Container garden ideas – add colour and personality to your plot regardless of its size

Fill your potted garden with colour, fragrance and life

container garden ideas hanging pots on fencing by patio seats
(Image credit: Elho)

No matter how small or awkward your outdoor space may seem you can have an abundant garden filled with colour, life and produce by making use of container garden ideas.

From a window box that brightens your day with its seasonal blooms through to trees ladened with fruit, there's hardly a limit to the plants you can grow in small gardens if you cleverly make use of pots and other vessels.

Container garden ideas

Even if you already have borders and lawns – container garden ideas can be a valuable addition to your garden landscaping. Pots can restrict invasive plants such as mint, and protect those that are particularly vulnerable to pests, like hostas.

1. Include trees in your scheme

Garden with trees in large, metal pots

(Image credit: Future PLC/Dominic Blackmore)

Think container garden ideas and you might think we're only talking about small plants and shrubs, however you have far more options at your fingertips. Plenty of trees thrive in vessels, and the pot will help to restrict their growth, preventing them from becoming too unwieldy.

Slow-growing trees such as magnolia or prunus are a great choice for container garden ideas which will provide shade, greenery and colour in equal measure.

2. Contain invasive bamboo

Walled garden area with armchair and potted bamboo plant

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Bamboo is often used as a way to naturally create screening in a small garden, but it is, in fact, an invasive species that experts are warning about.

The crux of the matter is that many people don't realise just how fast this plant grows and, as a result, it can easily take over your entire garden. The simplest way to avoid this (beside not including bamboo) is to plant it in a pot, restricting it from spreading.

3. Be cohesive with pot choices

Garden with terracotta plants all along brick raised bed walls

(Image credit: Future PLC/Colin Poole)

Add cohesion to your container garden ideas by sticking to a theme. While identikit pots may feel a little drab, you can instead choose one or two aspects of the pots that link them together.

Perhaps they're all made of the same material and are the same height, or maybe they're the same colour and shape.

4. Or mix and match materials

Plants in zinc pots and wicker planter

(Image credit: Future PLC/Colin Poole)

If, on the other hand, you're looking for something with a little more quirk, then mixing and matching your containers will do you well. To make this as striking as possible, make sure you choose quite diametrically opposed surfaces, perhaps a hard, shiny, zinc pot alongside a more rustic, rattan weave.

5. Use shelving for height

Standalone garden shelving with potted plants

(Image credit: Future PLC/G J Watkins)

A standalone ladder or shelving unit is an easy way to create mini container garden ideas or to add height and interest to a larger area. Make sure to add in decor, and maybe even solar lighting so it's not just plant pot after plant pot.

This is a great solution for narrow garden ideas, as you'll be keeping the clutter of pots off your limited square footage, but still able to enjoy all the benefits of container planting.

6. Upcycle furniture into planters

Chest of drawers upcycled into garden planter for dahlias and other flowering plants

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Upcycled garden ideas are a perennial favourite here at Ideal Home, thanks to their personality, the creativity involved and the fact it keeps the budget nice and tight.

Check out Gumtree, Facebook Marketplace and NextDoor to find tired pieces of furniture which are just begging for a new lease of life as part of your container garden ideas.

7. Choose the right style of pot

Summer bedding plants in a blue ceramic pot

(Image credit: Alamy)

When collating container garden ideas think about the height, layout and style of your pots. Much like when decorating with art, you must ensure that the frames (or pots) work together and suit the array of colours and textures contained within. For smaller gardens, choose a singular colour scheme and add depth with different shades and textures.

Opt for heavier decorative pots over plastic nursery pots, which when gathered en masse, can look cluttered. Pots don’t have to be expensive, try secondhand shops, tip shops or even your local buy-and-sell sites. Alternatively, make use of garden discount codes to find a bargain.

8. Create a potted wildflower garden

Container with mixed flower bouquet including Daisies, Argyranthemum frutescens, and red Field poppies

(Image credit: Alamy)

A lack of space shouldn't stop you from creating a wildlife-friendly garden. There are plenty of wildflower varieties that are well-suited to container garden ideas.

'Embracing wildflower garden ideas is an incredible way to create a beautiful, magical spot in the garden, and if you choose flowering plants loved by pollinators, butterflies and bees are sure to fly into your space,' explains plantswoman Sarah Raven.

sarah raven headshot
Sarah Raven

Since the publication of her first book, The Cutting Garden - originally published in 1996 and still in print - Sarah has led the way in introducing a new kind of productive gardening. Her aim is to create intense colour and beauty, combined with a practical and easy-to-achieve approach, whether that's in the borders or in pots.

