Growing Guide: Containers

Container Gardening

There are many reasons to consider container gardening:

• Grow a palm tree in New Mexico
• A water saving strategy
• Rabbits eating your veggies?
• Kids love container gardening
• A container to suit every personality

Choose your Containers

Whether you live in a house or apartment, you can utilize container gardens, there are no limits! Almost anything can be used as a container from shoes to tires! Look around your home, shed or garage—you will be surprised at what you can find.

Bigger is Better

Since container gardens are essentially a miniature, self-contained garden, the larger the container the more resources, especially water, will be available to the plants. A larger container holds a larger volume of soil, which in turn will hold substantially more water than a pot half the size. And the more water a container holds, the less frequently you’ll need to water it.

Another consideration when choosing the pot is the material it’s made of. Plastic, foam and glazed clay all will retain water better than unglazed terra cotta or wood. But whatever you choose, make sure the container has adequate drainage in the bottom.

Use the Proper Soil

Using the proper soil mix in your pots is very important. The potting soil or medium in which a plant grows should be porous enough for root aeration and drainage but also capable of water and nutrient retention. Most quality prepared mixed actually contain no soil at all. Do not use real soil from your garden beds. Potting soils from Black Gold, Fertilome or Foxfarm are all recommended.
For each 2.5-3 CuFt bag or soil-less mix, add: 2/3 cup Soil Moist™ water saving granules and
3/4 cup Yum-Yum Mix® fertilizers OR
Osmocote® slow-release fertilizer
The Soil Moist™ crystals act as tiny sponges, soaking up water and holding it for the roots to extract it. Yum-Yum Mix® is an organic fertilizer that slowly releases balanced nutrients to the plants, lengthening bloom-time and promoting healthy growth.


Depending on your size of container and chosen plants there are a few ways to water. As always you can water by hand, however, for larger containers a drip system will be your best friend. Especially in the summer months. For small and tightly packed containers a water mister or syringe is perfect for delivering just the right amount of water where you need it. Also, be sure to place plants with similar light and watering needs into your container. Should one plant need more or less water than the others your garden will not thrive.


Good drainage is critical to successful container gardening. Make sure that there are adequate holes in the bottom of the container to allow water to flow through. Place broken pottery over the holes and then use a few inches of washed gravel over the pottery shards. If the containers are not to be set out on a gravel base, be sure to raise them off the ground using special clay pot feet, bricks or wooden blocks. This will assure positive drainage, prevent freezing to the ground during cold weather, allow air circulation and prevent staining of the concrete and stone.

Fertilization and Maintenance

Even with Yum-Yum Mix® mixed in the potting soil, many container gardens will appreciate additional fertilizer throughout their growing season, especially annuals and vegetables. Use a water-soluble fertilizer, applied once a week or so, or top dress with additional Yum-Yum Mix®, Osmocote or other slow-release fertilizer in mid-summer.

Also, plants will bloom longer and more often if deadheaded regularly. Without deadheading, the plant will put its energy into producing seeds and not into producing more flowers. Deadheading is simply the removal of spentblossoms. Make sure you snip off the whole flower stem, and not just the petals.

Use the proper plants

There are countless others that perform splendidly in pots, but here are a few of suggestions that are particularly well-suited for containers:
Annuals & Cold Tender Perennials: Canna, Lantana ssp., Fuschia, Scaevola, Petunia, Wave varieties, Lobelia, Persian Shield, Lamium, Coleus, Agapanthus, Purple Fountain Grass.

Perennials: Artemisia, Coreopsis, Creeping Thymes, Gallardia, Gaura, Lavenders, Mexican Hat, Russian Sage, Penstemon & Agastache, Salvia, Sedum, Veronica, Vinca, Yarrow.

Ornamental Grasses: Karl Foerster Feather Reed Grass, Cabaret Fountain Grass, Blue Fescue, Mexican Feather Grass, Pampas Grass.

Vegetables & Herbs: Lavenders, Oregano, Rosemary (trailing ‘Irene’ & upright ‘Arp’, ‘Tuscan Blue’), Sage (Garden, Golden Puruple & Tri-Color), Thyme.

Vegetables are not drought-tolerant. Growing in a container is an excellent way to grow them since they’ll require less water than if grown in the ground. Be sure to choose dwarf or determinate varieties. Artichoke, Swiss Chard, Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Potato, Eggplant, Chile, Cabbage, Kale, Lettuce, Broccoli.

Cacti & Succulents: Need to beat the heat with some green? Cacti & succulents do great in containers. Try Native Claret Cup Cactus, Hardy Ice Plants (Delosperma & Ruschia), Agave, Yucca, Texas Red and Yellow Yucca, Dasyliron.

Trees & Shrubs: Most dwarf trees, conifers and shrubs are an excellent choice for container gardens. Remember to select slow-growing varieties or true dwarfs. Blue Atlas Weeping Cedar, Feelin’ Blue Cedar, Cotoneaster ssp., Japanese Maples, Barberry ‘Lime Glow’ and ‘Golden Ruby’, ‘Pix Zee’ Peach, ‘Necta Zee’ Nectarine.

You can play with placement of your chosen plants but a good rule of thumb is "thriller, filler, and spiller" your center piece, middle and trailing pieces. This will keep your arrangement looking interesting and unique! And don't forget to play with your textures too, foliage adds color and is less maintenance.

And just keep in mind...

When selecting plants for your container, choose varieties that are at least one zone hardier than the local climate. In Albuquerque for example (USDA Zones 6-7) select plants hardy to USDA Zone 5-6 and they will survive and thrive in an adequately sized pot year-round.

Add any finishing touches like small seasonal trinkets, moss, or anything that catches your eye and you're all set!