Planting in Containers


Planting into containers is often the best option for gardeners for lots of reasons:

  1. It makes it possible to grow plants which require different soil to that in the ground. For example; if your garden has alkaline or neutral soil you could grow azaleas or camellias in pots using ericaceous compost
  2. It is possible to grow plants close to the house to take advantage of highly scented flowers or for easy picking of vegetables or herbs
  3. You can take advantage of seasonal colour and interest. For example; plant up pots with spring flowering bulbs and put the pots on display until the flowers fade then move the pots to another area of the garden until next year. Replace them with pots planted up with colourful bedding plants for the summer then replace again with an evergreen or berried shrub for the winter

Here are some guidelines on the best way to plant up your containers:

  1. Place 2in (5cm) of broken up terracotta pots, bricks or large stones to the base of the pot to help drainage
  2. Use a loam-based compost such as John Innes No 3 to provide weight for stability
  3. For acid lovers use an ericaceous compost
  4. For non acid lovers mix in some well rotted manure or pelleted chicken manure to add nutrients; apply a controlled-release fertiliser each year or use a liquid feed regularly throughout the growing season
  5. Place the rootball in the pot adding compost beneath to ensure that the surface is no higher than 2in (5cm) from the top of the pot; this is to allow for mulch and watering
  6. Firm the compost well around the root ball to get rid of any air pockets and firm down the surface
  7. Mulch the soil surface with more manure or some gravel or bark to help keep moisture in the soil and keep weeds down
  8. Place the pot on feet to lift it off the ground and avoid water logging
  9. Water well; keep watering until the water is seen running out from the bottom of the pot
  10. Use rainwater for ericaceous plants
  11. Containers are prone to drying out so water regularly and thoroughly
  12. In following years apply a controlled-release fertiliser or use a liquid feed regularly throughout the growing season
  13. In the spring refresh the compost by removing 5cm (2in) of dry, loose compost near the surface and replacing it with some fresh compost mixed with some controlled-release fertiliser
  14. Every three to five years remove the tree/plant from its pot and tease out the roots loosening the old compost; after trimming the larger roots, repot in fresh compost


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