How to Take Care of Container Plants

Pots and tubs need good drainage. You can provide this either with drainage holes in the bottom of the container and a 2.5 cm (1 in) layer of crocks to prevent them getting clogged, plus a saucer, drip tray or trough to prevent any water damaging the balcony floor, or, where this is not practical, say in the case of window boxes, a layer of stones or crocks to a depth of about a third of the pot’s size.

Add sufficient compost so that when the plant is inserted there is room for about 1 cm of new compost on top and a space of about 2.5 cm (1 in) for watering without it spilling over the sides of the container. Soil-less composts are lightest and should not be firmed down too hard, otherwise they become over-compacted. You should also take note of any plant’s particular needs, such as an acidic or lime-based compost. After watering the plant in its original container, you should lift it carefully out of the pot, or slit its black plastic bag, and position it in the new container, adjusting the level as necessary and topping it up gently with new compost before watering it in.

Container Plants

Alpine plants

Because such stringent conditions are exacted on alpine plants in their native habitat, you will have to reproduce this environment as closely as possible, when growing all but the hardiest, most adaptable types. For this reason, alpines are usually grown in complementary collections of several species in a large container such as a trough or bowl. Around twenty different varieties can be grown in an old sink.

There are both acid- and lime-preferring types of alpines. All alpines prefer full sun and need to be sheltered from strong winds and early frosts, which may damage the delicate spring flowers. The soil does not need to be particularly fertile, although this produces plenty of foliage, but few flowers. However, it must be free draining with plenty of sharp grit and a good layer of gravel or pebbles in the bottom of the container. The soil should be kept completely weed-free; otherwise your plants can be quickly smothered. Never allow the soil to become water-logged or the shallow rooted plants will rot. On the other hand, it is equally important to keep the container well watered, especially in summer. Never allow the soil to dry out completely; mulching with a layer of stone chippings and the occasional boulder or rock for interest, will help slow down rapid evaporation from the soil’s surface.

Planting up hanging baskets

Hanging baskets can be tricky to plant up, so prop them on a large flower pot or suspend them from a low hook while you are filling them. The wire or plastic-slatted basket should first be lined with sphagnum moss or a pre-formed synthetic liner.

A small saucer of stones in the bottom of the basket will help to preserve moisture as its exposed position makes it prone to drying out. The basket is generally filled with an appropriate compost and the plants inserted into the sides of the container to get all-round coverage of foliage and flowers.

Planting up floor-standing containers

For a mixed arrangement in a large floor-standing container, the tub, pot or trough should be filled with compost to within 2.5 cm (1 in) of the rim and the plants, in their original pots, arranged on top of the soil in their intended positions: tall plants to the centre, smaller species and trailers in the front. When you are happy with the arrangement, plant the larger ones first, digging appropriately sized holes with a trowel and firming the plants in. When all the plants are in place, water well and cover the surface with small stones or gravel to help retain moisture.

Underplanting for spring

When summer flowers have died back, you may like to underplant your winter greenery with spring bulbs. As a general rule, these are planted to a depth of around twice the diameter of the bulb. For a double display, plant the bulbs in two staggered layers, one on top of the other. Bulbs need good drainage, otherwise they will rot, so make sure the soil does not get too waterlogged; a little coarse grit mixed in when planting will help.

Planting up herb and strawberry pots

These are planted slightly differently from ordinary con­tainers. With multi-pocketed herb and strawberry pots made from plastic or terracotta, you start with a good layer of drainage material such as broken crocks or small stones -about 7.5 cm (3 in) should be plenty. Begin to fill each pot with potting compost until you reach the level of the first hole, then insert the roots of one of your plants into the pocket and firm the soil around it. When all the holes on that level have been planted, carry on adding the compost until you reach the next level of holes, and so on. Each plant should be watered in as you proceed. When the container is fully planted, you can water from the top. Some forms of container have a central watering chute which is filled with drainage material.

Planting up potato barrels

For a compact crop of potatoes, the technique is slightly different again. You must put a drainage layer of crocks, about 15 cm (6 in) deep, in a wooden barrel or plastic bin and then an equal layer of compost – a rich well-fertilized mixture with plenty of sand to aid drainage is best. Place four or five seed potatoes on top of the compost, then cover them with another 15 cm (6 in) layer of compost and water lightly. When these potatoes have shooted and are showing about 15 cm (6 in) above the surface, add more compost so that just the tips are showing. Keep earthing up in this way until you reach the top of the barrel. You can plunge your arm into the tub and test the size of the potatoes before you dig them up.

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About the Author: Greenery always attracts Arthur Kunkle. He has a big garden where he plants many fruits and vegetables. His passion for gardening motivates him to write and share different tips on gardening.

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