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How to plant up pots


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If space is limited or you don’t have the time to commit to looking after an entire garden, plants in containers can really help bring a little life to your outdoor space. They look great on a patio or decking, are simple to arrange and easy to look after. This guide will help you find out how to get planting in pots, so why not follow these few easy steps and give it a go?

Tools for the job:

Step 1: Choose your plants

Lots of plants can be grown in containers – everything from small trees to bedding plants, bulbs to climbers and even fruit and vegetables – so what you choose really comes down to personal taste. It’s worth thinking about what plants will work well when placed together – shape, height and colour are all things you might want to consider before buying your plants.

Step 2: Pick your pots & containers

The sort of container you choose will depend on the space you have available, your budget and ultimately like the plants you put in them, personal taste. However, there are a few things to look out for:


There’s nothing to be gained from putting a small plant in a large pot, so make sure you choose containers that are appropriately sized to hold the roots of your plants. You’ll want to pick larger containers if you intend on planting small trees or even groups of plants in one pot – the effect of various different plants blooming together will look beautiful.

Don’t forget to repot one size up as your plants grow, making sure to do so at least every couple of years otherwise your pots might begin to suffer from drying out or waterlogging.


Always make sure there are several holes in the bottom of your container so water can flow out freely – poor drainage can cause the roots of your plants to rot, which will eventually kill them. If you’re using a plastic container that doesn’t have any holes, you add some by using a drill turning at slow speed.

If there’s a chance that soil could wash out of the container during watering or heavy rain storms, try putting a few stones or even pieces of old broken up terracotta flower pots in the bottom, making sure you do so sparingly so as not to take up space that roots could otherwise grow into.


Plant pots and containers come in all shapes and sizes, but it’s worth bearing in mind that if you want to be able to move your containers around your garden it might be worth looking at lightweight materials such as resin, fibreglass or plastic. These have the added advantage of being frost proof in winter too. If you buy traditional terracotta containers, it’s a good idea to wrap them in bubble wrap during the winter months to protect them against frost and freezing temperatures.

Step 3: Choose the right compost

The first thing to remember when planting uppots is not to use soil from the garden as it won’t have the nutrients your plants need to grow and may also have weed seeds and harmful insects hidden in it. Instead, look for a specially formulated compost that is suitable for the plants you have chosen. To prepare the potting compost, mix a handful of slow-release fertiliser granules and some water-retaining gel with your chosen compost.

If you plan on growing plants that thrive in more acidic soils, don’t forget that you’ll need to use an ericaceous compost.

Step 4: Preparing your pots

A new pot or container shouldn’t need any preparation unless you need to add drainage holes in the base.

If your containers have been used before then they must be thoroughly cleaned with a stiff brush and water before use. Clay or terracotta pots should be soaked overnight before planting them up.

Add stones or broken terracotta pieces in the base of your container if needed, then add your compost mixture and firm it down until the container is almost full, leaving a gap of around 2-3cm from the soil level to the rim. The compost should be moist, but not wet, so you may need to add some water before putting it in the container.

Step 5: Potting your plants

Before you put your plants in the pot or container, make sure you water them thoroughly. When you’ve done this, take your largest plant and dig a hole in the centre of the compost large enough for the entire rootball. Firm in the plant by replacing some of the compost around it and pressing down with your fingers. Continue planting around the pot until it is full. Usually, you can set plants far closer together in a pot than you would normally do in the open garden.

Finally, sprinkle another tablespoon of slow-release fertiliser granules over the compost and water straight away.

How to use garden feed

Step 6: Caring for your potted plants

As with any plants, those growing in pots will need a little care and attention to keep them healthy. Make sure you check how moist the compost is regularly, watering it as and when needed to prevent it from drying out. However, you won’t need to water them as much during the winter months. The only food source that plants in containers get is what you add in, so they will need additional feeding throughout the growing season.

Keep an eye on your plants and remove (deadhead) any dying blooms to encourage them to keep flowering for longer periods.

Top tip:

  • Put pot feet under your containers – these will raise them off the ground, allowing water to drain away and preventing stains from appearing on your patio.

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