Garden & Greenhouse


Choosing the Right Plant for Container Gardening

Posted January 23rd, 2013 by Robin Nichols in ,


Regardless of the type of plant, here are some general tips provided by the University of Illinois Extension for growing vegetable container gardens:

Choosing a Container

    • Anything that holds soil and has drainage holes in the bottom may be transformed into a container garden for terrestrial plants
    • For vibrant plant growth, the containers must provide adequate space for roots and soil media, allowing the plant to thrive.


  • When choosing what to use to fill containers, never use garden soil by itself no matter how good it looks or how well things grow in it out in the garden.
  • Container soils are often referred to as soilless or artificial media, because they contain no soil at all.
  • When these mixes are used, they should be moistened slightly before planting. Fill a tub with the media, add water and lightly fluff the media to dampen it.
  • When filling containers with media, don’t fill the pot to the top. Leave about a one inch space between the top of the soil and rim of the pot.
  • Soils for containers need to be well aerated and well drained while still being able to retain enough moisture for plant growth.


  • A regular fertilizer program is needed to keep plants growing well and attractive all season.
  • The choice of fertilizer analysis will depend on the kinds of plants you are growing. High nitrogen sources would be good for plants grown for their foliage while flowering and vegetable crops would prefer lower nitrogen and higher phosphorous types.

Choosing Plants for Your Container Garden

  • Plants that thrive in similar soil, watering and light conditions make successful combinations. When combining plants, size, texture, proportion, color, setting, and lighting all play a role.

Taking Care of Your Vegetable Plants

  • Containers offer the advantage of being portable. As the seasons, temperature and light conditions

    change; you can move your containers to maintain the desired conditions for peak performance.

  • Most fruit bearing vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash, and eggplant require full sun.
  • Leafy vegetables such as lettuce, cabbage, collards, mustard greens, spinach, and parsley can tolerate more shady location compared to the root vegetables such as turnips, beets, radishes, carrots, and onions.
  • There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to watering. That is why you have to be watching your containers on a regular basis and understand the requirements of the plants you choose to put in the containers.
  • The best way to tell if a plant needs water is to feel the soil. And if the first inch or so of the soil is dry, water. Use enough water each time so water starts to drip out of the drainage holes.

For more information visit

Want more information? Read these articles:

Building Your Own Organic Soil for Raised Bed Gardens

Is Organic Gardening For You?

Lazy Gardener’s Tips for Overwintering Containers

Organic Gardening in the Greenhouse

Raised Bed Gardens Don’t Have to be Difficult

Year Round Containers

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