Building a Potted Garden

An explosion of color in a potted garden.

Did you know that March 12th is National Plant a Flower Day? Many of us live or have lived in an urban setting providing only patios or balconies to house our gardens. Having started out this way, my wife Judy and I continue to maintain our backyard garden, often referred to as a "container garden," despite now having an adequate garden area to plant in the ground.

Why pots?

Potted gardens have some pretty significant advantages:

Decoration - Pots can be quite decorative and colorful (sometimes at the expense of the plant itself).

Portability - Maintaining plants in pots allows for constant redecorating and rearranging, a process that is more difficult when plants are well established in a garden.

Water Saving - Potted plants are easy to water, and you conserve water because you irrigate only the container and not the surrounding garden. No doubt there is more watering by hand, which takes time, but I find it quite cathartic.

Plant Health - We have found that most plants, ornamentals, and flowers adapt well to pots, and we can control the plant’s size by limiting the size of the container while still keeping the plants healthy and vibrant.

Critter control - We live in the high desert in a rural community, with a climate that is conducive to growing plants nearly year-round. But, the critters live here year-round as well, and they frequently like the taste of our plants. We try to live in harmony with them, so having plants in containers is helpful.

Building a Potted Garden (lantanas)

Our Story

This brings us to our personal story. We live in a place that was the first community to be certified by the National Wildlife Federation as a Wildlife Habitat. Written about by Judy a few years ago when she was a reporter, it inspired our move here. The area is renowned for its butterflies, Monarchs in particular, but we have many species.

Butterflies are fascinating creatures of great beauty, but they need specific plants to host their young (caterpillars). Adult butterflies lay eggs on or under a leaf; within a few days a caterpillar emerges. It munches the leaves, and a few days later, morphs into a chrysalis. A few days later, a new butterfly emerges and flutters around.

Caterpillars are ravenous creatures, and they can denude a plant of leaves and flowers in what seems like mere seconds. Having plants in pots allows us to rotate them in and out of the garden; we can easily replace plants that need a reprieve with ones that have re-grown their leaves and flowers, always providing food.

Building a Potted Garden (butterfly)

Certified Wildlife Habitat

Maintaining an inviting environment for birds is equally as easy. We placed birdfeeders and water in the garden with our potted plants near an old scrub oak, along with some sizable potted trees we’ve raised. The flowering plants also serve as a source of nectar for hummingbirds, adult butterflies, and various insects, which sometimes serve as food for the birds. The old oak and potted friends provide birds protection from predators; the species of birds we attract coexist quite well with the butterflies.

Judy and I decided to have our particular backyard potted garden also certified as a Wildlife Habitat. The process is fairly easy, and if you are so inclined check out the requirements on the National Wildlife Website.

 Building a Potted Garden (sign)