Best Tips for Outdoor Containers

A mantra from my gardening experience is that ‘A good big one will beat a good small one’ and this applies to containers growing plants outdoors. Big containers offer more control over watering and feeding, they bring plants closer to your senses and can be architectural in their own right. In a plant poll they also opted for a big one over a small one!

Instant Tips

  • Think about the plant roots. Roses grow long deep roots needing deep pots, other plants take moisture and food from surface or shallow roots.
  • Think about the plant leaves. Fleshy leafy growth will need more water as they transpire.
  • Globular pots are popular but very hard to empty when repotting as the neck is narrower than the circumference.
  • Use matching saucers so you can also water from underneath. It can be hard to get enough water in from the top.


Use Heavy Containers

  • ‘A good big one will beat a good small one’ and this applies to most containers. When full of loam based compost a big container will be heavy.
  • You do not want containers to fall over, plants get damaged and grow at funny angles striving for light.
  • Do not let containers become top heavy or too light through lack of watering.
  • Thin walled containers gain and loose heat rapidly. Thicker containers keep roots at a more even temperature.
  • Choose heavy terracotta or reconstituted stone over plastic. If you must use a light container put rocks in the bottom.
  • You can get special casters to wheel your container around the garden. This can be useful to seek out the sun.

Planting Outdoor Containers

  • Decide which is your star plant and put it in place first, slightly off centre. Infill planting densely for a quick result, containers should be about show.
  • Aim for plants that add about 50% in height. Tall thin plants will dwarf the container and may make it unsteady.
  • Think of using a ‘shock and awe’ plant to grab attention.
  • Bury some plants in smaller pots that you can replace with fresher plants.
  • Use some trailing plants to break the edge of the container and make a link with the ground.
  • Plan a colour scheme green and gold foliage looks warm, silver foliage is cold. Spot plants with pink or purple flowers can add sparkle to a white combination.

Moss Garden

Quick Tips for Containers

  • Use slow release fertiliser mixed with loam based compost if you are using longer term plants as opposed to annuals.
  • Provide good drainage and stand containers on pot feet so water can drain away.
  • Terracotta containers were used by ancient Greeks 2500 years ago so they are a well proven method of gardening.
  • Experiment with shapes and sizes of container. Make container gardening fun.
  • Get further inspiration for a book on Container Gardening from amazon.

Book Cover

Outdoor Containers for Special Purposes

  • You can grow ‘Crops in Pots: 50 Great Container Projects Using Vegetables, Fruit and Herbs.’ by Bob Purnell
  • Old sinks are often used for alpine and small plants.
  • Bonsai need to grow outdoors in natural conditions. Some beautiful containers are available
  • Quick growing salad crops can be grown in containers to avoid slugs.

Unique container at Bolen residence

Photo Credits
3 PLANT POTS by KTDEE….popping in and out CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Moss Garden by Flatbush Gardener CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Unique container at Bolen residence by Gardening in a Minute CC BY-NC 2.0
Potted Plants by Yoav Lerman CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Potted PlantsSlightly Potty? Needs some potty training?

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