Information about plants & gardens for Brisbane & Qld


Container Gardening in Qld

With shrinking gardens and more paving, decks, patios and balconies surrounding our homes, container gardening is going to become increasingly important in Queensland outdoors. But even if you have plenty of garden space, containers are useful for providing eye-catching accents, decorating difficult corners, and filling out garden beds.

In this climate, however, growing healthy plants in containers presents some challenges, particularly as pots are often placed in the most plant-unfriendly locations like sun-scorched patios.

Containers have so much to offer...
  • instant effects: a decorative pot adds character instanly. Many plants available in advanced sizes to complete the picture.
  • easy effects: no digging required, use a decorative pot or cheat by hiding plants in the garden (see below)
  • flexibility: move them around, easily replace sick plants with fresher one or your favourite in flower
  • portability: take them with you when you move (subject to whatever movement controls that may apply where you live to control the spread of pests and diseases. Check with appropriate authorities)
  • containment: keep species that might be too rampant if planted out in the garden uder control
  • save water: only apply to the plant, not the neighbourhood's tree roots as well
  • expand the possibilities: grow plants that you wouldn't be able to grow otherwise by creating special conditions through potting mix or microclimate
  • creativity: make gardens in the air, on walls and other "impossible" places

Indoor versus Outdoor potted plants

While almost any plant can be grown in a container with suitable care (and hardware), some species lend themselves more naturally to pot culture than others.

Naturally compact/dwarf growth habit (both top growth and root system) and ability to bounce back after periods of neglect and over/under watering anre generally desirable.

Many species commonly grown as indoors in colder climates will grow in frost-free partsof Queensland, but note that they may nevertheless require a shaded and sheltered position. Go to Indoor Plants for more about houseplants.

For more sunny and exposed positions in Queensland, a quite different range of species is required. These plants have to tolerate not only the sun (and remember that many outdoor areas around the house have lot of extra heat reflected off walls and paving), but drought.

Unless you have an automated watering system, or are very dedicated, your pots are sure to experience drying out from time to time, exacerbated by wind exposure. Good container plants can surive perioids of dryness and recover quickly without excessive wilting, dieback or leaf drop.

Popular plants for outdoor containers

Plants popular for sunny balconies and patios in Queensland include:
Bougainvillea (dwarf kinds)
Tibouchina (dwarf kinds)
Citrus (dawrf or dwarfing rootstocks)
Herbs (e.g. Rosemary)
Euphorbias including poysean hybrids
Other succulents many types
Schelfflera arboricola

For a shaded or semi-shaded position, also consider:
Palms such as Raphis, Chamaedorea

Unlike indoors, there are many options for growing flowering plants in containers outdoors. The dwarf Bougainvillea and Poysean Euphorbias are exceptional for this purpose. However, you might also consider growing annuals and bulbs in containers for temporary displays of colour.

Pots, Potting mixes

These are discussed further on the following pages:
See also the pages discussing individual plants (see above) for specific requirements

Green roofs and living walls

Incorporating planted material into the architectural design of a building has been receiving a lot of attention lately. While the urban landscape may be improved aestheticaly as a result, the main purpose of these designs is to provide practical benefits to the people using the buildings and the environment in general such as temperature control, air quaility improvement or stormwater management. The following links contain more information about this developing field:
Living Walls Reearch Overview of the Living Walls concept and current state of development worldwide. The Centre for Subtropical Design, Queensland University of Technology
Green Roofs Have Multiple Benefits Backyard Gardener column, July 27, 2005. Arizona Cooperative Extension, University of Arizona

