29 June 2018 by Dr Jane Bingham
Planting up Containers Step by Step
Ring the changes with container gardening. Change your pots with the seasons or plant them up with permanent plantings of herbaceous plants (e.g. hostas) roses, rhododendrons, shrubs, climbers, Japanese Acers, small trees and patio fruit trees.
A word of caution though – life in a pot can be harsh! Plant up and look after them well following our advice below and they will reward you with beautiful and versatile displays.
Most garden plants can be grown in pots of suitable size. For example, choose shallow troughs and bowls for alpines and large, deep planters for mixed herbaceous, roses, shrubs and trees. Always ensure containers are large enough but avoid planting small plants into large volumes of compost, which can become cold and soggy.
Most pots come with drainage holes already in them. Drill extra holes if necessary and remember to puncture the plastic linings of hanging baskets.
Cover the drainage holes with curved pieces of broken crock, polystyrene or stones to allow free flow of water and to prevent the compost from blocking up the holes.
If pots are stood on a hard surface, lift them up off the ground using ‘pot feet’ or blocks to allow excess water to escape.
• Multipurpose compost with water-retaining granules for hanging baskets, bedding plants, veg, strawberries and tomatoes.
• Ericaceous compost for Rhododendrons and Azaleas, Blueberries, Camellias, Pieris and Magnolia.
• Heavier, soil-based compost such as John Innes No. 2 or 3 for Roses, shrubs and trees.
• Grit for alpines and herbs. Use a 50:50 mix of grit:compost to provide good drainage.
1.Handle plants by the root ball and tease out the roots gently.
2.Make sure the root ball is level with the surface of the compost.
3.Firm the plant in gently, top up with compost and water to settle the compost around the roots. Make sure there is room in the pot for watering, leave a 2.5cm (1in) gap at the top.
4.Water generously to settle the compost around the roots.
Plants in containers are vulnerable to drying out in summer. Don’t wait until you see your plants wilting, regularly check the soil for dryness.
A little and often approach to watering is not good. It is much better to soak the soil thoroughly, maybe daily or once a week depending on the weather, ensuring water reaches the deepest levels of the compost. Try to avoid wetting the leaves and flowers when watering as this can lead to fungal diseases and sun scorch.
A topping of grit or bark traps in precious moisture and deters weeds and slugs too.
• Tomorite or Sulphate of Potash for flowers and fruits.
• Slow release granules for long-term plantings of roses, shrubs and trees, etc.
• Liquid feed: start using 6 weeks after planting unless slow release granules have been used.
And when winter comes…
• Reduce watering and do not feed.
• Group pots together close to a house wall.
• Wrap pots of Acers in bubble wrap.