Gardening for Renters

Is Gardening worth it for Renters?

Creating a garden while renting can be accomplished using containers above or below ground, including window boxes; and by choosing plants suitable for container culture. This way you can take your plants with you if you move.

Get approval from your landlord first of course, and you’ll be able to cultivate a rewarding hobby and green oasis today with the space you currently have.

Container Culture Basics

Choose containers with drainage holes or drill one yourself. Adequate drainage is needed to provide the roots with enough oxygen to survive and prevent root rot.

It’s a myth that a layer of gravel at the bottom of the pot helps drainage. Don’t bother.

If you want the look of plants growing in the ground, you can bury your potted plants in the ground. Potted plants underground require less watering as the containers don’t dry out from the heat and sun as quickly.

Choose slower growing plants so they won’t need repotting as often (plants that grow less than 6 inches a year.) Large plants will require more effort, such as pruning and root pruning to maintain a more desirable size. In general, you can remove a third of the plant’s roots or branches without harming the plant.

Choose plants that will thrive in your environment (sun, shade, moist, windy, etc.) and decide how much maintenance you’re willing to provide. Flowering trees, like Camellias, will require some clean-up. Perennials will require deadheading to continue blooming, and also clean-up in the fall or spring. Annuals benefit from frequent fertilizing and deadheading.

As a general rule, re-pot plants in a container 2-4” larger in diameter. Some moderate or faster growing plants can be repotted in a container up to twice as large.


Know your watering commitment. Due to free draining potting soil and smaller spaces, container plants dry out faster than plants in the ground. It is better to water thoroughly and less often than to water lightly more often.

Check if you have access to a hose or spigot before planning your garden. Hauling a watering can for several substantial containers will be very time consuming.

Containers in full sun, in the height of summer, typically require daily watering. You can use your finger to test the top two inches of soil to gauge whether your plant needs water. If the top two inches are dry, water. If they are moist, hold off. Choosing drought tolerant plants or planting a shade garden (which won’t dry out as quickly as plants in the sun) is a good way to cut your maintenance down considerably.

Gardening for Renters

Soil and Fertilizer

We recommend potting soil for container plants because it offers the best drainage. Never use top soil or soil dug from the ground. You can mix in up to 20% compost in your containers at planting time, or use it as a top dressing for added nutrients.

It is important to note soil in containers should ideally be refreshed every 3-6 months, but at least every 1-2 years if using fertilizer.

Liquid fertilizers are fast acting and convenient, as you apply them when watering. Slow-release fertilizers are simple to apply infrequently. If you have any questions stop by our Information Desk. We’re happy to help!

Design Tips

• Choose a few foundation plants, like small to moderate trees and shrubs to give your garden structure and year-round interest. Statuary and pottery also work.

• Decide the purpose of your garden (curb appeal, improved view, outdoor dining area, etc.) to create a layout. The benefit of having your plants in containers is that you can move them! Keep in mind that containers, once planted and watered, can be quite heavy. Consider getting casters or pot lifters for safety.

• Draw out a rough sketch of what you want your garden to look like and where things will go. Use Pinterest, design books, magazines, or blogs to find what styles inspire you.

• Evergreens will keep your garden looking good and alive year-round. Without them, winter will bring empty-looking pots, bare branches, and unattractive, dead material.

Gardening for Renters

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Please note that these suggestions are subject to seasonal availability.

Bold indicate shade-loving plants.

Underlined indicates evergreen.

Trees for Containers

  • Acer palmatum - Japanese Maple, especially ‘Ukigumo,’ ‘Shishigashira,’ & ‘Red Dragon’
  • Buxus semperviens ‘Suffruticosa’ - Dwarf English Boxwood
  • Calluna Heather
  • Camellia japonica, sasanqua & sinensis
  • Cedrus deodara ‘Feelin Blue’- Weeping Blue Cedar
  • Chamaecyparis obtusa - Hinoki Cypress, dwarf varieties
  • Chamaecyparis lawsoniana ‘Barrys Silver’
  • Cryptomeria japonica ‘Black Dragon’- Japanese Cedar
  • Cryptomeria japonica ‘Knaptonensis’
  • Daphne ‘Summer Ice’ & ‘Eternal Fragrance’
  • Erica - Heather
  • Fargesia - Clumping Bamboo
  • Gardenia jasminoides ‘Summer Snow’ & ‘Frost Proof’- Hardy Gardenia
  • Gingko biloba ‘Mariken’ & ‘Jade Butterfly’- Dwarf Gingkos
  • Hydrangea quercifoliia ‘Pee Wee’ or ‘Sikes Dwarf’
  • Ilex crenata ‘Sky Pencil’ - Japanese Holly
  • Lagerstroemia - Crape Myrtle, dwarf varieties
  • Lonicera nitida ‘Lemon Beauty’ - Boxleaf honey- suckle
  • Nandina domestica Heavenly Bamboo
  • Pieris - Andromeda
  • Tsuga canadensis ‘Moon Frost’ & ‘Bennett’ - Dwarf Eastern Hemlock
  • Vaccinium - Blueberries and Huckleberries

Container Perennials

  • Achillea Yarrow
  • Anemone - Windflower
  • Delosperma cooperi - Ice plant
  • Carex ‘Evergold,’ ‘Ice Dance’ & ‘Frosty Curls’
  • Coreopsis - Calliopsis or Tickseed
  • Echinacea - Coneflower
  • Epimedium - Barrenwort, Fairy Wings
  • Gaura lindheimeri ‘Passionate Rainbow’ & ‘Sparkle White’
  • Geranium - Hardy Geranium
  • Hakonechloa - Japanese Forest Grass
  • Helleborus - Lenten Rose
  • Heuchera - Coral Bells
  • Lavandula ‘Blue Cushion,’ ‘Buena Vista,’ ‘Hidcote’ - Lavender
  • Lithodora ‘Grace Ward’
  • Lysimachia - Creeping Jenny
  • Origanum ‘Kent Beauty’ - Ornamental oregano
  • Penstemon - Beardtongue
  • Rosmarinus o. ‘Arp’ or ‘Hill Hardy’ – Rosemary
  • Salvia ‘Hot Lips’ and ‘Black and Blue’
  • Sedums - Stonecrop
  • Zantedeschia aethiopica - Calla lily

Annuals for Containers

Any! All! Annuals are perfect for adding affordable color, all season blooms, and fluff to containers.

Also see our page Container Trees