Anything that can hold a good amount of soil and plants and have the ability to drain water is game for container gardening. People might do it for several reasons. One is, of course, to bring nature into a place where it normally wouldn't be. Container gardening gives plants a chance to thrive indoors where they normally wouldn't and can enhance a room, deck or patio. It isn't limited to interiors, either -- a well-placed container can be the focal point of an outside garden. Planting in containers is also very flexible, and it's easy to move pots around and experiment with different combinations and placements.
Many people use ordinary pots and containers you might find at a gardening center, in materials as varied as terra cotta, concrete, plastic, metal, wood, ceramic or wire. In fact, the easiest thing to do is to buy a container plant directly from a gardening center; the job of planting is already done for you, and all you have to do is take your plant home, find a spot and care for it.
But that's really only the beginning. Some people get creative with their potting choices -- plants will grow in anything, including watering cans, tires, buckets, boxes and even boots. The size and color of the container also matters. Bigger pots require less watering, which is good for people who aren't at home often, and darker colors absorb heat and help plants grow in the summer. Warmer containers will evaporate water more easily, though, so plants will need more water in hot weather.
Keep in mind that one of the most important parts of container gardening is drainage. The container should have a hole in the bottom to let any water drain out, because excess water will harm a plant. It's common to water plants over sinks or place containers on top of trays to collect the water that seeps through.
The type of plants you choose will depend on where you want to place them. If you want to keep something inside that doesn't require much sunlight, plants like ferns, ivy or begonias are good choices. Plants that do well in the full sun like petunias, daisies, aloe or many types of grass would work better on a deck or patio. The soil you use also matters -- potting soil, instead of topsoil, is recommended, and sand can be added to improve drainage. It's also good to add mulch and fertilizer to the soil when necessary, and dead leaves or flower should be removed to allow the plants to grow.
Container gardening can be practical as well as aesthetically pleasing. On top of flowers and foliage, you can also plant vegetables like tomatoes, carrots and herbs into containers and add a little homegrown flavor to dinner.
For lots more information on gardening, see the next page.