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Container Gardening in Charleston

Updated: Apr 2

Spring has officially Sprung and around here that means it’s time to refresh your seasonal containers! There are many benefits to container gardening and today we are going to break down why it’s a popular form of gardening in the Lowcountry and how to create a successful container garden.

Container gardening is a rising trend in the industry, but it’s been popular in Charleston for a long time. South of Broad and other historic homes are not only some of the most beautiful in the country, but they also feature meticulously crafted window box gardens. Whether you live in the area or just like to stroll the streets, you’ve noticed the bold colors and funky textures arranged perfectly against the old Charleston brick. Most homes in Charleston don’t have front yards, and the few homes that do feature limited ground space are constantly experiencing tourist foot traffic so… plant in window boxes! 

A small, landscaped courtyard with three containers full of pink and green seasonal foliage and blooms

If you don’t have window boxes, don’t worry! Creating  beautiful gardens is possible in any type of container. We love incorporating pots into landscapes to easily add rotating color and texture all year. Charleston is home to many small spaces and secrete courtyard gardens. Container gardens are an excellent way to add more plant material to your space. Another benefit: you can control the soil and amount of light these containers receive. Planting in the ground can be tricky in Charleston. Some areas are more sandy while others constantly flood in every Summer thunderstorm. Gardening in containers means you are giving your plants the best possible chance with nutrient rich potting soil and proper drainage. Container gardens are often made up of annual plants that get replaced seasonally. This practice allows you to get creative in the garden multiple times a year, without having to change up entire beds. However, you can always add in a few evergreen or perennial options to keep your pot looking full year around. 

Now that you know why container gardening is popular, let’s talk about how to do it successfully. 

  1. First things first, cover the hole of your pot with weed mat or a similar product. You want to make sure water can still drain, but all your dirt isn't running out of the bottom every time it storms! 

  2. Fill your pot about ¾ of the way to the top with a high quality potting soil. We use and sell Fox Farm products that provide proper drainage and fertilizer. 

  3. Add a starter fertilizer like Espoma Bio-tone Jumpstart to help new plants root and grow once potted. 

Now it’s time to start planting! There are a few things you want to keep in mind when selecting what to plant in your containers.

  1. Consider where your container will live and how much light that area receives. Is it complete shade under a large oak tree, part sun in the morning, or all day full blasting light? 

  2. Will your container sit on a table and need to be low enough to look over? Or tall enough to fill an empty corner? This will impact what plants you choose!

  3. Will you view this container from all sides or will it have a “back” set against a wall? 

Once you've considered all your factors, it's time to choose plants. You want to choose plants that follow this pattern: thriller, filler, spiller. This isn’t a new saying, but you may not know what it means. “Thriller” refers to the largest, eye-catching plant in your container. In large pots you can even have more than one thriller! Common thrillers include: palms, grasses, cordyline, salvia, iris, elephant ears, and many more options. In a 360 degree container, these plants would be planted in the center, but if your container has a back, that’s where these plants should live. Next, your “filler” plants are all the medium height plants that literally fill in the empty space below your thriller. You want to vary the texture, color, and height of plants in this category. The more variety you bring to your container, the more professional it will look! However, you can always pick two plants to repeat in a pattern if that is more your style. We love using ferns, plectranthus, carex, coleus, heuchera, and any seasonal flowers as fillers. Finally, your “spiller” plants will bring the eye down your design to the pot. These plants hang or spill over the sides of the pot, elongating the container design. Choose plants that have a creeping growth habit like: sweet potato vine, lysimachia, vinca vine, lamium, and creeping jenny. 

Now that you know how to select plants, here are five tips for arranging and potting your containers. 

  1. Start with your thriller. Once your largest plant is in place, it will be easier to build the rest of your container!

  2. Vary where you place your blooms! You don’t want all the flowering plants on the same side of the container. Alternate foliage and blooms for a more balanced look.

  3. If you don’t have much sun or a consistent watering schedule, consider adding more foliage plants than flowers. They will be more forgiving and stay healthy looking longer. 

  4. When planting, don’t be afraid to angle your plants to achieve the look you want!

  5. Finally, less is not more when designing a container garden. If you want a lush, professional look you have to pack in the plants. However, if you’re fine waiting for plants to grow and fill in space that’s okay too! 

Four black containers in different styles all featuring a variation of blooms and foliage in an attractive arrangement

You are now armed with all the knowledge you need to create a beautiful container garden! If you want the look without all the effort, check out our new subscription service Cultivated Containers for hassle free, beautifully designed containers delivered to your door every season! Let’s #getplanting this Spring!

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