Love your pots! 25 inspiring & practical ideas for container gardens

July 26th, 2015
Posted In: Container gardening

Container gardens  and pots create instant impact in your garden.

You can grow any plant in a pot. You can use a pot as a focal point, to add instant colour or to grow plants that won’t normally grow in your soil.

Here are my favourite pots and container gardens, as seen in people’s gardens over the last year. There are some affiliate links in this post, which means you can click through to buy. If you do, I may get a small fee, but it won’t affect the price you pay.

Upcycle crates and buckets for container planting.

I love this contrast of upcycled tins, buckets and boxes on a neighbour’s doorstep. You can buy vintage crates here from Amazon

Keep acers in pots if your soil isn't right for planting them in the ground.

Our soil in Kent isn’t particularly welcoming to acers and other acid-loving plants. But here Emma Daniell gets to enjoy an acer by keeping it in a pot with ericaceous soil.

You can paint pots - even if they're metail.

You can paint pots. This container was originally shiny metal. Gardening writer Francine Raymond painted it a soft blue-grey. Annie Sloan Chalk Paints go straight onto all surfaces. Rust-Oleum also do a chalky paint which will go on a wide range of hard surfaces, available here.

You can dig up garden plants and put them in pots

You can dig plants up from the garden and put them in pots. When Posy Gentles re-vamped her front garden, she dug up this 1970s rose and gave it to me. I’m keeping it in a pot for the summer – and will replant it in one of my beds in the autumn.

assorted pot ideas

Roses in pots appear to be almost indestructible. The rose on the right was orphaned when some friends divorced. It isn’t something I’d have bought myself, so when it was dumped on our terrace, I didn’t take much notice of it. After it had flowered its socks off all last summer on virtually no attention, I decided to pot it up in a larger container  this year. It seems to flower for months at a time. The label was lost in the divorce, so I can’t tell you what it is.

Use pots in a border as a focal point

Pots work well in borders. Here this giant terracotta pot at Squire’s Garden Centre, Badshot Lea, is the focal point of a pretty planting of hydrageas.

Colour-theme pots in borders

Or take it one step further and choose coloured pots as part of colour-theming your borders. This also comes from Squires Garden Centre, Badshot Lea.

Re-use old tins and baskets as container gardens

You can upcycle containers as planters. In the St Quintin’s Kitchen Garden, a wicker basket and an olive oil tin make useful pots. You can buy wicker baskets here, but don’t forget that they won’t last long outdoors.

Herb garden in upcycled containers

Herbs grow well in container gardens – here Posy grows thyme in a mysterious object she bought at a car boot fair. On the right, you can see tarragon planted in an old sieve.

Roses as table decorations work well outside.

Many indoor plants do well outside, so re-pot them in a larger pot with some fertiliser. You may be pleasantly surprised at what pops up the following year. These were miniature table roses at a party we had last year – I’m so glad we didn’t throw them away.

Include clean, tailored lines in your collection of pots or tubs.

Topiary in pots always looks smart. These cloud-pruned box at The Cookery Studio in Kent create definition and style. And I know from growing my own box in pots that they are easy to grow. See here for more about evergreens in pots for year-round interest.

Plants on pot stands dry out - quickly, so water regularly.

This is my mother’s 1950s plant stand. I love it, but pots in the air dry out very quickly. Either water the plants every day or leave  the pots dunked in  a bowl of water for a few hours twice a week.

You can grow vegetables in container gardens, as well as flowers.

Sarah Langton-Lockton decided to grow courgettes in her pots rather than flowers. They look very handsome.

Think about the colour of your pot when choosing plants.

Think about the colour of the pot when you’re choosing your plant. Here Emma has combined a lilac-flowered hydrangea with a blue pot, which looks great. Dahlias also work very well in pots – see this post on how Claus Dalby displays his dahlias in pots to look like a border.

Match the colour of the pot to the colours of the flowers

Or you can match the colour of the pot to the colour of the flowers as with Emma’s blue hydrangea. If your soil normally turns hydrangeas pink, then you can have blue hydrangeas by potting them in ericaceous potting compost.

