Top 5 Container Gardening Mistakes

Watch out for these 5 common container gardening mistakes when setting up your container garden…

Growing in containers can be a great option if you live in an apartment or condo, or have limited outdoor space for gardening. There are many different things you can grow in containers – from flowers and herbs, to vegetables or even fruit trees. Check out these tips for container gardening success, including what type of soil to use, where to place your containers, and how to best care for your container garden.

While container gardening is relatively easy, there are a few common mistakes you will want to avoid when setting up your container garden.

Here are just a few container gardening mistakes to watch out for, according to

1. Filling a large container in the wrong place: Ever tried to lift a large container garden filled with dirt and plants? I have, and it can be overwhelmingly heavy. When using a large or unwieldy container make sure to place your pot where it will live and then fill it – you’ll save your back!

Also, if you know you are planting shallow rooted plants in a very large container (for example, herbs, annuals, succulents), you can fill the bottom third with empty plastic bottles and cover them with plastic screening.

…This will make your container lighter and less expensive because you won’t need as much potting soil.

2. Overwatering Your Plants: To avoid over-watering your container gardens, use containers that have drainage holes – lots of them. Also, make sure to read the moisture requirements for your plants and then follow them. Before you water, check if your soil is moist. To do this put your finger into the soil up to your second knuckle. If the soil at your fingertip feels dry, water your plant.

If you do over-water, leaves may turn yellow and fall off, or your plants may get limp. If your soil is too wet, move the container to a dry, breezy spot until it dries out…

3. Underwatering Your Plants: Most container gardens need watering at least once a day in the heat of the summer. Many, especially hanging planters or small containers, need watering even more often because there is less soil to hold moisture. When you water, make sure to really soak your plants – if you just give them a sip, the water will only wet the top layer of soil, and they won’t really get the moisture they need.

Water until you see it coming out of the bottom of your pot…

If your plants do dry out, don’t despair; even the most pathetic, limp, plant might revive with a good drink. If the container is small enough, submerge the whole thing in a bucket of water until the air bubbles subside. For a large container take a skewer or stick and gently poke holes deep into the soil to allow water to reach the roots. Then water generously until water comes out the bottom – and water again the next day to make sure the soil absorbs all the water it needs.

4. Buying weak or sickly plants: Buying plants at a reputable local nursery is a good place to start in your quest for healthy plants. You have a greater chance of getting plants that are disease and pest free and well cared for than at a big box store. At a nursery, you can often get a wealth of information and advice from knowledgeable staff.

Don’t be afraid to ask someone to help you pick out a good plant.

If you can’t resist the prices of buying plants from a big box store (and occasionally, who can’t?), try to buy them on or close to the day they’re delivered. Don’t be shy to ask someone who works there which day new plant stock arrives. Delivery is usually the same day every week.

5. Starving your plants: Most potting mix has very few of the nutrients that plants require to grow and be healthy for more than just a few weeks so you will need to add those nutrients to the soil. There are many fertilizers to choose from and flowering plants have different needs than vegetables and herbs.

In container gardening, what nutrients there are in your potting soil are either quickly used by the plants or are washed out with repeated watering. Fertilizing container gardens regularly is a key to their success. You can start with a slow release fertilizer such as compost mixed in with your potting soil and then add a diluted, liquid fertilizer, such as fish emulsion, every couple of weeks. Many organic fertilizers are naturally balanced to provide all the nutrients your plants will need.

Check out our archives for more tips on indoor & container gardening!


Rose S.

An avid gardener since childhood, I love sharing my passion for gardening with others! I have gardened in a number of different climates and settings, from large fenced garden plots, to tiny patio and container gardens, and I firmly believe that everyone can learn to grow at least some of their own food - no matter where you live. Growing your own food can help you take control of your own health and food supply, and there has never been a better time to get started!

More to Explore

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *