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Container Gardens for Mother’s Day Gift Giving
by Debbie Clark - posted 05/06/13

It is May and Mother’s Day is fast approaching. For many of us, we are trying to find that perfect gift for that special lady in our lives. If you have been trying to figure out what to get your mother, why not consider a container garden. A container garden could be an herb garden, mini vegetable garden or a beautifully planted container of blooming annuals or perennials. Whether your mother gardens or just enjoys cooking in the kitchen, a planted container can be a great gift.

To create a container garden, start with a decorative container. You can choose from containers made of plastic, glazed ceramic, terra-cotta, wood, fiberglass, cement or other materials. Containers come in a wide selection of styles and colors and they do not have to be expensive or overly decorative. Get creative when choosing your container. Always select a container that has a drain hole in the bottom. Good drainage is essential to container gardening.

The next and most important step is to use a good commercial potting mix when planting your container. Never use garden soil. A commercial potting mix will be free of weeds and pests, will hold enough water and will drain well. A nice fluffy potting mix is the best.

Geraniums, ivy and alyssum make up the thriller, spiller and filler in this arrangement.

Do not forget about fertilizer. Plants that are growing in containers are confined to that area and will need regular fertilizing about every three weeks. Use a good commercial liquid fertilizer or an organic fertilizer. Always follow the label directions and remember that “more” is not better. Container gardens will always require more attention than plants in the ground.

When planting your containers with flowering annuals or perennials use the thriller, filler and spiller method for planting. What does that mean? The thriller plant will be the largest, eye-catching and most exciting plant in the container. Use a plant that is big, bold and beautiful. The spiller is a plant that trails down over the sides of the container. Examples of spillers include ivy (Hedera helix) or sweet potato vine (Ipomea batatas). The fillers are plants that fill in rest of the container and are smaller.

When planting your container use three to five varieties of plants. When designing your container always consider bloom color, leaf colors, texture and lighting requirements.

If you have a mother who enjoys cooking, why not create an herb garden for the kitchen? When designing your garden, select herbs that are commonly used in cooking. Good herbs to use are sage, rosemary, oregano, parsley, thyme, basil, chives and cilantro.

I prefer to plant each herb in a separate pot and then set the pots down into a larger decorative container. It makes it easier to remove and replace plants as needed. If you want to make this gift extra special, add herb plant markers to the individual pots of herbs. In the future, if plants are moved to the outdoor garden, mom will enjoy having the plant markers to identify the herbs.

This herb garden container has plant markers, rosemary, sage and parsley.
This vegetable garden container has tomato, spearmint, basil and lettuce.

A vegetable container garden can be a wonderful garden to give to the person who may not have space for a garden, limited time or abilities. A vegetable garden can easily be moved to a sunny location on a deck, patio or balcony. There are many vegetables that can grow in a large container and provide several good meals during the growing season. Your vegetable garden can contain lettuce, spinach, chard, radishes, tomatoes, herbs, carrots and even corn. Many seed companies have developed vegetables that grow smaller in size but can still provide high yields. In a recent seed catalogue, I read about corn that was developed to grow shorter and in containers. A few seeds could produce several meals of corn on the cob. When planting your vegetable garden, choose a large container and get creative with plant or seed selection. Include extra packages of seeds for continued crops.

Container gardens can make a great gift for Mother’s Day. It is the gift that just keeps giving.

Photos courtesy of Debbie Clark


Debbie Clark is an Advanced Master Gardener and a member of the Garden Writers Association. Visit her blog site at “Garden Thyme with the Creative Gardener”.