Potting Plants – The Basics

When it comes to potting plants, experienced gardeners can afford to do a little bit of showing off. In many ways, it’s an art form – all plants have their own specific requirements and being able to take care of them is a rather impressive feat indeed. For the inexperienced gardener however, potting plants can be somewhat of a nightmare, at least at first.
There are many, many different rules to follow if you want to successfully pot and maintain the health of a plant. Some are more obvious than others. Some are easy, some a little harder. What’s important is that they’re all tried and tested – so give them a go and watch your plants start to thrive!

Choosing The Right Pot

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Almost anything can be used as a potting container, even things like old milk cartons or disused wicker baskets. According to Realsimple.com the only really important thing to consider, is how your choice of material might affect your plant. Plastic pots are very popular because they’re cheap and fairly durable, but the moisture that they ‘sweat’ tends to weaken a plant after prolonged use. This can be tackled by using a hole borer to create additional drainage channels in its base. Strictly speaking, as long as your chosen pot has plenty of drainage holes and the type of plant that you are trying to grow is suitable for your garden, potting should be relatively straightforward.

Preparing To Pot

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When potting a plant, never use soil from the garden. It tends to be far too unclean and can even be infected with fungal diseases that will kill your plant. Almost all plants are suited to the types of potting soil that are commonly available at garden centers. Only succulents and cacti need a specially formulated mix.
If your pot is very large, it is a good idea to prepare and fill it in its eventual location. That way, you won’t have to move it again. Some experts do advise gardeners to place broken pot-shards over the holes in their container. This prevents the potting soil from immediately washing away, whilst still allowing water to escape. Fill the pot until the base of your plant is about 1 inch away from its top. Pat the soil lightly to eliminate air pockets, but do not pack it down too hard. Add water a little bit at a time, until the soil feels suitably spongy. Take care not to cover the plant with soil – the stem should be entirely above its surface.

Feeding & Watering

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If you plant in mild weather, you can get away with watering only about once a week. As temperatures rise and summer arrives, do try to increase this routine. Hanging plants and small pots tend to need watering twice a day, while larger pots only really need the one visit. The experts at BetterHomes&Gardens.com advise gardeners to always water the soil and not the plant itself – this can cause fungal disease. If you can manage it, place potted plants somewhere where they won’t be rained on too heavily. Too much water can easily kill a plant.
For super-healthy plants, use a liquid or water-soluble fertiliser every couple of weeks. It really is that simple.

Maintenance

maintenance

Potted plants do require a little bit of love every now and then. Deadheading – pinching or cutting off faded blooms, is essential if you want to keep your plant looking healthy. Deadheading is a natural process that encourages a plant to produce more flowers, but you can help the process along by eradicating dead plant material whenever you notice it. For some plants, it is necessary to shear the whole thing – usually to about one third its original size. Your plant might look a little bare for a week or so, but it will soon begin to thrive in the absence of waste material.
Potting plants can often seem like a complicated job, but it’s mostly common sense. Though it can be a daunting process for the first-time ‘potter,’ it tends to be a skill that many gardeners pick up and never forget.

About the author  ⁄ Emily Steves

Emily Steves is a gardening expert and enthusiast about her gardening. Emily writes for a number of online gardening publications on various subjects from potting and planting to choosing the right flowers for your garden. She recommends Flora Select for gardening supplies and advice.