Make a Mother’s Day container garden

galvanized steel tub of flowers

Need a unique gift for mom? A container garden filled with flowers, food or herbs is the gift that keeps on growing. Handpick a container and plants that reflect mom’s personal style as a tribute to her.

Container selection

Hanging baskets and half-barrels are popular choices, but any container can be made into a garden. Antique coffee cans, vintage cowboy boots and colorful ceramics make creative container gardens.

Choose a container large enough to fit the height and diameter of plants, and provide plenty of room for roots to grow.

Good drainage is critical to plant health. If the container does not have drainage holes, drill or punch 5-6 holes in the bottom of the container.

Container garden design

Flowers. Create a visually stimulating flower container garden with a combo of 3 plants: 1 tall, 1 trailing and 1 filler. A free collection of ideas and blueprints from the University of Illinois is available at

  • Multiple shades of the same color make a harmonious-looking container. Contrasting colors create a dramatic look.
  • Add texture to the container: soft petals, leaves with smooth grooves or spikes of grass.
  • Mix it up with size: dainty blossoms, big blooms, large leaves or slender stems.
  • Choose a scent mom will love.

Some of my favorite flowers for containers: Coleus, geraniums, sweet potato vines, trailing petunia, basket asparagus, morning glory.

Vegetable, fruit and herbs. A food container garden is the perfect gift for moms who make fantastic salsa or strawberry jam.

  • Mini, dwarf or determinate type vege varieties work best in containers.
  • Most vege, fruit and herb plants require full sun exposure.
  • Some food plants require staking. Make sure the container can support stakes.
  • Edible landscaping plants offer the best of both worlds.

Some of my favorite food plants for containers: round cherry, oval grape and pear tomatoes, chives, sage, aloe, salad bowl lettuce, Chinese 5 color peppers.

Caring for container gardens

There are 5 critical components to care for container plants: soil, sun, water, fertilizer and pollination.

Use potting mix, not topsoil, to fill the container. Potting mix provides superior drainage and soil aeration.

When combining plants in a container, choose plants with similar sun, water and fertilizer requirements. Container gardens require more frequent watering and have higher fertilizer needs than outdoor garden beds.

Vegetable, fruit and herb container gardens grown indoors or in protected areas outdoors may not get insect or wind traffic required for pollination. Provide self-pollinating plants with a gentle shake to encourage pollen movement. If the plant cross-pollinates, brush some pollen from the male flower onto the pistil on a female flower.


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