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Best plants for Pots

What Plants Grow Best in Pots

Some plants grow better than others in pots. Even with the best care, some plants won’t grow as well in a pot as they would in the ground.

To get the most out of your pot plants, you need to understand how conditions in a pot can be different to growing in the ground. Then you look for plants that do well in those conditions.

What’s different about growing a plant in a pot compared to in the ground?

In the confined environment of a pot, the soil/potting mix dries out faster, and heats up and cools down faster. Nutrients leach out quicker, and root growth is confined.

In the short term this means that the plant needs more frequent watering and feeding than a plant in the ground. In the longer term as the plant grows, the roots can become coiled and potbound and the plant begins to deteriorate. Growth can become spindly, the leaves may be pale and the plant may be prone to wilting. To prevent this occurring, repot the plant into fresh mix and/or into a larger pot as soon as roots start appearing in the drainage holes.

The advantages of growing in a pot often outweigh any disadvantages:

· you can often give the plants better quality soil

· they can be shown off to their best advantage

· it can be more convenient, eg. potted herbs in the kitchen or near the back door

· in a small garden, pots may be the only way you can grow large plants

The easiest plants to grow in pots are those that don’t require much water (such as cactus and succulents), or that only grow for one season (such as annuals) – because you can throw them away when they’re past their best.

Plants that Grow Best in Pots

All kinds of different plants grow well in pots, ranging from annuals to woody shrubs and small trees. They all have very different requirements so it’s important to choose the right type of pot and potting mix to maximise their growth.

Cactus and succulents – These are the easiest to grow of all pot plants because they don’t need much attention – excellent for children and beginners!

Flowering annuals – These are fast-growing and will reward you with a quick, colourful display. They need frequent watering so choose a pot that can hold a reasonable amount of soil. For the best effect, plant them in a massed display – a wide tub, large hanging basket or a long trough are ideal. The hardiest annuals for pots include petunias, pansies and violas, primulas (in cooler areas) and marigolds.

Vegetables – Grow deep-rooted vegetables such as carrots in a deep pot (maybe a trough). Vegetables with fibrous roots such as lettuce can be mass planted in broad tubs or troughs.

Herbs – Plant rampant spreading herbs such as mint in individual pots. Mixed plantings can be grown in troughs and tubs.

Bulbs – These need a very well-drained mix or bulb-growing fibre. Broad bowls and tubs are good for massed displays. After they’ve flowered and the leaves have died back, plant them out in the ground and buy fresh bulbs next season for your pot display.

Shrubs and Trees ­­– Many types of shrubs and small trees can be grown in pots but it’s really important to choose a deep, broad pot with that holds plenty of mix. As a general rule, choose hardy shrubs and small trees that can be relied upon to look good in a pot. Feed them with slow-release fertiliser and lightly prune after flowering to maintain their shape.

What potting mix to buy?

When it comes to potting mix, what you pay for is what you get. The more expensive potting mixes will include more nutrients and contain additives that help retain soil moisture, preventing the pot from drying out. There are also specialist mixes for plants with special requirements such as bulbs and orchids.

Even good quality potting mix will not contain enough nutrients for more than a few months of plant growth. Improve potting mixes by adding a slow release fertiliser and with regular applications of liquid fertiliser.

What Not to Grow in Pots

  • Deep-rooted plants in shallow pots
  • ‘Fussy’, tender plants
  • Water-hungry plants
  • Plants that only look good when they’re flowering
  • Indoor plants in badly lit rooms

by John Mason Dip.Hort.Sc.FIOH Principal ACS Distance Education

For more information on courses and books offered world wide through John’s school, see www.hortcourses.com , www.acsgarden.com , www.acsbookshop.com

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