Finding the best plants for shallow pots can sometimes feel like a challenge. Surely that lack of depth means less than ideal conditions for your plants?
Not necessarily. There are lots of fantastic plants that are well-suited to growing in shallow pots and containers – you just need to choose the right plants.
25 fantastic plants for shallow pots
This article has 25 great outdoor plants for shallow pots, window boxes, and containers. We’ve included flowering plants, foliage plants and edible plants, so all your container gardening needs are covered.
Benefits of growing plants in shallow pots
- More portable: shallow pots will be less heavy than deep pots, so they’re easier to move around.
- Compact: a shallow pot is less space-hungry than a deep pot. If you’re gardening in a small garden area such as a balcony, front door, or windowsill, shallow pots can help you make the most of the outdoor space available.
- Good drainage: not as much soil means less chance of your plants becoming waterlogged.
- Great for low maintenance plants: lots of low-maintenance plants cope well in shallow pots, so if you’re short on time they’re a good option.
- Cheaper: shallow pots are often less expensive than deeper pots, as they require less materials. If you’re gardening on a budget this can help.
What makes a great plant for shallow pots?
There are two key features of a plant that’s well-suited to growing in a shallow pot. Try to tick both of these boxes when choosing your plants:
1. Plants with shallow roots
Plants that naturally grow shallow roots are the perfect choice for shallow pots. The compact root system won’t be striving to grow deeper and hitting a dead end, which will keep the plant happy. Plants that naturally grow deep roots should be avoided in shallow pots.
2. Plants with a compact growth habit
The lack of depth in a shallow pot limits the amount of space available to the plant. Consequently, plants that are naturally small and compact will be ideal in shallow containers.
What types of shallow pot plants are there?
There’s plenty of choice when it comes to shallow rooted plants for pots. Here’s a quick outline of the two main types of plant available:
- Ornamental plants for shallow pots: these plants are grown for their looks, whether that’s beautiful flowers, gorgeous foliage, or ornamental berries.
- Edible plants for shallow pots: these plants include fruit, vegetables, and edible flowers.
The best outdoor plants for shallow pots and containers
Here are our top picks for plants that will be happy to grow in a shallow pot.
Flowering plants for shallow pots
Petunias really earn their space in a shallow pot. They produce masses of flowers, grow quickly, and don’t need much attention to keep them happy. There’s so much choice with this plant too; cascading and upright varieties, plus a huge range of colours.
A classic garden plant, marigolds enjoy well-draining soil and will reward you with vibrant flowers in bold shades of yellow and orange. The foliage is strongly-scented too.
Nasturtiums have a lot to offer in a shallow container display: Bright orange edible blooms, trailing habit, quick growth, and tolerant of neglect. What’s not to love?
If you like your containers to look traditional, snapdragons (also known as antirrhinum) are ideal. The dainty flowers suit cottage gardens really well, and they’re also easy flowers to grow from seed.
For summer wow factor, add zinnias to your shallow pots. These showy plants like full sun, and are loved by pollinating insects.
Pelargoniums have a compact habit that makes them a great option for shallow pots. In addition to the lovely flowers, the leaves are highly scented too.
Pansies are cheap to buy, low-maintenance, and flower for months and months. They’re a particularly useful plant for winter pots and hanging baskets.
If you like the idea of perennial plants for shallow pots, you can’t go wrong with lavender.
Choose a dwarf variety of this cottage garden favourite for your shallow pots and you can enjoy colour, scent and lovely grey-green foliage for months.
Foliage plants for shallow pots
Succulents are a popular choice for shallow pots. These low-maintenance plants have shallow roots and are also well-equipped to cope with dry conditions and minimal watering, so they’re a great option for both indoor and outdoor shallow pots.
Echeveria, hens-and-chicks, aloe and lithops (also known as pebble plants) are all succulents that are suited to shallow pots.
For showstopping foliage in shallow pots, take a look at heucheras. The leaves have an interesting shape and there are lots of bold colours to choose from. Most heuchera varieties are evergreen too.
