Container gardening is brilliant. You can put plants in places that have no soil and refresh the contents each season. You can design the garden from scratch and revamp it by simply moving the pots around.
But with so many possibilities, why do so many of us settle for plain old plastic and terracotta pots? Unusual containers are much more fun and dynamic, as well as letting you put your own personal stamp on your garden.
The choices are endless – you’d be amazed what can hold a plant! Clothing, household objects, even stuff from your recycling bin. Here are some great ideas from my live planting challenge at the Ideal Home Show!
Recycle old saucepans from your kitchen, rather than just throwing them out. Or if you don’t want to plant up your best pans, you can buy cheap old ones anywhere.
If you can, drill holes in the bottom and add a layer of gravel to help drainage and stop your plants getting waterlogged.
Saucepans are usually quite deep and wide, making them great for herbs. It’s also a fun novelty to grow food in cookware items.
Put them outside by the back door so they’re close at hand when you’re cooking. Parsley, thyme and oregano and great fresh herbs to cut and use.
Orchids are the best plants to put in wine glasses. Moth orchids like this phalaenopsis are sold in clear pots and should be planted in clear containers. This is because in the wild they grow on the sides of trees and their green roots contain chlorophyll, meaning they can photosynthesise. But they need light in order to do this, so don’t cover them up!
The wine glass allows light to reach the roots and gives the orchid a bit more height and a really classy look.
Another good object is a pint glass, which is very deep. Be careful when you use glass containers because they have no drainage holes. Water little and often to stop your soil getting waterlogged.
Ivy is perfect for this kind of container as it’s a tough plant and trails nicely down the deep sides. The glass also provides interesting reflections.
If you don’t have any spare teapots, you can buy them from recycling centres and charity shops for a few pennies. There are hundreds of different shapes, colours and designs, so why not create a display with a mismatched selection?
You can put them outside in the garden filled with spring bulbs, or use them to house different herbs for your kitchen. You can even fill them with houseplants and put them on the windowsill!
Here, I’ve used ivy again because it trails nicely around the container. You could just as easily use Flaming Katy, peace lilies or hypoestes.
These are usually quite ornamental and the corrugated exterior adds a nice texture. It’s the perfect pot for a short term bedding plant like primula or spring bulbs.
Simply pull them out of their original plastic pots and pop them into the coffee cup for a fresh windowsill display.
Lampshades make excellent container covers. It’s best not to actually plant in the lampshade itself, but line it with a carrier bag and stand your planter inside it. Here I’ve used Sansevieria, also known as ‘the mother-in-law’s tongue’. The contrast with the lampshade makes a striking container display.
To water the plant I usually take the plant back out of the container cover, water it in the sink it and return it to the cover later.
I think this is really quirky and it adds a bit of colour too. I’ve planted an African violet in the top to directly contrast with the bright yellow of the torch, adding a bit of personality to any container display.
Cups are great things to plant up, and they’re easy for kids to do, making them great Mother’s Day gifts. On the one side I’ve used a crassula, also known as a ‘money tree’ which looks really quirky.
Or try a failsafe trailing ivy. Just remember to water little and often because there are no drainage holes.
I think this used to have an Easter egg in it before. I’ve planted a kalanchoe or ‘Flaming Katy’, which is a nice little succulent plant. It has an abundance of flowers and lasts really well in containers.
Rather than plant directly into this container, I’ve used it as a pot cover. It’s a very fun container and a great novelty for kids to make.
It’s always good fun to plant up a boot and leave it by the back door. Drill in a few drainage holes to stop it getting waterlogged.
I’ve planted ivy, but it would work with a whole host of flowering plants – fuchsias and geraniums work well.
Cat cookie jar
This is one of my favourites. I asked the live audience if they would prefer a fern or a flower and they all voted for the fern. So I planted it up!
Again, water little and often to make sure the soil doesn’t get waterlogged.
It’s perfect as a little basket planter. Here I’ve used a primula and a little palm to give a good effect. But it’s deep enough to hold a range of plants.
Use old socks to brighten up flowering plants like these balled primulas. I wrapped the sock around the container to make perfect windowsill plants.
You can choose socks to contrast or complement the colour of the flowers. When you’re finished with the display, you can take the socks off and plant the primulas in the ground.
They make great containers because they’re big and can hold plenty of compost. Don’t forget to drill a few holes in the bottom!
Here I’ve planted rosemary – place the pot outside your back door and cut off a few fresh sprigs for your lamb dishes. Marvellous!
For more garden planting ideas, check out my blog:
David Domoney is a Chartered Horticulturalist, Broadcaster, and Author. David has worked with a number of the UK’s leading garden retailers as a plant buyer and strategic consultant. With more than 30 years experience, in horticulture, David is as passionate about plants now as he was when he bought his first plant at a village fete.