Even if you live in a high-rise condominium or have a very small backyard you can enjoy beautiful plants and flowers by using containers and window boxes (Figure 1) as your personal landscaping.
Figure 1 - Window box
Picking the Right Plant Container
Container gardening is wonderful! If you have trouble making up your mind about your garden design, all you have to do is shove a few pots around and you have a new design. If you want to grow exotic plants in a cold climate then container planting will let you fool them into thinking they are right at home in the tropics.
Figure 2 - Flower pot container
And if you like change - containers are about as changeable as you can get. First of all, you have all kinds of interesting containers, from classic to just plain wild. Don't limit yourself to only commercial pots. As long as you can provide adequate drainage, many flea market or garage sale items can make perfect container gardens. (Tea kettles, wash basins and wheelbarrows are just a few examples.) And then you have all kinds of great places to put a garden - from a tiny balcony to a bare spot in a huge garden - or even indoors. You can hang them from poles or on walls, or set them on rolling carts - or even - (dastardly thought) just put them on the ground!
Finally, almost anything that can be grown in the ground can be grown in a pot - and a few things actually prefer being containerized. (Is that a word?) You can change your floral display seasonally, hide the plants that are getting tattered around the edges, and generally, with a little slight of hand and a wee bit of planning, fool people into thinking you actually know what you're doing.
Types Of Container Materials:
A pot's a pot - right? And it doesn't really matter what it's made of, as long as it holds dirt - right? Wrong. While all pots will hold plants, some are better than others, some more attractive than others, and some, while downright ugly, are indispensable. (You just have to hide them!)
A lot depends on the climate you live in, because some materials may look strong and then shatter into a thousand pieces with the first freeze. The kind of plants you'll be planting may also make a difference, as some like to live in swampy environments and will want containers that retain moisture; others prefer to pretend they are in the desert and want pots that breathe.
And, if you like container gardening because of its portability, a lot depends on your brute strength. Container materials vary from featherweights to a tonnage guaranteed to cause hernias.
And then, of course, there is personal preference. You're going to like the look of some materials, and hate others. (Your neighbor may have quite the opposite tastes.) And finally, there is your budget. Some materials are for champagne budgets only, while others can be as cheap as - well. . . free!
Figure 3 - Clay flower pots
How To Select, Prepare, And Maintain Your Containers:
Although you could just go out and buy a plant and plunk it into whatever container you have handy, understanding the basics of container selection, preparation, and maintenance will go a long way toward creating a successful container garden.
The material your container is made of not only affects how happy you are with the total look of your garden but how happy your plants will be growing in it. The container itself will determine not only how easy your garden is to maintain but where you can grow things -- on walls, hanging from trees, or on the ground. A combination of the container type and material will determine how much maintenance your garden will need -- and how often you need to water it.
You will need to select containers appropriate for the types of plants you want to grow and for the style of your house and garden design. Once these are clean and filled with whatever materials will give your plant proper drainage, they'll make good homes for happy plants.
Additional information on indoor composting for container gardening.
If you make sure to bring in any containers that can be damaged by weather, and to keep permanent outdoor containers well mulched and mounted, you should be ready to enjoy a long-lived and happy garden.