Pros and cons of container gardening

Pros and cons of container gardening

No garden? You can still enjoy the pleasure of growing plants

Not all of us are lucky enough to have a garden, many urban dwellers just have a courtyard or balcony, however this is no reason why you can’t have a container garden. However, there are pros and cons of only growing plants in containers, so you have to weigh them up and conclude whether it is the right course for you. 


  • You can have a garden without actually having any soil.
  • You can easily and quickly brighten up a dreary backyard.
  • You can grow plants which love an alkaline soil alongside those which will only thrive in an acid soil.
  • You can always have a stunning display by re-positioning those plants which have faded, just push them into the background and bring forward those which are about to flower.
  • You can grow almost anything in containers that you would grow in the ground, provided the pot is the correct size. For example don’t plant a small Japanese Maple in too large a pot as they hate sitting in cold wet compost over winter.
  • If a plant isn’t happy in a particular situation it can easily be moved around until you find the ideal position.
  • You can even have an orchard on a balcony; family fruit trees are available which have 2 or 3 different varieties on the same plant, so you only need one to have fruit. They are specifically bred for containers so will remain small.
  • You can ‘grow your own’ veg on a balcony and have a good variety of fresh nutritious vegetables throughout the summer. Fix trellis to the walls for growing peas and beans, if the wall receives full sun and is sheltered you can even try growing cordon tomatoes. Plant a large container with mini vegetables such as Chantenay carrots, baby beets, radish, shallots and dwarf French beans. Fill the gaps with chives, salad leaves and spring onions.
  • You can be environmentally friendly by re-cycling old or unwanted objects; an old rusty wheelbarrow, wellies, a colander can become a hanging basket, old laundry basket, even broken terracotta pots can be arranged in a pile, the crevices filled with compost and succulents. Plastic fruit punnets from the supermarket can be used to grow salad leaves, an old porcelain sink can become an alpine garden, farm troughs with holes can be filled with annual bedding, anything which has holes in the bottom and will hold compost can be re-purposed and filled with plants.
  • Growing salad crops can help with the current cost of living crisis as you don’t need any power to produce a delicious nutritious meal.
container garden


  • The biggest drawback to growing plants in containers is that they need more maintenance. You have to keep your eye on them, especially in hot weather when they may need watering twice a day.
  • If you are growing large plants or even trees they won’t reach their full potential and may not live as long as if they were planted in the ground.
  • If you are container gardening on a balcony check that it can bear the not inconsiderable weight of heavy pots and wet compost. Keep the weight down by using lightweight containers, such as zinc, resin or plastic.
container garden
  • Dependant upon the plant species your pots will possibly need protection from the frost over winter. The best way to do this is to make sure you have placed a piece of broken crock over the drainage hole then raise the pot off the floor using pot feet or just a few stones. This ensures that water does not pool around the base of the container and therefore won’t freeze. You may also have to wrap the pot in sacking or bubble wrap, If the plant itself is tender wrap in sacking or an old sheet, not plastic as this just produces condensation which will rot the plant, whereas something porous will allow the plant to breathe.
  • Container grown plants will need to be re-potted every 2 – 3 years.

Although growing plants and vegetables in containers can be challenging and you need to be especially vigilant it is also immensely satisfying. Creating your own little piece of chill out space from a dull concrete yard is essential for our mental health in this stressful world. 

Profile Image Angela Slater

Angela Slater

Daughter of a farmer and market gardener so have always had a connection with the outdoors, whether it was keeping animals or producing fruit, vegetables and cut flowers. Along with my work at Hayes Garden World I also have a smallholding, mainly breeding rare breed pigs. I gained an HND and BSc in Conservation and Environmental Land Management, as a result I am an ardent environmentalist and have a keen interest in environmentally friendly gardening. In my time at Hayes I worked for several years in the Outdoor Plant and Houseplant areas.