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Learn How to Care for a Container Garden

Mar 12, 2008
Now that you have planted your flowers, foliage, or vegetables in their containers, you need to know how to care for them. Just like your outside garden, container gardens require nurturing to keep the plants productive and healthy.

One of the challenges of container gardening is the fact that a pot is an unnatural place for flowers and vegetables to grow. Soil dries out faster and roots can become cramped.

Also, the containers themselves are prone to drainage and decay problems. In addition, they need to be tended more often because they are so visible on your patio or deck. Plants that are not maintained properly can get pretty ugly.

On the plus side, many containers can be moved easily, allowing you to protect plants in poor weather and to move them into sun or shade as necessary.

Also, because they are well contained, managing the container plants is not an overwhelming task, nor does it require a great deal of time. If a plant should die, it's a simple matter to replace it.

Here are a few things to think about when caring for your container garden:


Watering is one of the most important aspects of plant care. Without water, plants will not live produce flowers, vegetables or herbs. In an outside garden, plants can extend their roots to find the moisture they need when the soil next to them runs dry. This is not possible, however, in containers.

For this reason, any plant in a pot requires more regular watering than one planted in an outside garden the general rule for almost all plant varieties, whether inside or outside, is to keep the soil moist but not soggy during the growing season.

If your plant has wilted leaves or flowers, it is probably stressed from lack of water. A container with a dry plant will weigh less than anyone that is properly watered.


When a container plant runs out of food, it has nowhere to go to replenish it. Even if you buy potting mixes that contain nutrients, the plant will use them up within a month or so. Some of it is taken up by the roots and some is lost through drainage.

The solution is to mix in some fertilizer twice a month with your watering, or to periodically add compost as a top dressing. The nutrient most necessary to plants is nitrogen. it helps the development of leaves and its growth.

Nitrogen deficiency shows itself by turning the leaves a pale shade of green or yellow. Too much nitrogen can delay a plant's bloom or crop.

The other nutrients that plants need are potassium, for hardiness and color, and phosphorus, for root formation. Nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus are available in complete fertilizer form or as separate ingredients that you can mix yourself.

When you apply fertilizer, make sure that the soil is moist by watering beforehand. This will help to prevent chemical burns.


Most plants will require some pruning, especially those grown in containers. Some people may be afraid to prune their plants for fear of killing them. However, if a mistake is made in pruning, it will not usually kill the plant.

Pruning includes the removal of dead or dying stems or branches so that the strongest can survive. Sometimes, trimming also means clipping flowers, normally only toward the end of their bloom. This is called deadheading.

Controlling Pests

Pests are just as apt to visit container gardens as an outside garden. It is fortunate that pests are easier to control on plants that are planted in pots.

The key to pest control starts with the plans that you select and the soil that you use. Some plants have a natural resistance to pests.

Do not use soil that has been used before unless it has been sterilized. Better yet, purchase new soil for new plantings.

Inspect plants periodically to check for bugs and larvae. Sometimes all you need to do is pick them off your plant leaves. Other times, they will require chemical or natural insecticides.


Usually by the time you know that a plant is diseased, too much damage has been done to it to save it. These plants should be quarantined or removed. Signs of disease include rust colored leaves or spots on the plants.

Container gardens are less likely to become diseased than those plants that are planted in a regular garden. And, if they should become diseased, it is easier to isolate them from the rest of the garden.

Caring for your container garden is not a difficult task if you use common sense. The main thing to remember is that container gardens will dry out much faster than a regular garden. That is the most common reason that plants do not grow or produce as expected.
About the Author
For more information on Container Gardening visit GuideForGardeners.com, a website that provides tips and information on all types of gardening.
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