Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned gardener, we could all do with a little help now and then when it comes to caring for potted blooms.
Here we’ve listed our top tips for keeping outdoor potted plants healthy, helping to ensure that you can have the garden showpieces you deserve.
Picking the pots
Choose a container with one or more holes in the bottom to allow water to drain freely.
Inadequate drainage can cause root rot and roots to drown. This will in turn cause the plant to die ahead of time.
What type of pot you choose depends on both your style and price range.
Almost anything can be used as a container for potted outdoor plants, including the likes of old teapots (for a kitsch effect), a wellington boot, jars, baskets and old bath tubs.
If you’re looking for something lightweight to keep your outdoor potted plants in, particularly if you wish to move it around during the different seasons, opt for the likes of plastic, resin or fiberglass.
These materials are good choices as they’re not porous, which means they absorb less moisture than the likes of wood or unglazed clay―leaving more water for the plant.
Opting for potting mix
Do not use soil that you have taken from the garden or other potted outdoor plants as it may be contaminated with fungal diseases, insects and weed seeds.
These will all affect the health of the plant. Instead, purchase a good quality potting soil from your local garden centre or online.
Opt for a light and loose mixture, containing materials such as peat moss, vermiculite and decomposed organic matter.
If you have decided to plant cacti or succulents, use a mix specifically formulated for these species of plant.
To ensure low plant maintenance, choose a potting mix made up of a time-release fertiliser and moisture-retaining polymer crystals.
Choosing the plants
A good rule to follow is ‘right plant, right place’.
It’s extremely important to take location and climate into consideration when placing outdoor potted plants.
For example, roses require six hours of full sunlight, which means positioning them in a place that only receives one hour of sunlight in the early morning is not going to work.
Do your homework, research online, read books and enquire at your local garden centre to establish which plants will thrive in the sun you have available.
Use one kind of plant per pot
When determining which plants to buy, the best approach is to use one kind of plant per pot.
If you choose to pool a number of different outdoor potted plant species, it’s important to make sure they enjoy the same moisture and light conditions.
For example, don’t place a pansy and a cactus in the same pot and expect them to both thrive.
Prepare the pots
If your containers and pots are oversized, it’s a good idea to position them where you want them to sit in the garden prior to filling them with soil and your chosen plant, as they will be much easier to move when empty.
Once your outdoor potted plants are full and watered, they may be too difficult to move.
For best results and to ensure the potting mix doesn’t escape, cover the holes with a coffee filter or a shard of broken pot.
This won’t prevent the water from escaping. A good tip to follow involves checking the soil’s moisture content before pouring it into the chosen pot.
To ensure you’re adding the correct amount of water, read the instructions on the bag.
In most cases, you will need to add a little water at a time, kneading the mixture with your hands. It should feel like a damp sponge.
The next step requires you to fill the container with soil.
Place the potting mix about one inch from the top of the pot (this should be where the stem sprouts from the soil’s surface).
Before planting your chosen plant, use your fingers to pat down the soil. This will eliminate any big air pockets.
Prizing plants from containers
Begin by removing the plant from its original container.
For best results, water your soon-to-be outdoor potted plants in their nursery containers at least an hour before transplanting them into their new pots.
This will help to ease their removal and reduce the likes of transplant shock. It’s also important to support the top of the root ball when transplanting the plant.
Do this by placing a finger on each side of the stem to support the plant; then tilt the pot and shake slightly to loosen before tipping gently into your hand.
It’s never a good idea to pull a plant out by its stem as this can damage the roots. If it is stuck, simply tap the sides of the pot to slacken it.
In certain circumstances, the roots can be root-bound, which means they appear to circle around and around.
If this happens, gently tease the ends of the roots free before planting in the pot.
Managing the soil when planting
Once you have removed the plant from its nursery pot, place it on top of the soil mix.
If you are potting multiple plants, you should aim to leave at least an inch around each root ball.
This will allow you to add the correct amount of mix in between the plants. You should also leave around an inch between the soil surface and the edge of the pot.
Cautiously fill in any spaces with small handfuls of soil, before patting gently to eradicate any unwanted air pockets.
It’s important to make sure the stem sits entirely above the surface, which means you must avoid piling soil on top of the plant.
Watering your outdoor potted plants
Finally, water the pot. This will help to settle the roots into their new home.
If the soil level dips below the top of the root ball, simply add more mix to the pot.
For best results, water your outdoor potted plants about once per week (if the weather is mild).
During the months of summer, increase the water intake.
Potted outdoor plants can inject plenty of life and colour onto patios, decking and outdoor spaces and they’re often surprisingly easy to care for.
If you want to add even more colour, opt for bright storage containers or something a little more out of the ordinary.