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A row of pots with red flowers.

You can transform the look of your home--inside and outside--with container gardening.

Flowers in a bucket?

By Pauline Oo

From eNews, May 19, 2005

In the past, when someone said, "I'm gardening," I imagined that person on his or her hands and knees up to the elbows in dirt. To me, gardening meant that you had to have a tilled plot of soil to plant things in. These days, I know you can plant flowers, vegetables, or herbs in a pot or any type of container and still call it gardening. In fact, according to University horticulturist Mary Meyer, this branch of gardening is the fastest growing area in horticulture.

The National Gardening Association reports that 26 million households in the United States garden in containers. And it's one of the best ways to add color to patios, decks, and other areas where flowerbeds just aren't possible.

"You can grow plants in almost anything that can hold soil," says Meyer, an associate professor of horticultural science with the University of Minnesota Extension Service. "Use your imagination, but remember that [the container] has to have drainage. [When you're wanting to be creative] you might be tempted to grow plants inside your house without drainage, and that's really very bad for the plant."

For successful container gardening, Meyer recommends:

The plant you choose to grow in a container really depends on five factors, says Meyer: the site or location (is the area sunny or shady?), personal preference, color scheme (do you want to match your curtains or highlight a walkway?), purpose (are you looking to frame an entrance or do you need to cover a hole in the wall?), and attention (do you want to soften or draw more attention to something?).

Meyer suggests a visit to the U's Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chanhassen for some ideas on the types of containers and plants to use. "There are labels in the pots so you can know what [the Arboretum gardeners] have used," she says. To get more "recipes" for your containers, she also recommends the Ball Horticultural, Inc. and Proven Winners Web sites. For a list of the best annuals for Minnesota, see

The information by Mary Meyer was adapted from her April 2 lecture, "Plant Beauty in Convenient Packages," at Classes Without Quizzes, an annual public program by the College of Agriculture, Environmental Sciences.