More Online Information

These links are for general information. Obviously, not all information will be appropriate to your location.
Gardening with Containers Horticultural Therapy Society of NSW (PDF)
Enhancing your lanai, patio, or balcony with container plants College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources free publication, University of Hawaii at Manoa (PDF)
Plant Containers for Color on Patios and Decks Larry Williams, Leon County Extension, University of Florida, USA
Container Gardening University of Arkansas
Container Gardens Cornell University
The Joys of High-Rise Horticulture Montgomery County, Maryland
Terrific Townhouse Gardens Montgomery County, Maryland
Fun With Containers Washington State University Clark County Extension
Growing Australian Native Plants in Containers Association of Societies for Growing Australian Plants
Gardening in Containers The University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences
Window boxes revive container gardening Mississippi State University
The Balcony Garden blog from Milan, Italy
Life on the Balcony "Gardening Tips for Apartment and Condo Dwellers". Blog, Southern California
Let There Be Light! Some tips for apartment gardeners. My Green Space, NParks, Singapore
The Sengs' Corridor Garden at the Gardening with Wilson blog, Singapore
Problems With Plants in Pots Arid-Southwestern Gardening Information, University of Arizona
Outdoor potted plants need frequent water in summer heat Extension Service Garden Hints, Oregon State University
Tackling Heat Stress in Container Stock Ornamental Plants Annual Reports and Research Reviews 2001, Ohio State University
Houseplants benefit from occasional bath Extension Service Garden Hints, Oregon State University
Good drainage crucial to any potted plant Extension Service Garden Hints, Oregon State University
The Myth of Drainage Material in Container Plantings Does adding a layer of coarse material in the bottom of containers really improve drainage? Washington State University (PDF)
Small Trees for Miami-Dade Landscapes (selection includes some species indicated as suitable for container culture) University of Florida
Elephant beetles in lychees and longans (Xylotrupes gideon) Larvae can infest potting mix of many container-grown plants
Do your potted plants have fungus gnats? Extension Service Garden Hints, Oregon State University
Terrariums Missouri Environment and Garden, University of Missouri

Ferilisation of container-grown plants
This provides special challenges compared to fertilising plants in the open ground. The compontents from which most modern potting mixes are made, and the small total volume used mean that there is very little capacity for long-term nutrient retention but a big risk of short-term over-fertilisation and plant damage. This has given rise to a variety of soluble and controlled-released ferilisers which are especially suited to container culture.
Salt build up in planters means better drainage may be needed Extension Service Garden Hints, Oregon State University
Soluble salts damaging to houseplants Extension Service Garden Hints, Oregon State University

Design ideas
Jesse Container Garden Mizzou Botanic Garden, University of Missouri-Columbia
Patio Bromeliads Central Coast NSW Bromeliad Society
Container Gardens That Catch The Eye! at Shirley Bovshow's Edenmakers' Blog
Make A Tic-Tac-Toe Vertical Garden My Green Space, NParks, Singapore
Container Gardening: A Sense Of Proportion My Green Space, NParks, Singapore
Pelargonium wall Royal New Zealand Institute of Horticulture

Older News

New container for Kew veteran
One of the world's oldest pot plants - a specimen of cycad Encephalartos altensteinii collected from South Africa in the 1770s - has been repotted at the United Kingdom's Kew Gardens. With a trunk now over 4m long, great care and effort was required to lift the huge weight of this famous plant without damage. It now lives in a handcrafted mahogany box. Read more at the Kew website: Ancient cycad, the King of Kew's Palm House, gets a new home

Containerised Turf
A form of container gardening on a grand scale, the playing surface at the University of Phoenix Stadium is grown outside in a giant tray and wheeled inside the stadium for football games. This means shade problems inside the stadium are avoided and utility of stadium for other events is improved. Read more at The Human Flower Project: 106 Million Players: Super Turf '08


Some gravel plus plants in containers can make a temporary garden. Add some outdoor furniture for an outdoor living area
Some gravel plus plants in containers can make a temporary garden. Add some outdoor furniture for an outdoor living area

Large containers with suitably dense shrubs can provide a green screen where it is not possible to plant in the ground. Plants can be moved elsewhere if a more permanent solution is eventaully installed. Large grasses, bamboos or clumping palms might be alternatives
Large containers with suitably dense shrubs can provide a green screen where it is not possible to plant in the ground. Plants can be moved elsewhere if a more permanent solution is eventaully installed. Large grasses, bamboos or clumping palms might be alternatives
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