9. Design a potted rose garden

potted rose garden with white vintage garden chair

(Image credit: Getty Images)

A potted rose garden will bring an abundance of colour and fragrance to your container garden ideas. When selecting varieties, opt for patio roses – such as David Austin's Flower Power – that will be able to thrive in a container. Ensure your pot has good drainage and add mycorrhizal fungi to the hole before planting – this will help to give your roses the best start in life.

You could even plant climbing roses in a planter with an attached trellis to give your container garden ideas added depth.

Empathy RHS Endorsed Rootgrow Mycorrhizal Fungi | £9.87 on Amazon

Empathy RHS Endorsed Rootgrow Mycorrhizal Fungi | £9.87 on Amazon

With nearly 2,500 glowing reviews, this Mycorrhizal Fungi is a must when planting roses. Not only does it encourage the rose to grow a secondary root system, which improves its uptake of nutrients and water, but also helps to overcome replant problems.

10. Include fruit trees

cherry plants in slate pots on patio with bench and lavender in pots

(Image credit: Leigh Clapp)

While not suited for balconies where height is limited, container-grown fruit trees are a great addition to courtyard gardens, patios or rented properties. There are a wide variety of dwarf fruit trees available that will produce full-sized fruit from a miniature tree.

11. Create a characterful potted display

blue pot with layers of flowers and foliage

(Image credit: Future PLC/Joe Wainwright)

When planting a large pot follow the spiller, thriller, filler container combination to ensure an ebullient display.

'Opt for different heights and colours to add interest, and mix up textures with a variety of shrubs, perennials, and grasses. If you can, also think about adding in some plants that will add a beautiful fragrance to the garden, such as sweet pea, iris or lavender,' advises Daniel Carruthers, Director of Sales at Cultivar Greenhouses.

Daniel Carruthers headshot
Daniel Carruthers

Daniel Carruthers is a passionate gardener and grow-your-own guru whose love of gardening began over a decade ago when he left his career as a London chef to move to the Welsh countryside and begin a new venture in the greenhouse industry. Fast forward to present day, and Daniel now enjoys many hours in his greenhouse nurturing a wide range of fruit, veg and herbs, from crop to the kitchen.

12. Try out raised beds

wooden raised bed on patio area with salad

(Image credit: Two Wests & Elliot Ltd)

If you have the space, then raised beds are the perfect way to get on board with the grow your own revolution. Letting you create the perfect conditions to cultivate a wide variety of veg, you can enjoy the satisfaction and rich flavours of a homegrown meal.

'There is a wide range of planters, raised beds, table planters, troughs, and plant ladders, which lift the growing area off the ground making the tending and watering of plants easier,' says Lucie Bradly, co-owner of Two Wests & Elliot Ltd. 'They are also a great choice if you need to sit, kneel, stand, or use a wheelchair as you garden.'

If you're handy with DIY you could even build a raised bed using planks of wood and offcuts.

headshot Lucie Bradly, co-owner of Two Wests & Elliot Ltd
Lucie Bradly

Encouraged to garden since she was old enough to walk, Lucie has been working at Two Wests & Elliott since 1997. Lucie had originally worked alongside the initial founders, Mr and Mrs West until they retired, and she has been fortunate enough to become one of the co-owners. Lucie also enjoys talking to their many customers who are both professional gardeners and new starters.

13. Welcome wildlife with a container pond

blue ceramic pot turned into a mini pond

(Image credit: Alamy)

Container garden ideas aren’t just restricted to planting. You can also create a container pond which will provide valuable habitat to wildlife and provide another dimension to your garden landscape.

'Creating a mini pond in your outdoor space is a great way to provide essential water for all kinds of wildlife, and it doesn’t matter if you have a large garden or a small patio – all you need is an old watertight pot and a few additional items!' explains Dani Hawkins from CJ Wildlife.

'If you’d like to make your pond in a pot extra attractive both to humans and to wildlife, add a few water-dwelling plants such as miniature water lily, spearwort or starwort.'

14. Grow carrots and root veg in pots

Carrots growing in a fabric pot in a home garden

(Image credit: Alamy)

A deep pot is essential when it comes to growing root vegetables as part of container gardening ideas. There are many planters designed explicitly for root vegetables – such as this carrot patio planter from Agriframes – or you can grow them in a traditional pot, so long it is at least 30cm deep.

If you're short of space, perhaps if you're looking for container garden ideas for your balcony, you can plant annual flowers in the same pot as root vegetables. Since annuals have a short root structure, they won’t disrupt your root veg and will create a pretty display alongside the vegetable foliage.

15. Give vertical gardening a go

vertical gardening with flowers in pots attached to a trellis

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Living walls are a brilliant addition to gardens of any size. Often considered to be the reserve of smaller plots, where space is at a premium, a vertical garden will also draw the eye upwards and create a vignette of interest in a larger space.

