Having chosen your containers, place them around your garden or terrace, patio or balcony and group them together. When you’re happy with the arrangement, draw a rough sketch of your design and spend a day or so observing the movement of the sun. I know this might sound silly and obvious, but sunlight is an important element for plants, so there is no point of putting a fern into a container that is exposed to full sunshine… Then go to your garden centre or order your plants online ( don’t forget your sketches and observations!). You can order your plants online from Garden centers & nurseries.
Choosing Plants for Containers
Most plants do well in containers but their thirst for water varies greatly. So don’t mix moisture-loving plants with drought-tolerating plants in the same container. Plant them into separate pots and make sure you remember which one is which! Buy sun-loving plants for your containers exposed to full sun and shade-tolerating ones for shady spots. Also, mix evergreens, perennials and annuals – you don’t want all your containers look empty and sad during the winter! Plants should be smaller than the container so that they’ve got room to grow.
In permanent containers put evergreen plants that make a statement, box, bay, bamboo and other architectural plants.
Herbs are ideal for containers, as most of them tolerate poor soil conditions. Bay and rosemary are evergreen and easy to take care of. You can mix lavender, sage, thyme and tarragon together. In the summer add annuals: basil, coriander, parsley and chives. Mint should be grown in a container as it’s very invasive. Read more about herb gardening.
In larger pots, plant trailers, climbers & fuchsias. You can mix lilies, grasses and hostas together to create a lush arrangement. In small containers put summer herbs or succulent plants.
Trees can also be grown in containers, particularly ornamental trees such as Japanese Acers, Cherry trees, dwarf apple, prune trees etc. Orange and lemon trees are an ideal addition to the patio – but you must move these inside for the winter.
To create an exotic look, group small banana trees, bamboos, grasses, palms and fatsia japonica
You can buy these plants online. (I’ve bought most of my plants online – they were all healthy and happy looking – so don’t worry about ordering plants online!)
Preparing containers before planting
If your containers are made of terracotta or stone, soak them well with water before planting in them to stop the compost drying out. If you’re using metallic containers line them with bubble paper – this will keep the plants warm during the winter, cool in the summer. If you’re planting in hot weather, line your pots with damp paper before planting to conserve moisture. If you’re planting moisture-loving plants, line the inside of the containers with plastic sheets to retain the moisture. Large containers should be planted in situ – but you can lighten the weight (and save on compost!) by filling the container (up to one third) with polystyrene bits. Make sure that all your containers have drainage holes in their base.
Preparing plants before transplanting
Always check the roots – if they are long and knotted up this means they’ve been kept in their plastic pot too long. You should soak these plants in plenty of water, leave them for an hour or so, then gently spread out the roots before planting them. All other plants should also be watered before transplanting them. Then place small stones or gravel at the bottom of the containers (don’t block the drainage holes) and add some grit to the compost to allow better drainage. Add water-retaining granules and slow-releasing fertiliser to the root level, put in a layer of compost, then place your plant into the container. Add more compost until you cover the plant - to the same level on the stem as it was in its plastic container. Leave a minimum of one inch between the rim of the container and the compost.