mixed: If you’re feeling more adventurous, try a mixed container. A well-planned mixed container has varieties of height and color. If you’ve never put together a mixed planter, you can’t go wrong with this basic formula: tall plants for height, bushy ones for width, and trailing plants that spill over the edges. Most any annual flowers can be planted together in the same pot, so be creative! Choose colors and textures you like that compliment each other.

Buying Plants

You’ll need enough plants to fill the container, with a couple of inches between them. Plants come in different sizes, and while smaller plants will take longer to fill out, any size is fine.

Gardening Tip

Many garden centers now have pre-planted mixed containers, often with interesting plants that may not be available individually. Use them as design inspiration, or bring one home for instant gratification!


Begonias are a popular choice for containers.

How to Plant Containers

Now it’s time for the fun part – planting your flowers!

  1. Start by covering your drainage holes (if they are large enough that they will allow soil to wash out), then fill the pot about two-thirds full with potting mix.
  2. Sit the plants in the container and decide on your arrangement. You can either do a round design (tallest plants in the center and shorter or trailing plants around the edges), or a front-facing design (tall plants in back and shorter ones in front).
  3. Gently remove your plants from their pots. If the plant is stuck, squeeze the pot a little to help push it out – never yank on the stem. Disturb the roots as little as possible, but if they are a hard-packed ball you can loosen them a little with your fingers. Then nestle the plants in the soil, keeping an eye on the depth to make sure they will be planted at the same level they were in their original pot.

Gardening Tip

Make the soil surface about 2” below the rim of the pot. Otherwise, water will spill out instead of soaking in.

  1. Add soil between the plants, firming it gently with your fingers. Be careful not to press hard enough to break the plants.
  2. Make sure everything is at the same level with no roots showing.
  3. Move your container to its chosen spot, and water the plant thoroughly until water runs out the bottom.
  4. Now, step back and admire your handiwork!

Caring for Containers

  • Water your container every 2-3 days. In the heat of summer, you may need to water it every day.
  • If you want to feed your plants, use an all-purpose or bloom-boosting plant food every couple of weeks according to package instructions.
  • As you water, remove spent blooms to encourage more blooming – a practice called deadheading. Don’t just pull off the dead petals – actually pinch off the little stem beneath the flower.
  • If your plants are looking spindly, pinch off the tips of the stems to stimulate them to produce more branches.


A single large tropical hibiscus makes a dramatic container plant.

Further Information



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7 Comments on “Flower Containers for Beginners”

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  1. Megan Says:
    January 2nd, 2013 at 11:13 pm

    I am doing a project for the FFA at my highschool, what flower do you suggest be: best for winter, easiest to grow, and the fastest. Because of the choice I’m thinking of growing them and painting pots to sell to the public. :) please respond fast.

  2. Julie Day Jones Says:
    January 3rd, 2013 at 2:17 pm

    Megan, if you’re growing flowers in winter, you’ll need something that can handle the cold weather. Pansies and ornamental cabbages are popular winter choices. Good luck!

  3. Cassie Says:
    May 9th, 2013 at 12:44 pm

    I am new at gardening and decided to get some gerbera daisies and put them in some pots I decorated. I’ve keep them outside and for the first month they did great, then they started wilted and petals fell off so I clipped them off at base of stem…. My question is, how long with it take for new flowers to bloom? Right now I only have leaves and it’s not the pretty look I was going for this summer.

  4. Beth Says:
    August 11th, 2014 at 6:24 pm

    Hi I have a weird question, what kind of flowers are those in the initial picture, the rectangular cement planter with mutlicolored flowers? I have these and don’t know what they are (lost their tag). thanks

  5. Julie Day Says:
    August 12th, 2014 at 8:16 am

    Hi Beth, the flowers in the top photo are Portulaca. A great annual for sunny containers!

  6. Tracy Says:
    September 10th, 2014 at 1:29 pm

    Aloha, I just planted portulaca in a container yesterday and when I bought the plant, the blooms were full and beautiful hot pink. This morning, they look wilted. Is this temporary? Do I need to pinch the wilted flowers off?

  7. Gomer Ozni Says:
    November 15th, 2014 at 11:41 am

    I just purchased 2 large concrete pots to go outside of our Church. The pots will be sitting on a concrete slab and they will be partially protected by an awning. I am wondering now if I need to line them with anything to prevent them from freezing and cracking. I live in zone 7. The pots are quite thick ay least 1 inch and they are wide at top and tapered bottoms.

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