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Container Gardening: Tips For Success

With the right planning and care, container gardening offers a creative and rewarding way to display plants, ideal for introducing more variety and maximising every corner of your plot.

Where can I put containers in my garden?

Small or large, container planting offers a versatile display that can create impact in any garden size, wherever you need it the most. From welcoming entranceways to dressing up balconies or punctuating patios, containers offer a flexible planting option that is especially useful if you’re short on space. This method of planting brings exciting displays that have the flexibility of being able to be moved around, creating an ever-changing space.

Patio Potted Plants

What plants can I grow in pots?

With a huge range of pot sizes available, anything from small trees and climbers to herbaceous and alpines can be planted in containers. Annuals (plants that complete their lifecycle in the space of one year) can be planted for seasonal displays, whilst perennials (plants that survive for multiple years/growing seasons) can add a more permanent addition with the benefit of easily being moved to a new spot when you fancy mixing things up. Our Container Gardening category is bursting with our favourite options that are happy in pots.

Plants for Containers - Herbaceous, Shrubs and Alpines - Helenium ‘Short and Sassy’, Buddleja Buzz ‘Lavender’, Lewisia ‘Little Peach’

What material should my containers be made from?

There are a range of pots on the market, all with different characteristics that compliment different garden styles, along with their own pros and cons.

  • Frost proof terracotta are great for pots that are outside all year round. Clay and terracotta pots do tend to dry out more that plastic, so keep an eye on moisture levels.
  • Plastic or fibreglass pots are practical for their lightweight nature, meaning they can be moved around with ease. Tending to be relatively inexpensive, you can get these pots in many different colours and styles.
  • Metal pots compliment a modern garden, with the benefit of being frost proof. They do however heat up quickly in summer and get very cold in winter.
  • Wooden containers add a natural, rustic aesthetic to planting. Line wooden containers with plastic sheeting to extend its lifespan or paint it with a preserver to help avoid rotting.

Top tip: Repurpose old household items (anything from baths to old watering cans, buckets and jars) for unique, creative and cost-effective pots.

Terracotta clay garden pots and containers for potted plants

What size container should I choose?

Choose your pot size so that it can hold the roots of the plant you are going to put in. Opt for a larger sized container if you are plating a group of plants. The larger the pot, the less likely it is to dry out – although, be careful to not choose a pot too big for the size of the plant, as the compost is more likely to become waterlogged and lead to problems like root rot. Instead, gradually increase the pot size as the plant grows.

Do I need to add drainage to pots?

Adequate draining can be achieved by selecting a pot that has multiple holes at the bottom, to allow excess water to drain out. If your container has no holes, you can try drilling some yourself. Waterlogging can also be decreased by raising containers onto pot feet or bricks. If you’re using a container that has one large hole at the bottom, there is a risk of compost being washed out along with the excess water. Place a thin layer of stones or broken bits of terracotta at the bottom, leaving plenty of room for plants to root.

Pot feet - raised containers for heavy rainfall

What compost should I use in containers?

The secret to a great container display is choosing the right compost for pot success. Containers require a specially formulated potting compost/media, rather than the normal garden compost made in your compost bin. For short term displays like annuals, opt for a multipurpose peat free compost. If you are planting up perennials, use a soil-based compost. More specific plants, like acid-loving specimens, will perform well in ericaceous composts.

How can I keep my potted plants healthy?

  • Summer watering: During the summer months, it’s important to check the moisture level of compost in your pots, as containers are more prone to drying out than plants that are directly in the ground. With less access to water, keep your pots well hydrated by watering thoroughly in the morning or evening, ensuring water soaks through to the roots.
  • Feed your plants: Give your potted plants a boost with nutrients from additional feeding. Plants in containers have less access to nutrients than those in the beds and borders, so a slow-release fertiliser or liquid feed will be welcome by potted plants, ideally fed fortnightly during their growing season.
  • Deadheading: Like all plants, those in containers benefit from regular deadheading for a neat display that can encourage further flowering.
  • Wet weather warning: Move pots under cover to prevent the compost from becoming waterlogged during periods of heavy downpours.
  • Winter care: Moving containers under cover or wrapping them in bubble wrap will also help to prevent the compost from freezing during colder months. Watering can also be reduced in winter.
  • Repotting: Keep a check on the growth of your plants. Plants that have filled their containers along with those that have been in the same container for several years will need to be re-potted. Compost also loses its structure over time, so pots benefit from a refresh now and then.

Repotting plants and alpines


Don’t forget to check out our range of container-friendly plants for your next garden project.

Happy gardening!