This is such a great foliage plant for a shallow pot. As the name suggests, it has a creeping habit that will cover soil and spill over the edges of a container. The foliage is a green-yellow colour so it pairs well with bright flowers.
Creeping Phlox is an evergreen perennial with shallow roots. It works brilliantly as a ground cover plant, and produces masses of small flowers in late spring and early summer.
If you like plants with texture, sedums are perfect. They’re low-growing and very handy for covering the soil in shallow pots. Sedums work really well alongside succulents in a container display.
We tend to think of ornamental grasses as big statement plants in the garden, but there are some lovely small varieties too.
Grasses can add lots of texture, movement and interest to a container display. The following varieties are all low-maintenance and suited to shallow pots:
- Zebra grass – Miscanthus sinensis ‘Zebrinus’
- Blue Fescue – Festuca glauca
- Dwarf fountain grass – Pennisetum alopecuroides
- Japanese blood grass – Imperata cylindrica
Miniature hostas look really cute in containers, and if you grow them in shallow pots you can restrict the plant roots to make them even smaller. Varieties include ‘Whirlwind’, ‘Blue Mouse Ears’ and ‘Paradise Puppet’.
Some varieties of fern are shallow root plants, so you can use them for real foliage wow factor in a small pot. Bird’s Nest Fern, Boston Fern and Hardy Maidenhair Fern are all good varieties to go for.
Also known as bugleweed and carpetweed, ajuga are low-growing, shallow-rooted plants with purple flowers. It’s a member of the mint family, and like mint it will spread quickly to fill a pot.
Edible plants for shallow pots
Growing herbs in shallow pots is a great way to create a small-scale herb garden. Oregano, basil, parsley, lemon balm, thyme, rosemary, sage and mint are all great candidates for a shallow container.
While the main reason to grow swiss chard is for its edible leaves, the red, green or yellow stems and vibrant green leaves also look lovely. If you keep cutting older leaves you can have a continuous supply of new growth from just one pot.
If you grow kale in deep soil or large pots it will be a much bigger plant, but you can grow baby kale successfully in shallow pots. As with swiss chard, keep harvesting the largest leaves for a continuous supply.
You can grow spinach from *seed outdoors from late spring to early autumn. It’s happy in shallow planters and likes direct sunlight. Check out our list of great companion plants for spinach to maximise your crop.
It’s really easy to grow radishes from *seed, and these root vegetables don’t need a particularly deep pot. They grow fast too; you can have a harvest within a month if you choose a quick-to-mature variety.
Spring onions have shallow root systems and a very upright growth habit, so you can grow them in small pots. They like well-drained soil, so be careful with the watering.
Strawberry plants will happily grow in shallow soil – and that includes hanging baskets. The added bonus of growing them in pots is it makes it harder for slugs and snails to eat them!
Care techniques for shallow plants in pots
With any plant grown in a pot, there will be limited access to nutrients, and limited space to grow. This means you need to support your plants in order for them to thrive.
Choosing shallow plant pots
When selecting the best pots for shallow plants, make sure it has the following:
- Enough space for the plant you want to put in it (check the plant care instructions to see how big it will eventually grow)
- Drainage holes in the bottom (to prevent waterlogging)
Best compost for shallow pots
It’s important to use good quality compost in containers, as your plants can’t access nutrients anywhere else. A *multi-purpose peat-free potting compost is an easy option, but you can also use a *moisture control compost to boost water retention.
Our article on the best compost for pots has lots more advice and tips to help you choose the right product.
Watering plants in shallow pots
Potted plants will dry out more quickly than plants grown in the ground. This is even more true of shallow pots due to the smaller amount of soil, and it’s relevant to both indoor and outdoor plants.
In warmer months, check your pots regularly; if the top of the soil feels dry, they need watering.
At the other end of the watering spectrum, remember that plants in pots can get root rot if they don’t have adequate drainage. Standing them on *pot feet will help deal with excess water, but avoid over-watering too.
Feeding shallow potted plants
Container plants will eventually use up all the nutrients in the soil. At this point, the plant will start to struggle. To avoid losing your plants, it’s a good idea to feed them regularly.
More container garden resources
For more tips on container gardening, take a look at these articles: