A person standing in a garden surrounded by pink tulips holding a bag of flowers

What To Plant In Raised Garden Beds Vs. Planters

If you’re working on your garden and wondering where specific crops will flourish, you’re in the right place! Choosing between a raised garden bed vs. a planter can impact the way your plants grow, how soil and roots interact, and the overall layout of your landscape, depending on how much space you’re working with. 

You might think both methods are similar - and there are some commonalities between the two - but it’s important to know the difference so your crops can thrive. In this article, we’ll explore the best species for each model, seasonal considerations, and how to make the choice between garden beds and planters a bit easier. We’ll also touch on how you can use trellises, which are structures to support and frame your plants, within these options. 

What are the main differences between garden beds and planters?

Before diving into our favorite plants for each structure, here are some of the main differences between the two that will affect what you’re able to plant:

  • Mobility: You can move planters around, meaning you could opt for full-sun, partial-sun, or full-shade species, while fixed garden beds offer less versatility.
  • Moisture: With less volume, depth, and soil, you’ll need to water planters a bit more frequently (especially if they don’t receive rain).
  • Root Space: Raised beds can allow for deep-root and shallow-root plants, while less-spacious planters are typically more suited for shallow-rooted plants.
  • Warming: With a larger soil volume, raised garden beds may allow you to extend your growing season; soil can warm up faster in spring and retain heat better into the fall months than planters.
A comparison chart of planters vs garden beds

What To Plant In A Raised Garden Bed

  • Veggies: Because raised garden beds drain effectively, they’re perfect for shallow-rooted crops that might otherwise be prone to root rot after sitting in soggy soil.  We recommend leafy vegetables like lettuce, spinach, kale, and swiss chard, which are relatively low maintenance. For other options, you could grow tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and pole beans. 
  • Flowers and Herbs: You can attract pollinators to your raised garden bed with flowers like marigolds, zinnias, cosmos, sunflowers, and more while also adding a pop of color. If you prefer aromatics and herbs, you could plant roses, lavender, or basil and chives, which do best in consistently moist (rather than soggy) soil.

If you want to make the most of your raised bed, it's important to consider its size. For starters, a small bed is a sufficient amount of space; it’s enough to grow a variety of plants, and you can try companion planting (grouping plants together that benefit each other as they grow). This can help to keep pests away, attract pollinators, and promote healthy soil, as each plant has an adequate amount of space, both above and below dirt. For more insights on optimizing your raised bed, discover expert advice on selecting the perfect material by exploring our blog.

A person inspecting the soil and roots of a potted plant

Building a Thriving Foundation

Step 1
Start with healthy soil: You’ll want to create a proper mix for your raised bed, not just any soil. You should consider the drainage needs of the plants you want to grow, and you can add compost or aged manure for extra nutrients and moisture.

Step 2
Harvest more: Start by planting crops that grow quickly, like lettuce, first. Then, you can add plants that take a bit longer, like tomatoes, taking advantage of the nutrient-rich soil of your earlier harvests. You'll get fresh food all season and use your space efficiently. 

Step 3
Make it beautiful: Once you set the foundation, you can use trellises for extra height, or experiment with pathways and fences to further expand your garden. You can mix and match between vegetables, herbs, and flowers to create an appearance that you love.
A picture of a cactus in a planter surrounded by other cactus and an Aloe Vera plant

What To Plant In Planters

  • Stackable Planters: If you have a smaller outdoor space like a balcony, patio, or windowsill, you may want to consider using space-saving planters. Vertical gardening can be done with stackable planters, which allow you to grow herbs like mint, cilantro, and oregano within easy reach.
  • Tall Planters: Rosemary, thyme, oregano, and sage are all herbs that do excellent in tall planters. You can also add flowers like geraniums, lantana, and petunias, which don’t require exceptionally large amounts of sun or water. You can never go wrong with other low-maintenance plants, like snake plants in your tall planter, as long as you pay attention to their height. 
  • Making a Statement: Try pairing pink petunias with trailing sweet potato vines for a lovely display when planting flowers. You can also experiment with combining soft, flowering plants with bold, architectural foliage to add visual interest. 

Choosing the Right Potting Mix

When using planters, it's important to use potting soil that is specifically designed for container gardening, ensuring your plants don’t rot. Mixes that contain perlite, vermiculite, and coco coir offer good drainage and aeration.

Design Tips

If you want to keep your outdoor space lively beyond summer and fall, add evergreen plants like boxwood, holly, or dwarf conifers. They’re easy to maintain and can add a touch of greenery to your planters, even in colder months. You can use them as the foundation for mixed container plantings, creating a beautiful, interesting landscape with minimal effort. Use a larger pot and plant a statement tree or colorful flowering bush for an even more eye-catching arrangement. 

Care Tips

Remember these top tips for successful gardening

  1. Choose plants for your climate: Pick plants that thrive in your area's temperature and sunlight conditions.
  2. Feed your soil: Regularly add compost or manure to keep your soil healthy and full of nutrients.
  3. Sun matters: Place plants in the right sunlight - full sun plants need 6-8 hours, while others prefer shade.
Baskets hanging from window ledges filled with pink and red flowers

Hanging Baskets

Hanging baskets are great for adding vertical interest to smaller balconies or patios. Fill them with colorful blooms like geraniums, Lysimachia nummularia aurea, evergreen foliage, petunias, or fuchsias, or mix and match different shapes and textures for an eye-catching display.  

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, you feel a lot more confident about what you’ll be planting in your garden bed vs. planters. As a reminder, the biggest considerations are always going to be your climate, sun exposure, soil drainage, and the needs of your plants’ roots. High-quality soil and understanding the difference between mixes will also help your gardening go a long way. Remember, planters offer an advantage in their versatility, ease of movement, and decorating your home’s exterior, while raised beds provide excellent drainage, space, and nutrient-rich soil. VioScapes’ garden beds and planters provide the perfect foundation for your gardening journey - find the perfect fit for your needs!