A Step-by-Step Guide to Planting a Container Garden in an Urban Setting

Those of us mere mortals may have a hard time figuring out what to plant in our container gardens, especially in cities. But that’s where the superheroes of the Landscape Architecture group at SCJ step in! The following is a step by step guide to creating a spectacular container garden from our Butte office’s Rebekah Rongo, ASLA:

Photo of an SCJ Studio Residential Project by Miranda Estes Photography
STEP ONE- Choose Planters!
Explore varying heights and sizes, and select a neutral color- let the plants be the color pop! This is my favorite planter manufacturer at the moment.
STEP TWO- Determine Placement Location

Identify the best spot to place them and examine their microclimate. Is it in full sun, shade or partial? Are they flanking your entryway? Perched on the railing? Tucked into the backyard?

STEP THREE- Give Them a Purpose!

Are they ornamental planters for flowers? Are they growing herbs by the bbq on the back deck? Are you wanting them to be full of strawberries and sweet peas for an afternoon snack?

STEP FOUR- Select plants! (the best part) 

Just remember this motto and you will be golden: “Filler. Spiller. Thriller.” Meaning you should choose plants that have these characteristics:

  • The “Filler” is the one taking the most space up in the pot- typically an evergreen, or something that will maintain its form and have good texture as the seasons change.
    • A few favorites: Ornamental Grasses, dwarf conifers, kohuhu, dogwood, lavender
  • The “Thriller”– have fun here, this guy can be colorful, blooming or fruiting, but is the star of the show.
    • A few favorites: canna, butterfly bush, petunias, begonias, flowering maple, fucia, abutilon
  • The “Spiller” – is low, airy, smaller, and trailing in form. You want this one to fall dramatically out of the scene.
    • A few favorites: nasturtium, black-eyed susan vine, heuchera, sweet potato vine, creeping jenny, trailing jasmine, creeping oregano, strawberries….(I could go on for days)

STEP FIVE- Have fun!
Remember gardening is an experiment and you can always change it up the next season. Feeling kind of whimsical? Throw in some bulbs to get that early Spring delight! Or try some tropical bulbs you can bring inside for the Winter.

We hope you all found this as informative as those of us who aren’t in the LA field did! If you have any follow-ups for Rebekah, feel free to put them in the comments, or message the Butte LAs directly through their Instagram account: @scjstudio_montana

Photo of an SCJ Studio Residential Project by Miranda Estes Photography

One Comment

  1. Great article! We’ve just moved into a townhouse that doesn’t have a lot of outdoor space, so we’re planning on getting a combination of pots and hanging plants. These are great tips!


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