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How to plant pots and containers

how to plant pots and containers
A sunny deck is brought to life with a profusion of flower-filled pots
Image: Shutterstock

A wonderful way to add colour and structure to your garden, growing plants and flowers in containers offers a level of versatility that’s hard to beat. Use your pots to hide ugly walls, heating oil tanks and more. Use them to fill gaps in your borders or to add interest to patios. They’re also perfect for restricting the roots of fast growing plants like bamboo.

Whatever you’d like to grow in pots and containers, here’s how to go about it.

How to choose the right plant pot

choosing the right plant pot
Choose the right sized plant pots for your plants
Image: Shutterstock

The key to growing plants successfully in containers is to select frost-proof pots that are big enough for roots to develop – something that’s especially important for trees and larger shrubs. But it’s not just the roots you need to consider:

  • • Terracotta pots – great for growing hardy shrubs and trees, but they can dry out quickly because they’re porous. Plus they’re heavy so are best chosen when they’re not going to be moved too often.
  • • Plastic or glazed pots – ideal for use when you’re growing plants that like moist conditions.
  • • Wooden planters – help stop rapid fluctuations in soil temperature, and tend to keep the soil a little warmer too.
  • • Stone pots – Make a wonderful focal point, but they’re heavy so you won’t want to move them, or place them on fragile surfaces like decking.

Pots are a great way of growing tender plants – just move them into the conservatory or greenhouse as soon as the weather cools.

The best compost for pots and containers

compost for pots and containers
Adding a slow release fertiliser keeps plants healthy throughout the growing season
Image: Shutterstock

A quality multi-purpose compost is usually all you’ll need to help your container plants do well. Consider applying a slow release fertiliser to keep plants nourished throughout the growing season, or be prepared to feed them regularly to keep them thriving.

Growing shrubs or perennials? Go for a loam-based compost because it’s better at retaining moisture and the rather heavier soil provides a better anchor for the roots of taller plants than standard compost.

For acid-loving plants like blueberries and camelias you’ll need to fill your pots with ericaceous compost, and water from your water butt rather than with mains water.

Any kind of container will dry out if left for too long without watering in dry weather. To slow the process of evaporation, it’s a good idea to incorporate water retention granules into your compost mix, and to spread a top dressing of wood chips, gravel or bark around the roots of plants.

The best plants for pots and containers

 best plants for pots and containers
Fuschias look spectacular in pots
Image: Shutterstock

You can plant pretty much anything in containers – so much so that it can be hard to know where to begin. Here are just a few ideas to get you started:

Best Annuals for planting in pots and containers:

  • • Marigolds – try ‘Vanilla Ice’ with its delightful creamy white blooms
  • • Bidens – try ‘Goldstar’ which offers bright yellow blooms and ferny foliage
  • • Fuchsia – try ‘Fusion’ a climber that looks great in a pot against a wall
  • • Petunia – try ‘Table Dark Red’ with its vibrant red flowers

Best Perennials for planting in pots and containers:

  • • Agapanthus – try ‘Queen Mum’ with its large white trumpet flowers
  • Jasmine – Delicate white stars that pack a fragrant punch
  • • Holly – try ‘Alaska’ for year round interest
  • Wisteria – adds a classic scent to your garden

Do remember to check the soil in your containers regularly, and if the top inch or so is dry, give them a water. During hot weather, reduce evaporation by watering early in the morning or late in the evening.

Create a spectacular display

Create a spectacular display
A variety of sized and shaped pots are unified by the terracotta colour
Image: Shutterstock

For best results from your patio containers and pots, limit the number of plants to a maximum of around one per inch – 12 plants in a 12 inch pot. For bigger plants like geraniums, reduce the number by half.

Do also remember to plant a variety of plants in the same container. To really draw the eye and engage the senses, grow trailing plants around the edges with upright plants in the middle section.

Vary the sizes of your pots, adding structure by placing big containers at the back – the trees and shrubs they contain will create a stunning backdrop for the colourful plants in front. And don’t forget your climbing plants like clematis which can jazz up drab walls and fences.

We’d love to hear your ideas for growing in pots and containers. Just head on over to our Facebook page and drop us a line.