Easy to achieve, a simple trellis, whether attached to a pot, a small raised bed or a fence, will provide an ideal structure against which you can either grow climbers or hang hooked pots.

16. Create a container herb garden

outdoor kitchen with grey counter wash basin plant pots and wood

(Image credit: Victoria Wade)

Perfect for placing alongside outdoor kitchen ideas, a container herb garden ensures you have delicious fresh herbs to hand when cooking and also helps your hard landscaping to blend into the wider garden, as seen in this space designed by Victoria Wade.

When figuring out how to build an outdoor kitchen, factor spaces for pots into the design – whether this is in the form of a few useful ledges or a vertical herb garden, attached to a trellis that backs onto your outdoor kitchen.

Certain herbs, such as mint, should always be grown in containers due to their invasive growth pattern.

17. Hook pots over railings to dress a front garden or balcony

hanging pots on fencing by patio seats

(Image credit: Elho)

When it comes to balcony garden ideas, pots are your only option.

'Select pots that hook onto the top of railings or vertically hang onto your balcony and let nature flourish in even the smallest of spaces. These types of plant pots also offer a simple way to create a sea of flourishing plants on balconies, that disguise urban surroundings and let nature take centre stage,' says Patty Willems from elho.

18. Think beyond pots

Campanula portenschlagiana, the Dalmatian bellflower with deep purple blooming flowers potted on an old reused teapot

(Image credit: Alamy)

Establishing your container garden can, at first, seem like a costly affair. However, this needn't be the case. So long as the container is able to withstand the weather and has adequate drainage holes you can transform nearly anything into a quirky planter – you'll be amazed at the variety of upcycling ideas for the garden.

19. Dress windows with window boxes

Window box with spring flowers on a stone cottage

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Planting window boxes is a brilliant way to brighten up your home. Not only do they bring a beautiful shot of colour to the exterior of your home but they can also be enjoyed from indoors.

'Small window boxes and hanging baskets require more attention to keep them looking good as they have very limited space to hold compost yet will be packed full of plants. This means that on hot summer days, they will be prone to dry out so quickly that you may need to water them twice a day,' explains Lucie from Two Wests & Elliot.

Make sure you avoid these window box mistakes to ensure a successful display.

20. Create a warm welcome with hanging baskets

Pink Petunias blooming in hanging basket in summer

(Image credit: Alamy)

Hanging baskets can uplift any outdoor space. Sometimes they may seem like a daunting addition, as they are prone to failure – however, you can ensure success by knowing how to plant a hanging basket and by avoiding these hanging basket mistakes.

Opting for drought-tolerant hanging basket flowers will increase their resilience and make your floral displays less likely to succumb to drought – one of the leading causes of failing hanging baskets.


How do I arrange my garden containers?

There are two approaches to arranging your garden containers. You can either place your pots in the preferred location before choosing your plants, or you can choose your plants and then select their placement.

'Consider where you want it to be positioned in your outdoor space and plan plants that will flourish in those conditions,' advises Daniel Carruthers, Director of Sales at Cultivar Greenhouses. 'Will your pots be basking in six to eight hours of full sun each day, or will it be brightening up a shady corner?'

'Then you can select your plants. Aside from sunlight requirements, you should treat it very much like a bed or border. Opt for different heights and colours to add interest, and mix up textures with a variety of shrubs, perennials, and grasses. If you can, also think about adding in some plants that will add a beautiful fragrance to the garden, such as sweet pea, iris or lavender.'

How do I improve drainage in my garden pots?

Drainage is an essential part of your container garden ideas. The best way to improve drainage in your garden pots is to increase the number or size of holes in the base.

'Drainage is the key to a successful container garden,' says Daniel from Cultivar Greenhouses. 'Start by making sure that every pot you plan to use has a drainage hole to prevent overwatering – whether you’re an overenthusiastic waterer or there’s a heavy downpour – and always use a free-draining, fertile, peat-free compost to give your plants the best chance to thrive.'

Have fun playing with your container garden – and, remember, one of the benefits of pots mean you can switch them in and out with the seasons or whenever you want a change of view.

Holly Reaney
Content Editor

Holly is one of Ideal Home’s content editors. Starting her career in 2018 as a feature writer and sub-editor for Period Living magazine, she has continued this role also adding regular features for Country Homes & Interiors and the Ideal Home website to her roster.  Holly has a passion for traditional and country-inspired interiors – especially kitchen design – and is happiest when exploring the countryside and hills of the Lake District. A keen gardener, she is a strong believer that you can never have too many houseplants.

With contributions from