Container Gardening Planting

Container Planting

Most gardens have plants in containers – from a few on a balcony outside an upper storey flat to many on the patio of a large garden. Colourful containers can enhance paved areas and bring a display of choice plants closer to the eye. So how do you go about planting a container?

You will need:

  • Container
  • Broken plant pot pieces
  • Compost
  • Plants

Tips: Summer bedding should be planted when the risk of frost is over in your locality. If possible plant earlier and keep in a greenhouse for a few weeks, leaving outside during warm periods and back inside the greenhouse at night.

Permanent plantings can be done at almost any time of the year – but better in the spring when plants will become quickly established.

Step 1: Preparation

If re-using a container ensure that all traces of soil are cleaned from the inside to prevent carry-over of pests and diseases. Terracotta pots often develop green and white marks on the outside – clean off using mild detergent and a scourer.

Tip: Position your container in its final location before planting. There is no point carrying it around when it is full of heavy compost and plants!

Step 2: Fill the container

Ensure your container has sufficient drainage holes. To prevent these becoming blocked by compost, place curved pieces of broken plant pot or similar over the holes.

Add the compost – if the container is very large and you are planting bedding then you can reduce the amount needed by adding large lumps of polystyrene packing material at the bottom. Do not do this with smaller containers or where the planting is dense.

Firm the compost lightly. Loam-based composts can be firmed more after planting, but take care not to over-compress loam-free composts.

Tip: Ensure there is a gap of 2.5cm (1in) at the top as a watering space when the container is finished.

Step 3: Plant up

Select good quality plants – start with good-looking well-rounded specimens and thoroughly soak by immersing in a bucket of water.

Arrange plants on top of the container to compose the best design.

Remove from pots. Ideally, the plant’s roots should just be reaching the outside of the pot. This means they are not pot bound and are growing vigorously. If there is a dense rootball, tease larger roots apart to encourage them to grow into new compost.


Plant from the centre of the container outwards. Start by making a hole big enough for the rootball of the central plant. Lower the plant in, firming the compost to remove any large air gaps. Add the rest of the plants in similar fashion around the edges.

Level the surface of the compost and water thoroughly until water emerges from the base. Add a mulch of decorative gravel.

Tip: Use a similar size pot to make a hole and firm the compost around so you can drop in the plant when removed from its pot. All the plants should end up at the same depth as they were in their original containers.

Write A Comment