Most gardens feature at least a few planted containers, often placed near entryways or grouped on patios. Gardeners cherish these containers for their aesthetic appeal, allowing them to grow some of their favorite flowering annuals. However, with thoughtful placement, containers can look beautiful while also solving many common garden challenges. For example, they can be used to fill gaps in garden beds, act as a mobile landscape, or add height (and interest!) to skinny spaces.

When strategically used, containers transform from mere decorative elements into problem-solving solutions that address various gardening dilemmas while elevating your garden’s overall design.

A creative use of containers sets the stage for what’s to come by transforming an uninspired section of a driveway into a mobile garden filled with height and visual interest. The result is a stunning welcome that leads the visitor through the garden. The Freymiller Garden. Photo by: Rebecca Sweet.


Adding a planted container within a garden bed, rather than exclusively on a hard surface (such as a patio, deck, or entryway), offers several unique advantages. When tucked among neighboring plants in a garden bed, containers elevate the plants (both literally and figuratively!) by adding height while drawing the eye and giving special status to the container’s plants.

Containers also allow for better control over soil conditions, which is particularly useful for plants with specialized needs that might not thrive in the garden’s native soil. Additionally, when planted with aggressively spreading plants, containers can help contain their 'enthusiasm' by confining the roots. Just make sure to periodically check the bottom of the pot to prevent any roots from escaping through the drainage holes.

The vibrant blue pots nestled among the chartreuse and green foliage create a dynamic combination, adding height and contrasting color. This striking contrast not only catches the eye but also enhances this space's visual depth, elevating the overall impact of this serene garden bed. The Tanner Garden. Photo by: Rebecca Sweet.


Making small or narrow gardens interesting can be challenging due to space limitations that restrict plant choices and design elements. With a relatively small footprint, containers offer an ideal solution as they can add height and vertical interest in the narrowest of spaces. The eye is drawn upward by elevating plants in a tall, narrow container, creating a sense of verticality in the garden. This approach can make a cramped area feel more spacious and dynamic.

A window box is a fantastic way to add drama and excitement to an area where traditional gardening isn’t feasible. Window boxes transform windowsills into vibrant and seasonal gardens, adding both beauty and charm to the exterior of your home. Photo by: Rebecca Sweet.


Containers are ideal for concealing common garden eyesores, such as A/C units, electrical boxes, or exposed irrigation systems. When strategically placed, containers can blend, hide, or soften these unsightly elements while adding to your garden's overall design aesthetic. Whether using tall plants to screen larger objects or cascading plants to cover smaller distractions, containers not only serve a functional purpose but create striking, wow-factor moments in your garden.

See more on disguising eyesores in the garden.

Patios can be notoriously tight on space, making rectangular-shaped containers the perfect choice. In this example, the varying heights of the narrow containers not only soften a boring stucco wall but also discretely hide unsightly electrical outlets. Photo by: Rebecca Sweet.


When considered a ‘mobile landscape,’ lightweight resin containers can easily be moved around your garden throughout the year, offering remarkable flexibility, versatility, and creativity. These portable landscapes are ideal for filling in gaps created by dormant or deciduous plants, extending a garden bed’s blooms during a season’s downtime.

Containers are also invaluable while waiting for a newly planted garden to fill in, providing immediate beauty and gratification in sparse areas. Bulbs, annuals, and perennials are particularly well-suited for this purpose, thriving in containers and easily re-planted with the changing seasons, ensuring continuous color and interest in your garden.

Positioned discreetly behind larger shrubs, a resin container filled with vibrant salvia and dahlias serves as a transitional link between seasons. It thrives during the period when the nearby spring-blooming dianthus and yarrow are fading, preparing the garden for the upcoming emergence of summer-blooming Tithonia and Agastache. Photo by: Rebecca Sweet.


Planting a container with evergreen plants provides a reliable focal point and significantly reduces maintenance, eliminating the need for frequent replanting. These year-round focal points provide consistency and structure throughout the seasons, keeping your garden visually appealing even during winter. This approach is a practical, sustainable solution for low-maintenance gardening without sacrificing year-round interest.

This evergreen agave is elevated to new heights thanks to the beautiful antique container placed within the garden bed. While stunning throughout the year, its color and structure are especially appreciated during winter, when many of the surrounding plants are dormant. Photo by: Rebecca Sweet.


Containers offer a perfect (and sometimes the only!) solution when gardening in exceptionally challenging environments, like beneath densely rooted trees or among underground boulders. When traditional planting into the ground is next to impossible, containers allow plants to thrive without obstruction. This approach not only allows plants to grow without neighboring tree roots or other obstacles preventing their success but also provides flexibility in placement to optimize sunlight and aesthetic appeal.

Despite the challenging presence of redwood trees with their extensive root systems and surrounding granite boulders, this oversized container featuring a weeping Cercis 'Ruby Falls' provides a striking year-round focal point. Photo by: Rebecca Sweet.


Planted containers offer a versatile solution to turn the starkness of hard surfaces like patios and driveways into lively, dynamic landscapes. Beyond softening these harsh areas, containers are a canvas for creative expression through seasonal plantings or complementing the existing garden’s design. Whether opting for annuals, perennials, compact shrubs, or even edibles, the range of plant selections is virtually limitless, providing vibrant colors, textures, and structure to often uninspired spaces.

The dwarf ‘Bearss’ lime tree planted in an oversized container is the perfect solution for adding cozy charm to the side of a driveway—not to mention loads of little limes throughout the year! Photo by: Rebecca Sweet.


Choosing a container for your garden is a prime opportunity to let your creativity shine. Whether you prefer classic terra cotta pots, sleek modern planters, or whimsical recycled containers, each choice offers a chance to showcase your unique style. Mix and match different styles to create a wow-factor combination, or coordinate containers with the architectural style of your home.

Upcycling items into distinctive focal points for those inclined towards DIY projects often adds an extra layer of charm. Celebrating creativity in your container selection gives your garden a whimsical, personal touch that reflects your passion and personality as a gardener.

Rescued from a dumpster, this old, abandoned chair was transformed into a whimsical focal point, adding plenty of charm with abundant seasonal blooms. Nearby is an old fishing pail overflowing with cascading ivy. Photo by: Rebecca Sweet.


Not every container needs to be planted! Choosing a special, decorated, or unconventional container and opting not to fill it with plants allows its distinct design to shine as a standout feature. The empty container becomes an intriguing focal point in the garden, drawing attention with its unique shape, texture, or artistic embellishments.

When placed strategically, particularly in areas where sunlight plays with shadows, a larger container can transform into a dynamic canvas. Though subtle, the interplay of light and shadow that evolves throughout the day adds depth and visual interest to the garden.

The simple, elegant container is a colorful focal point in this serene garden bed, accentuated by the creative combination of textural foliage. The Lane Garden. Photo by: Rebecca Sweet.


Fun, passionate, and knowledgeable, three words that describe Rebecca Sweet! See what discussion topics are available and watch a short video as Rebecca explains how her talks will inspire, entertain, and educate gardeners at all skill levels.

Elements & Principles of Landscape Design
Unexpected Surprises in the Garden
Creating Echoes in the Garden
Designing With Foliage Over Flowers

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