How to colour theme pots and garden furniture

Pull garden furniture and pots together with a colour theme: – Emma Daniell is famous for her love of turquoise (and pots)

Plant alpines and sempervivums in shallow containers

There’s a huge trend towards planting alpines and sempervivums in shallow bowls – I particularly liked these plantings from alpine plant specialists D’Arcy & Everest at this year’s RHS Hampton Court.

Combine plain and pattern in flowers for tubs.

Contrast patterned and plain. These are just petunias from the market, but the way Rosie Turner has chosen one plain dark one and one bright stripy one is great.

Plant broken pots for a dramatic effect

Even a broken pot can still be glorious. Here florist and topiarist Charlotte Molesworth uses a piece of broken china/earthenware that she found buried as a pot.

You can use old jelly-moulds and kitchen ware for planting

More creative alternatives to standard pots – here Posy uses a jelly-mould picked up at a car boot fair for a polyanthus.

If you need light pots, choose a realistic resin that looks like stone or copper.

You can get resin pots now which look brilliantly like stone or metal – these ‘copper’ pots are by Capital Garden Products and I saw them at RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

Use texture and shape rather than colour for a soothing effect

You can use texture and shape rather than colour to be the ‘main story’. Here Kylie O’Brien mixes a grouing of terracotta pots with green plants very effectively.

Use catering tins as plant pots...

I love these catering-size Greek feta cheese tins used as container gardens for anenomes at Jo-jo’s restaurant in Whitstable.

Watering tips for container gardens

Three ways of watering pots. Fill a garden trug with water and dunk the pots in it for a few hours. Use a watering can or a hose. I like the Xhose for watering pots on the terrace because it doesn’t kink. The Xhose was sent to me for review, and I find it excellent for use in smaller areas. I don’t find that it expands as much into the main garden as it says it does, but it’s very easy to use.

If your pots and container gardens don’t grow well, you may be making some basic mistakes. Planting pots with the right compost is important, and so is feeding them. Read this to find out why feeding and watering container plants makes them look so much better.

And read this to discover the best low maintenance plants for pots.

And you don’t need to leave your pots empty in the winter. This tells you why choosing plants for winter pots is a little different from planting up summer pots. But you can achieve stylish effects with both winter pots and winter window boxes.

More ideas for pots and container gardens on the Middlesized Garden’s Pinterest board here. 


Do join us for more gardening tips, ideas and inspiration. The Middlesized Garden blog and YouTube videos come out every weekend. You can subscribe by email (it’s free!) here.

Pin to remember tips for container gardens

25 inspiring and practical ideas for garden pots

14 comments on "Love your pots! 25 inspiring & practical ideas for container gardens"

  1. Steward Jones says:

    I really like these ideas for container garden inspiration very lovely.It’s almost time for me to be able to put flowers outside.I’m excited and just can’t hide it. :)

  2. You’re right about roses. I’ve had an inherited one languishing with very little attention (no attention) in a pot since 2004. I’ve been feeling pretty guilty about it for the past few years…. time to do something about it. Lovely post. I agree with you about empty pots (so long as no one uses them as litter bins).

  3. Kate Patel says:

    Beautifully illustrated post. I am passionate about pots … my motto is ‘never mind the handbags and shoes’! What is interesting is to see the vast array of objects that can be put to such good use, all it takes is a bit of imagination. I especially like Posy’s virdigris coloured herb planter.

    1. Yes, I love Posy’s verdigris thingy too – wish we all knew what it was!

      1. Liz says:

        Posy’s verdigris planter is a compost riddler. You rotate the handle which sweeps lumpy compost through a sieve, wonderful for creating fine compost.

        1. I’ll tell her, thank you.

  4. Matt says:

    You can’t beat a good up cycled pot. I love the feta and olive oil tins, and I’ve got an old metal bread bin that I grow salad in!

    1. Metal bread bin sounds lovely.

  5. Susie Dixon says:

    Lovely ideas for pots. You have given me some lovely ideas. Thankyou x

    1. It’s a pleasure – thank you for commenting.

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