Ellen Palmer

Grays Harbor County
Master Gardener
April 1996

Presentation to the Montesano Community Schools

Container gardening has always been popular. No doubt you will recall seeing in ancient paintings urns filled with plants, or stone entrances with container planters. Window boxes were often attached to cobblestone houses in early Europe architecture. Container gardening has been around for hundreds of years. Yet today's attraction to it is often experienced by changing life-styles.

People are choosing to move to condominium to allow themselves more time for things other than yard work.. Many new homes are now built on smaller lots because of higher costs. Some people have chosen to deliberately eliminate all lawn maintenance by constructing expansive decks. Whatever reason for wanting to add colorful plants and flowers to your surroundings, without the typical yardwork, can be obtained through container gardening.

There seems to be very little material available through the library on this subject. However, I have recently found the book, "Container Gardening" by Sunset Magazine. It was originally published in 1984 and is now in its sixth printing (1991). It is very thorough about the preparation and choices of planters as well as describing over 50 choices of complimentary plants. Whether you chose a redwood or oak tub, a wooden box, a metal livestock tank, or a ceramic bathtub, they will all make wonderful container candidates; even a cardboard box can be used. You are the creator of your container garden and the possibilities are limitless.


If you put any perennials, shrubs, or trees in containers you must protect them from our winter weather. You will need to either move them under some type of cover (carport, or garage), or wrap the circumference of the container with some protective materials (burlap, newspapers, black plastic). Another protective measure would be to move it to the west side of your building, under the eves. Don't forget to give it some water from time to time. This is particularly true for azaleas, and rhododendrons. It is always wise to make your container portable in case you have to move it.


  • Alyssum
  • Aster
  • Bachelor Buttons
  • Bulbs
  • Chrysanthemums
  • Cosmos
  • Dahlias
  • Daisies
  • Dianthus
  • Dusty Millers
  • English Ivy
  • Geraniums
  • Grasses
  • Herbs
  • Lotus
  • Marigolds
  • Pansies
  • Petunias
  • Portulaca
  • Roses
  • Vegetables
  • Verbena
  • Vines
  • Zinnias


  • Coral Bells
  • Creeping Charley
  • Ferns
  • Fuchsias
  • Helitrope
  • Hostas
  • Impatiens
  • Ivy
  • Lobellia
  • Primrose


    I would like to put in a promotional for Butterflies. Before you plant your container garden, do some research. Butterflies native to your area like to feed on most flowers we grow. Since butterflies get thirsty, you may want to sink a shallow pan or plate into your garden soil and fill it with water for them. You'll attract the most butterflies to your garden if you plant their favorite flowers in clumps. Zinnias, for example, are a preferred food for many butterfly species, especially when the flowers are crowded together in large masses. There plant called butterfly bush but that grow to six foot, so provide large containers or room in the garden. New England aster which blooms in early September and Cosmos and Nasturtiums are their favorites.

    Sunset Container Gardening, ISBN 0-376-03206-5
    Sunset Annuals, ISBN 0-376-03064-X
    Ortho's Color With Annuals, ISBN 0-89721-095-6
    Ortho's How to Attract Hummingbirds & Butterflies, ISBN 0-89721-232-0
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