Flower Containers for Beginners

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:


  • 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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26 Comments on “Flower Containers for Beginners”

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  • Aliyu Says:
    December 21st, 2018 at 2:01 pm

    need more zaitoon

  • Official Comment:

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    July 9th, 2018 at 10:21 am

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  • Ann Boyle Says:
    June 30th, 2018 at 4:08 am

    Summer came late this year, so in the last week i have just put out 15 window boxes, 5 tubs and 4 hanging baskets found this article very helpful.

  • Maureen mrozek Says:
    April 30th, 2018 at 10:33 am

    What potting plants can I plant that will come out every year.

  • Inga Says:
    October 3rd, 2017 at 1:40 pm

    There are so many different container for flowers. I could not choose one so I always buy plastic containers. They are simple, easy to carry.

  • Rachel Says:
    July 17th, 2017 at 10:47 pm

    Very helpful information! We just re did our landscaping and I’m looking forward to putting out some potted plants! Thanks for the tips!!

  • helen Says:
    May 1st, 2017 at 7:06 am

    how many plants to a hanging basket?

  • Gwen Says:
    December 24th, 2016 at 10:45 am

    I am looking for a flower container in the shape of a baby’s pram. Where can I find one??

  • Dolores grockau Says:
    June 19th, 2016 at 8:30 am

    Should I take flowers out of the plastic hanging container and put into cement pots or can I keep them in the plastic containers. It’s for the cemetery

  • Mike Martin Says:
    April 16th, 2016 at 8:12 am

    Have purchased several pre-planted pots(plastic with bottom drain holes) filled with flowering annuals (lobelia, petunia, etc.). Afraid of plants breaking up if I try to transplant into garden pots. If I slice several sides and enlarge the existing drain holes, can I just sit the entire pot into potting soil in the concrete pots? Or do I have to remove entirely and re-plant without the stabilizing plastic pot? Thx.

  • Ashly Says:
    April 10th, 2016 at 1:59 pm

    Very helpful information for someone like me who knows nothing about plants! Thanks for the article!

    November 10th, 2015 at 10:34 pm

    My garden soil is virtually sand. I keep planting flowers and they keep dying. Can I dig holes in the garden and bury the pot in there keeping the plants in the pots?

  • Sir Kevin Parr Bt Says:
    October 2nd, 2015 at 8:55 am

    I live now in retirement in rural Latvia. I have built an English gentleman’s estate with formal settings vast lawns and statues but one large stone urn set high on plinth is hopeless for anything in winters in Latvia. Summers are lovely and so reliable one takes things for granted. I have made a container to fit this urn so to take it out in autumn. It is wide and shallow in the 1786 style of vase arrangement for gardens. Boxwood no, rhodies or azeleas may do well and use them in the conservatory later over winter. I can’t think of anything else. One tip is Indian mint. We have it all over now and it spreads like crazy at the pond side. It is light blue flowered and mistaken as thyme by many. I use it as a herb in lamb dishes and and nothing kills this plant. I just do not want more of it and not in a classical urn. Any ideas please.

  • hc Says:
    July 5th, 2015 at 8:34 am

    I don’t think you want to seal the outside of the pots. An important advantage of using stone pots is that they are breathable. Plant roots like that. That’s one reason why you more people use terra-cotta pots than porcelain pots for plants.

  • cassandra Says:
    June 3rd, 2015 at 10:03 am

    Hi I’m new to gardening. I bought 4 (4 pack) of lobelia. I have 2 rectangular planters prob 9×3. I put 2 2 pack and separated them evenly into 8 singles. Is that too much for one planter? Or is that ok? I have some hanging planters if it is, I’m just unsure. Thank you

  • Darren Says:
    May 19th, 2015 at 4:47 am

    Hi there, I have just bought some lovely cement/stone pots and put new plants in them. Should I have sealed the inside of the pots due to them being pourus? Will the soil soak through and stain the outside or is the sealing not necessary. ?

  • Pat Says:
    May 4th, 2015 at 6:31 am

    when should I start to plant in my outside containers

  • Oliver Sellen Says:
    May 2nd, 2015 at 7:10 am

    I am filling my pots in preparation for planting flowers , which flowers should I plant ?

  • AnaChio Says:
    February 19th, 2015 at 11:57 am

    Hi. I’m planning to begin a little garden in conteiners cause I live in a little apartment, without sun. Which flowers do you recommend me? Thanks.

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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!

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

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Flower Containers for Beginners