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Choice of plants for container gardening

Photo: Jardin botanique de Montréal (Collection Bertrand Dumont)

Before turning to container gardening, it is important to ask yourself which plants are well suited for this type of cultivation. Here are the ones to favor, which to avoid, as well as the factors to consider when choosing plants.

Plants to favor

When choosing plants, take into account the growing conditions (the hours of sunshine, how much wind, etc.), of the available space, your personal preferences, the amount of time you’ll be able to devote to watering and maintenance, and your level of gardening experience.

  • A number of annuals, herbs, vegetables and edible flowers can be easily grown in containers.
  • Favor vegetable varieties that are especially designed for cultivation in pots. Compact or dwarf cultivars, those that produce smaller fruit and early-season varieties generally give the best results.
  • More and more, in catalogues and at garden centers, varieties adapted to container cultivation are clearly identified.

Plants to avoid

Hardy plants (perennials, conifers, shrubs and trees) are much less suitable for this type of cultivation, because of the constraints presented by their overwintering.

Diversify your plants in containers to attract beneficial insects

To attract a variety of beneficial organisms, grow a diversity of plants (predators, parasitoids, pollinators). Also make sure to continually have plants that are flowering in order to supply nectar and pollen to honeybees, bumblebees, butterflies and other pollinators. Here are some recommendations:

  • Sweet alyssum, garden heliotrope, black-eyed Susan, sage and elegant zinnia are some examples of plants these insects look for and that grow well in containers.
  • Herbs are also highly inviting for pollinators when they’re allowed to flower.
  • Avoid double- and triple-flower plants, which are not very attractive to beneficial insects.
  • If you’d like to attract the monarch butterfly and you have a sunny area sheltered from the wind, tropical milkweed is an excellent choice for a pot. That milkweed is both a host plant and a nectar-producing plant for that species of butterfly.

One or more types of plants per container?

When you put a number of plants together in the same container, make sure they have similar growing requirements. If you’re planting specimens that need a lot of water and fertilizer, or are very vigorous or large in size, better to use individual pots.

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