Yellow Flowered Weeds Growing In And Around A Planter
(Image credit: Yackers1)

No weeds in containers! Isn’t that one of the main benefits of container gardening? Container garden weeds can pop up from time to time, despite our best efforts to prevent them. Read on as we explore how to control and prevent weeds in potted plants.

Tips on Weeding Container Gardens: Getting Rid of Planter Weeds

Start with weed-free containers. If your containers aren't new, scrub them carefully, inside and out. Hot, soapy water or a weak bleach solution will remove residual plant debris. 

If possible, fill your containers with fresh, sterile, good quality potting mix. If used potting soil still looks viable, it’s a good idea to freshen it by replacing up to a third of the existing potting soil with fresh mix. 

Never fill containers with garden soil, which is likely to harbor weeds, along with pests and disease. Garden soil, which is heavy and dense, never works well in containers. 

Planter weed seeds can be distributed by wind, birds, or sprinklers. Once you’ve planted your container, cover the potting mix with a layer of mulch or compost. Good quality mulch or compost will make it harder for container garden weed to get a foothold, and will also keep the potting mix from drying out as quickly.

Controlling Weeds in Containers

Buy plants from a reliable nursery, and inspect plants before you set them in your containers. Pesky weeds can get started anywhere, but a good nursery will do everything they can to keep them to a minimum. 

Create a weed-free zone around your containers. Set the pots on a wooden or concrete deck, paving stones, a layer of gravel, or ground cover fabric. 

Remove weeds in containers as soon as you notice them. Pull them up carefully, or loosen the roots with a fork or trowel. Try to get all the roots, and never let weeds go to seed or you’ll have a real problem on your hands. The good news is that it’s usually easier to pull weeds in potted plants.

You can use a pre-emergent to prevent container garden weed seeds from germinating, but keep in mind it won’t get rid of planter weeds that are already there. Read the label and use pre-emergents with great care (and never indoors). Be careful about long-term use, as some weeds may become tolerant.

Mary H. Dyer

A Credentialed Garden Writer, Mary H. Dyer was with Gardening Know How in the very beginning, publishing articles as early as 2007.