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Growing plants in containers is a great way to bring life and colour into otherwise dull spots in your garden. Patios, balconies and window boxes are all places where plants can be easily introduced in containers. Plants in containers do require more care than those in gardens, but by following our advice you will find this easy.
You can grow a wide range of plants in containers. Image: Neil Hepworth/RHS
Almost any type of plant can be grown in a container. Generally, the bigger the pot and the plant, the easier it is to care for. Soft, fleshy, leafy plants such as tomatoes and fuchsias are more demanding than ‘leathery’ plants such as pelargoniums (tender geraniums) or lavender.
For more on ideas of plants to grow in containers, see the links below;
Lilies: growing in containersRoses: growing in containersTrees: growing in containersFruit in containersHerbs in containersVegetables in containers
Plant in early spring so that plants quickly put out roots and become established. Autumn planting may lead to losses from waterlogging and evergreens may deteriorate over winter from dryness at the roots or wind-burn of the foliage.
Watering is one of the most important jobs when growing plants in containers. Not enough water will cause plants to dry out, and maybe die. On the other hand, overwatering is very damaging as most plants do not like sitting in water. See the advice below on summer care and winter care for information on watering plants in containers.
See the advice below on summer care and winter care for information on feeding plants in containers.
Plant roots eventually fill containers and this often reduces growth. This is not necessarily a bad thing as slightly stressed plants are often attractive and the slower growth reduces the maintenance needed. However, eventually the plant will need to be moved to a bigger container or the compost refreshed in the same pot, as composts lose their structure over time. Shrubs and trees that stay in a pot for years are especially vulnerable unless re-potted.
These steps will ensure success when re-potting into a larger container:
In years when re-potting is not carried out, topdress by removing 5cm (2in) old compost from the top of the pot and replacing with fresh compost.
Plants in containers need attention all year, but summer is the most critical period as plants can soon run short of water and nutrients.
In winter, the main danger is compost freezing, which may kill plants.
Overwatering is the most common cause of loss of container plants; watering should aim to keep the compost moist, never soggy and avoid alternating dryness and saturation.
Plants grown in containers suffer from many of the same pests and diseases as when grown in beds and borders, such as aphids, algae, liverworts and moss and scale insects. Vine weevil and fungus gnats are particularly common pests of container-grown plants.
Overpotting is another common cause of problems.
AgapanthusCitrus Containers: planting upContainers: summer selectionContainers: winter selectionFuchsiaHouseplantsLavenderOverpottingPelargonium (geranium)RHS video: Potting onSink and trough gardening
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The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.