very shallow planter

organic_tricksJune 12, 2009

I bought a cool looking crate I wanted to use as a planter, but it is only about 2" deep about 12" wide and 18" or 24" long. Any chance of shallow rooted plants growing in there? I wanted to put a sweet potato plant and a couple other things in there, but I have to look up there names. Thanks for any help

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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Did you say 2 inches deep?

    Bookmark   June 12, 2009 at 11:44AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

When you grow plants in a container, it doesn't matter if the plants you're growing tend to be shallow-rooted or deep-rooted when growing in situ (where they naturally occur). What dictates how deep roots grow is aeration. E.g., rhodies are usually very shallow rooted, with most of their roots in the top 6" of soil, but if you grow them in a well-aerated soil, they will colonize the entire soil mass even if the soil is deeper than 24". All plants you're ever likely to encounter are that way.

When growing in a 2" deep container, the soil needs to be coarse and drain extremely well. The reason: If you use a soil from a bag that supports 2" of perched water in a 2" deep container, when you water properly your soil will be 100% saturated & you will have great difficulty maintaining plants in it. The shallower the container the better the soil has to drain to optimize plant vitality.


    Bookmark   June 12, 2009 at 1:36PM
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The only slightly maybe possible thing that comes to mind would be some succulents, maybe a few Sedums or Sempervivum / Hens and Chicks.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2009 at 12:55AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Sorry, Jordan, but that's just not so. There are VERY FEW plants you could not grow successfully in a 2" deep container with proper attention to soil choice and watering. I have several dish gardens/troughs with around 2" of soil, and a number of old trees growing in 2-3" of soil, and many in only an inch or so.


    Bookmark   June 13, 2009 at 9:19AM
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I thought for sure I saw a picture of a create like this in a container garden magazine once, that's where I got the idea.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2009 at 10:41AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Years ago, BP, all the bedding plants used to come in flats that had about 2" of soil in them. You would ask the green thumb for as many plants as you needed, and he would separate them & wrap them in wet newspaper so you could get them home & planted right away. Since I'm into bonsai, I grow tons of plant material in very shallow containers. This keeps the root systems nice & shallow/flat, which facilitates my moving them into very shallow bonsai pots.


    Bookmark   June 13, 2009 at 11:59AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

BTW - "BP" = 'Before Plastics', and refers to the distant past when cell-packs for bedding plants were not yet a part of the gardening scene. ;o)


    Bookmark   June 13, 2009 at 1:31PM
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valentinetbear(z6 PA)

Assuming good drainage, I'd go with good old fashioned scallions (aka "bunching onions.") They're fairly shallowed roots and, if you plant a third of the container every three weeks-ish, if you eat scallions 3-4 times a week, you should be able to replant first section again by the time the second section is getting good enough to eat.

As for the idea of sweet potato goes, I only know how to grow them from a "small" (they don't really come in small in our groceries lol) one bought at the store, so have to put the whole thing under ground, with a wire covering to avoid dig-ups, or the local squirrels think it's dinnertime. Can't help with those bright green ones bought at nurseries, but am assuming you already know if you can go that route.

So, did you decide anything yet?

    Bookmark   June 14, 2009 at 12:59AM
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I'd be curious about trying to grow micro-greens.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2009 at 6:04PM
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In response to 'walkerjks', micro greens are so easy to grow. I've been growing micro greens for over 3 years and I couldn't be happier. Visit my site, I've got great advice on setting up to grow and pics to support. Once you get growing, you will be amazed at how fast and how flavorful they are.

Here is a link that might be useful: Home Grown Micro Greens

    Bookmark   June 15, 2010 at 1:57AM
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Strangly micro greens are the only thing I have managed to kill three times this year.

I have zuchini growing in not much more then 3 inches of soil in little tiny pots and they are producing actual zuchini.
It takes more work to grow plants in those conditions.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2010 at 5:20PM
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You should be able to grow several types of plants with rhizome type roots like Iris that should not be planted deep at all, some begonias that you can plant as a caudiciform like Begonia dregei, Begonia Partita. They can be raised so that only part of the bottom of the roots are covered and the rest of them exposed. Adenium Obesum or desert rose which is a succulent can also be planted this way. I would stick to the plants that like it drier and use a very well draining soil. I mix my succulent soils with bagged store bought succulent mix 20%, Perlite 30% and granite grit or chicken grit 50%. This type of plants don't like wet roots and store water in the leaves. If outdoor and it get rain more than once or twice a week in hot weather, I would keep them under an enclosed patio or porch. You could also grow several plant that are used as bonsai such as azaleas, begonias, ficus, ect. These plants can have the roots trimmed back and in fact make them produce shorter wider plants. There are several xeriscape plants that you can use. Try They are a load of them.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2011 at 10:17PM
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redshirtcat(6a MO StL)

Just a practical observation: I use the gritty mix in quite a few pots now (with charcoal substituted for the granite in pots that are large so I can move them inside when necessary) - and I find that the top inch or so dries out extremely rapidly. We're talking hours sometimes under an hour when the temps are up there. This isn't a huge deal if you have another 12" of soil underneath that stays moist for longer but you won't have that. If you do attempt to use a well draining mix with a 2" deep pot you will have to be very diligent with the watering.

People who grow bonsai are used to being diligent. Just know what you're getting into if you go that route. My citrus trees took 2-3 waterings a day when the temps were above 90 this summer to avoid wilting - they are mostly in ~16" deep pots.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2011 at 3:45AM
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redshirtcat(6a MO StL)

Oh... this was a very old thread, aha, I didn't notice until it was too late. Owell.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2011 at 3:48AM
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