Absolutely the hottest current garden trend is small space gardens.
Homes might be getting larger (particularly in city suburbs), but building lots and so their yards are getting smaller.
In cities, space always has been at a premium.
There may be just a very small yard, or none at all, just a balcony or patio.
Even people who have big yards often don’t have (or just don’t want to spend) the time and energy larger in-ground gardens demand.
Or much of their yard is taken up for other purposes – a place for kids and pets to play, for example. Or car parking. Or a pool.
But they still want a tree or two (for shade), some shrubs (for privacy and interest) and flowers to add the wow factor.
And somewhere nice to sit out and relax in good weather.
It is the popularity of small space gardens that is helping make container gardening another super-hot garden trend.
If stylish and trendy is you, continue reading to find out all that’s new and now in gardening, the best and brightest container garden ideas.
And if trendy doesn’t register on your inner GPS, you just came here for some easy container garden ideas, good. Read on!
The latest garden trends
- Container garden idea – Mix it up!
It used to be that you planted herbs in ordered (usually geometric) garden sections, vegetables in neatly staked rows, and flowers either in the ground or in pots.
A place for everything, and everything in its place.
How dull! Now, you see herbs mixed in with flowers or vegetables or both, and why not? Vegetable plants aren’t the uglies, needing to be relegated to the back of the garden.
Mix them in with herbs and flowers. They can look wonderful together. I love the delicate blue flowers of mint, for example, such a contrast with zinnias, marigolds, basil and tomato in the same container – a fragrant as well as cheering sight and happy together because they all love full sun, a loose soil and regular deep watering.
Vary the heights, colors, textures and types of plants in your pots and you get a more casual, natural garden.
- What we want now – a softer, more casual style
Two identical pots or urns with beautifully matched plants, one on either side of your front door – that’s a timeless and formal combination that makes a front-yard statement – the official welcome to your home.
But while the front of your house is its made-up face to the world, the back is your own private space.
In your back yard secret garden, plant drifts of plants and flowers. Mix pot colors and plant heights. Tuck containers into the spaces between shrubs or in-ground perennials.
Use curves rather than straight lines.
It is both more casual, and more relaxing to allow your garden to look a bit less straight-edged (or tightly clipped); it allows the eyes to linger and the mind to take a pause.
- Grow local! Use wildflowers native to where you live
”Why do you have all these weeds?” a non-gardening friend asked several years ago (it was goldenrod he was objecting to). I explained that they weren’t unwanted plants, they were native plants. Where I live local native plants also means coneflowers, thistles, day lily and black-eyed Susans that have thrived here (without any help from us) for thousands of years. They’re meant to be here. Not only do they look wonderful (in either their wild or somewhat tamed garden selection versions), they are perfectly suited to our short but hot summers with infrequent rain.
They need less watering and less care in general than non-native garden flowers, they are tough and pest-resistant survivors and they make it through our cold winter. It doesn’t get more easy-care than that!
At one time, I thought a wildflower garden had to be separate from a garden-garden. But why? Why not mix the natives and the imports?
- Easy care gardens means drought-resistant plants
There is no more easy care or more versatile way to garden than container gardening.
Milder winters, hotter summers, climate change, watering restrictions for many urban gardeners and just not wanting to lug water (who enjoys that?) all have helped create the rising popularity of plants that don’t need much water and/or don’t want water very often.
Shrubs and larger perennial flowers that are well established (with deeper roots), ornamental grasses and succulents are among the plants that are superior water misers.
- Edible gardens
Growing tomatoes has never gone out of style, because they are easy to grow in just about any space as long as they get support and plenty of sun and water.
The trend is the popularity of growing tomatoes in hanging or upright containers, on patios, decks, balconies and roof gardens.
And vegetable gardening in containers isn’t limited to tomatoes. Beans, peppers, salad greens, and green onions are among the many other vegetables, herbs and fruits that can be grown in small space gardens in containers.
- Trailing plants
Trailing plants aren’t the new kids on the block, either. But suddenly, in just the past couple of years, there seem to be a lot more choices and they seem to be everywhere – in the big showy pots at public gardens and botanical gardens, on gardening magazine covers, talked about in gardening workshops, used in planting demonstrations and, of course, for sale at the garden centers.
I’ve tried several trailing plants in my containers and found the top performers in pots are bacopa, a fast-grower with pretty white flowers, and sweet potato vine, with its showy leaves in startling colors.
- The sweet simplicity of one plant, one pot or all-one-color pots
Plants that have a mounding or bushy shape are idea for one plant/one pot, such as a container that is entirely bidens, petunias, especially the new WAVE petunias, lobelia, fan flower and pansies.
Though you have plenty of choices, the more delicate-looking plants seem to look the best as one plant;one pot. Or ones with big showy flowers, such as tuberous begonias or New Guinea impatiens.
The all-one-color theme, both in-ground and among container garden ideas, also isn’t new, but it remains popular, especially an all-white garden in a pot that is richly colored, such as a blue or green ceramic pot.
- Growing roses in containers
Until recently, I would have said that growing roses was among the worst of container garden ideas. That’s because few roses were really suited to growing in containers (growing roses in raised beds was the exception). Even if these few rose selections (such as Bonica rose) did manage OK in pots, they still had all or most of the usual rose problems – prone to pests and diseases, not winter hardy in the colder zones (like where I live), needing tricky pruning techniques and generally acting like princesses.
But now plant breeders and growers have developed plants that change this picture for rose-loving small space gardeners. New varieties of ground-covering roses and shrub roses called carpet roses are easy care, disease-resistant, tough little plants (rarely more than a meter or 3 feet high) and they even get through winter in garden zones 5 and up (or can winter inside in the colder zones).
My favorite of these container garden ideas? It has to be growing roses in containers!
- Houseplants on holiday on the deck or patio
Most tropicals and succulents that spend winters indoors in colder climates love a summer vacation on a sheltered (and partly shaded) patio or deck.
Moving pot plants outside isn’t among the newest of container gardening ideas.
What is new among container garden ideas is planting your houseplants outside (rather than just shifting their pot), using your showy living room tropicals (such as philodendron) or succulents (for example, snake plant) as the centerpiece in a container, surrounded by smaller plants.
At the end of the season, repot your star attraction before moving it back indoors (it will appreciate the fresh soil) and discard the spent annuals it summered with.
- Pots on the move
One of the great things about planting in containers is they don’t have to stay put.
Why is lugging your containers around another one of the container garden ideas recommended here?
Because you can change pots around to suit the amount and type of light they get, to make watering easier, or just to create a more pleasing arrangement.
To make this effortless, put heavy pots on the type of container saucer that has wheels (I’ve seen them for sale at discount stores as well as at garden centers). Or attach caster wheels (available at hardware stores) to the bottom of a wood container.
If the growing season is longer where you live, you could change what you grow and where you grow it, merely by having a moveable container garden. For example, you could plant salad greens for a spring harvest, then wheel (or lift) your container to a sunny spot for tomatoes and peppers.
More container garden ideas & trends
Here are more container garden ideas and trends that have put down roots. I think these will be around for some time to come:
- Planting trees in containers
- Planting shrubs in containers
- Raised beds
- Guerilla gardening, or stealth planting on vacant city lots or unused land.
- Container gardening in community gardens, combined with or replacing in-ground gardening in community gardens (allotments).
- Balcony-sized outdoor furniture, comfortable, functional and stylish, but more in scale with small space gardens.
- Roof gardens used for growing food. Roof gardens have had the aura of luxury – something exclusive to building residents, or perhaps belonging to those who lived in the penthouse. Urban rooftop farming is the hot new idea.