Caring for plants in containers can seem overwhelming at first. After one of two growing seasons of caring for plants in containers, it can seem like second nature. With a few tips and tricks, success can easily be found, even in the first season of growing plants in containers.
Consider the location of the container. Location is extremely important. While it is much easier to move a plant within a container than it is to move a plant planted in the ground, moving containers should be minimized because the plant within the container may experience shock at the very worst and simply may not thrive as well at best when moved too often. In case of initial bad placement, frost, very heavy, continual rain, or very high winds, containers should be moved. Otherwise it's best to consider the location of the container to be the permanent location.
When placing the container in its location, carefully consider sunlight, environment, and overall exposure. Ideally for many plants, the rule of thumb is to allow the plants to receive six to eight hours of sunlight per day. It is important to know which end of the spectrum the specific plant you wish to place would go. For example, mint would do fine getting six hours of sunlight or even less. A pepper plant, on the other hand, would do best with eight hours of sunlight or more. Conversely, certain plants prefer less sunlight, like lady fern.
The environment in which plants are placed can be an important factor as well. Containers can be placed just about anywhere, from a building rooftop to a shaded balcony to a busy sidewalk. What is the first purpose of the area in which the plants in containers will go? Is there a lot of foot traffic or pollution in the area? What is the purpose of the plant within the container? Is the plant for decoration, eating, or medicine? If the plant is to be harvested, how and when is it to be harvested? If the plant is to be harvested all at once, such as in the case of potatoes, it would be fine to move the entire container in order to harvest the plant within. Certain locations for growing plants in containers are to be avoided, especially grass and blacktop. Placing containers in grass can invite pests and disease, and placing containers on blacktop can cause the roots of the plant to get too hot and burn. If these are the only areas available, placing containers in these areas is still possible, but extra care and watchfulness should be given to the plants in the the containers.
Finally, overall exposure should be considered. Try to avoid placing containers in areas where they are always exposed to all the elements. Avoid placing tall plants in areas of high wind. Try to avoid too much direct sunlight plants are exposed to. In cases of rooftop gardens, shade can be constructed in many ways, such as using climbing plants and trellises to shade other, more vulnerable plants. Avoid placing containers of plants in areas where the bottom of the container will always be wet, as this will foster disease.
While taking into consideration sunlight, environment, and overall exposure, it is also important to consider how the container display will look and how functional the container display will be. When placing containers against a wall, for example, place tall plants which are not continually harvested in back, medium plants and vines in the middle, and smaller plants in front so that all plants are accessible when they need to be. Much freedom is utilized when placing specific containers of plants in order to create the biggest visual impact of the display itself. While keeping containers in a permanent location is important, it's also important to find a combination that is both practical and beautiful.