6 Container Gardening Mistakes You Should Avoid, According to Pros

If you’re looking to get into container gardening this season, it’s important that you work to steer clear of these six common mistakes, which plant experts flag as detrimental.

Read on to learn more about what you should and shouldn’t do when creating a container garden, according to the pros, so that you can be the best plant parent possible.

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Picking the Wrong Size and Type of Container

For starters, a key to successful container gardening is choosing the correct size of container for your plants.

“Too small and your plants could get root-bound and stunted,” Jane Dobbs, who is the gardening department leader of Allan’s Gardeners, says. “On the other hand, too big a container can hold a lot of water, causing root rot.”

Choosing the right material for your container is also important and will affect whether or not your plants thrive. Dobbs explains how clay pots are both attractive and breathable, but can often dry out quickly.

Meanwhile, she adds, plastic containers hold onto moisture better but do not aerate as well. It is important that your container has drain holes, she adds, as proper drainage prevents root rot.

Putting Incompatible Plants Together

It’s important to be mindful about which plants you’re placing together in the same container.

Gabrielle Thompson, CEO of Plant Baby Mama, explains how although you may want certain color combinations since they look beautiful together, it will be challenging to group plants that have different watering needs since it could lead to disappointing results.

“Make sure to check the requirements of each plant to have tons of growth and less stress,” Thompson says.

“Sunlight is the biggest concern. Plants that love the sun shouldn’t go in the same pot as plants that love the shade,” Dobbs adds.

Not Getting Creative With Your Display

That said, when you’re grouping like plants together, you can still get creative in order to make a stunning display.

“Do remember to keep varying heights and use complementary colors,” Joanna Buchanan, the owner and creative director of the Joanna Buchanan lifestyle brand, says. “Your containers are such a personal expression of the plants and flowers you love, so don’t let anyone else do it for you.”

That said, be mindful so as to not fill your containers to the brim with plants, and be thoughtful as you shop. Dobbs recommends not overcrowding containers because it could lead plants to compete with one another for nutrients and light.

“It’s tempting to grab whatever looks good at the nursery and rush home to plant it, whether it’s fall, spring, or summer,” Dobbs says.

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Many people end up overwatering their containers, which is a mistake, Dobbs notes. Dobbs emphasizes the importance of not watering until the soil is dry. You can check the soil by sticking a finger into it and feeling it.

You can also purchase a hydrometer to monitor a container’s dryness for you, if you prefer, she adds.


On a related note, there is such a thing as giving your container plants too much fertilizer. If a plant has been over-fertilized, its leaves will turn yellow or dry, or it will die altogether, Dobbs notes.

Pay close attention to the type of fertilizer that you purchase, depending on what you’re growing, too.

“Fertilizers indicate whether they’re good for vegetables, flowers, cacti, or other plants,” Dobbs says. “If you’re growing vegetables, use organic balanced fertilizer.”

Using Garden Soil

Dobbs cautions against using garden soil in containers, citing it as too dense and therefore restrictive when it comes to root growth and water movement.

Not to mention, garden soil can also bring weeds, pests, and more from your yard into the containers.

Instead, Dobbs recommends buying or mixing your own potting mix to use in your container gardens.

“If you’re going to add plants to flower pots that once had garden soil, make sure they’re clean first,” she says.

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