Low-Cost Creative Ideas for Container Gardens

Looking for some inspirational ways to give your small space or garden a facelift?  I’ve put together some thrifty and creative ideas to get the most out of growing a garden in pots.

New ways with old pots

Got an odd assortment of containers of all colours, shapes and sizes or black plastic pots and want a more harmonious look for grouping them all together? Try these ideas:

  1. A couple of coats with water based non-toxic acrylic paint to coordinate the colours.
  2. Wrap them in hessian bags for an earthy look (hold in place with wire and tie at the top with rope or plaited string).
  3. Hide them inside another container or cachepot.

    Painting old pots is a low cost way to give them a new life

    Try revamping old pots with a quick coat of paint for a colourful facelift.

Pot within a Pot

Want to use a ceramic, terracotta or brick pot because you love the design? To make re-potting easier, put your plant in a slightly smaller plastic pot inside the bigger one. Choose one that fits the same shape.  This becomes the cachepot.

Effective use of cachepots

Here old Twinings Tea tins have been used as cachepots to hide less attractive plastic pots inside. They look great on the kitchen windowsill.

You can also hide an ugly pot inside a more attractive one! Position the top of the internal plastic pot just below the rim of the outer display cachepot. Sit it on pebbles, gravel or other drainage material.

If you don’t want to see the inner pot, you can disguise it. Just cover the top of both pots with mulch. e.g. sphagnum moss, decorative pebbles, well-washed sea shells or coir fibre.

Well washed sea shells can be used as an effective mulch for plants

Sea shells make a practical and decorative mulch for pot plants and help theme your garden


Internal Pot Space

When selecting a suitable container for a large plant, make sure you allow at least 8cm of internal space below the plant’s root ball inside the pot.  This will allow sufficient room to add enough potting mix for the plant’s root ball to sit on and grow into.

Windbreaks, Sun and Privacy Screens

Delicate plants exposed to windy conditions on a high-rise balcony or verandah may need protection.  The wind can quickly dry out pots, knock them over, shred plant foliage and break their stems.


Great use of plants providing wind protection using vertical space

A vertical living windbreak is being grown on this trellis to help protect an outdoor eating area

In winter, wind chill will also affect plants. Enclose a balcony with a pull-down shade screen, vertical trellis or plant a natural screen with a tub of taller plants that provide a hedge effect. Suitable species include compact dwarf varieties of lilly pillies and peppermint willow myrtle.

  • Choose suitable plant species for the conditions. Not all plants do well in exposed conditions such as high wind, strong sun or extreme shade.  Careful plant selection and positioning will avoid unnecessary casualties.
  • Decorative urns. Often tall and on a pedestal, they are potentially top-heavy and vulnerable to falling over. So select one that can counteract the weight in the base or secure it well.
  • Safety in numbers. Choose a small number of large pots or planters rather than lots of small ones. There’s less risk of damage and lower maintenance.

Heavyweight Containers

Lightweight pots or tall, bulky potted plants can fall over if exposed to winds. One solution to this is to initially choose a pot with sufficient weight and to match it to a plant that won’t cause it to topple over by growing too tall.  Keep your pot plants trimmed if you are in a windy location.

Potted plants that are top heavy can blow over

Rounded pots are not as stable as squat square shaped ones.

Other solutions to avoid wind damage are to:

  • Nestle the base of the pot in amongst some heavy stones.
  • Try to create a windbreak between the exposed area and the pot.
  • Grow a few plants in a heavy-based tub as a living windbreak to screen other lightweight pots from being damaged.
  • Alternatively, surround delicate plants or lightweight pots with other pots or containers to prevent them toppling over.

Even if the lightweight pots do tip a little towards each other, the foliage is less likely to be badly damaged. These techniques also help prevent pots from breaking.

Pot-ential Bargains

Garage sales, markets, fetes, produce supplies stores, friends and neighbours, council recycle centres and kerb clean-up days, discount shops, the local paper and noticeboards are often good places to find containers to start growing in.

Repurposing old items into creative planters is easy. Upcycling offers you loads of benefits and there are plenty of inspirational ideas to get you started.

Colourful salad garden grown in a recycled wheelbarrow

This rusty wheelbarrow was given a new coat of paint and now houses a salad garden.

Creative Containers

Provided there is adequate drainage and room to grow, you can re-use or repurpose an amazing array of containers and objects for growing food, colour or ornamentals.

Spruce up an old wheelbarrow. Or try growing plants in a pair of retired gardening boots, a child’s gumboots, watering cans, bathtubs, buckets, boxes and even a clamshell sandpit.  Bury it in the ground for a water garden or plant out a child’s garden.


Green Gumboots are a colourful way to get kids growing food

Green Gumboots! When little feet grow out of boots, why not reuse them as colourful containers for children to grow their own pick and pluck garden.

Hanging in Suspense!

Hanging baskets make great use of vertical space and you can create eye-catching displays.  To save more space, buy a tiered set of hanging pots that are all connected one under the other.  This will avoid wasting water and is great for privacy screens.

Hanging in Suspense Container Garden

Here excellent use of vertical space is achieved with hanging baskets as well as tiered pots

Save space with shallow pots

Avoid wasting money and space by planting shallow-rooted vegetables, annuals and herbs into shallow pots. Many plants only need 15cm (6in) so why plant them in deep pots?  Save larger, more expensive deep containers for plants that need more personal space and have a deeper root system.

Match plant to pot

For dramatic visual effect, match your pot colour with the flowers or foliage you are growing in it.

Pretty potted colour | The Micro Gardener

Using contrasting colours can have a striking effect especially when they are mass planted.


If you liked this article, you might also enjoy Three Factors to Consider when Choosing Pots, The Benefits of Container Gardening and Choosing a Container – The Pros and Cons.

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© Copyright Anne Gibson, The Micro Gardener 2010-2013 – http://www.themicrogardener.com. All rights reserved.

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