PRUNING, TOPIARY AND GENERAL PLANT CARE- Why looking after long term plants in containers is very important?


If you have plants that have been many years in pots and planters, they need various general maintenance procedures to be carried out. This is done in order for the plant to not only survive but flourish from one year to another. It is beneficial if these routine checks are carried out throughout the year, and especially spring which is an important time for which plants get the nutrients they require for the forthcoming growing season.


As the compost ages, it starts to lose its vitality, in that the nutrients available to the plants are slowly being reduced over time. To counteract this new feed has to be introduced in the container every year.

Hand fertilising
Fertilizing is important

This is accomplished by taking away the first few centimetres of compost and then replacing it with new compost mixed with the required dosage of slow release fertilizer.  In effect, you would use a rose fertilizer for roses and shrubs, a general fertilizer for non-ericaceous plants, and an ericaceous fertilizer for acid-loving plants such as pieris and camellias.


As the plants start to grow, it will eventually look unruly, untidy and unbalanced. It can also become root bound where the roots start sticking out at the bottom of the container through the drainage holes or that large amounts of water are required to keep the plant happy (it will wilt in dry weather, and increasing amounts of water are required to stop the plant from wilting).

Root Bound olant
A root bound plant, that seriously needs repotting

If you notice that the plant requires more water or it is constantly wilting then it is time to be re-housed into the next available pot size up. This usually takes place every couple of years, but this is so dependent on the plants in the container. Some plants grow quickly, whilst others grow at a more sedate pace.

A plant needs to be re-potted into a larger pot



Plants in containers such as some shrubs require just as much pruning as those who are planted directly into the ground. Pruning is required to remove dead, crossing branches, as well as those who are starting to grow inwards (as they will get less light). Evergreen shrubs have a more formal method of pruning called topiary (see later on) in which errant branches are cut to bring the plant to a better, formal shape.

Secateurs very useful when pruning


Tender plants may need to be brought into a conservatory, garden room or greenhouse, or even the house if you do not have anything else available. This is very important if you live in an area where cold, hard frosts are very common throughout late autumn to early spring.

If the plant is in such a large container and cannot be moved easily, then thick horticultural fleece (which can raise the temperature by 5 degrees Celsius) or bubble wrap can be used as an alternative. These measures of covering the plants cannot be relied on to save them in a severe winter. It at all possible, it is recommended that you move the plant to be near a wall, especially a house wall, which can offer some heat and frost protection.


Many evergreen garden shrubs such as box can be grown in containers, especially flanking either side of the entrance to a front door. The decorative effect of these plants can be enhanced by training these shrubs or by clipping them in a form known as topiary.

Hedge Trimming
Box hedge trimming using shears

Many small leaved evergreen shrubs that are sufficiently fine textured and thick enough( that no visible gaps can be seen) can be shaped into many geometric shapes, such as spheres (balls), hemisphere (domes), pyramids, cones, or more complex designs such as spirals or animal shaped. All that is required to do the topiary task are a pair of secateurs, shears (commonly called lady shears) or scissors.


To create spheres and hemispheres, stand above the plant and turn the shears upside down so that the shape of the blade follows the curve. Keep walking around and keep standing back to view your progress. It is important that you keep the shear to the plant at all time, otherwise, it will not be a perfect sphere.

Elephant topiary
Topiary can be done to create quite exotic looking structures

Secateurs can be used to shape large-leaved plants such as holly, bay or viburnums.

Flowering and berry producing shrubs can be shaped after they have flowered or produced their fruit.

No shrubs should be clipped between the end of summer to mid-autumn, as this encourages soft new growth of leaves and shoots. This new growth may not be full hardy and could be damaged by severe frosts.

In this article, the importance of looking after well-established plants in containers needs to take place, as well as talking about topiary, the benefits of shaping your shrubs into.

If you have any questions or comments that you wish to raise, please do not hesitate to leave me a comment below and I will get back to you as soon as possible.

Thank you



Easy Fill Hanging Basket- Why Use Plastic Instead of Wire

Product Name: Easy Fill Hanging Basket

The Cheapest Place to Buy:

Size of Hanging Basket: 35 cm in diameter and can hold up to 12 litres of compost

Shipping weight: 2.3kg

My score: 9/10


When it comes to summer there is nothing like a hanging basket full of flowers, suspended by a chain from a bracket near a person’s home. These features are so often breathtakingly beautiful.

Traditionally a wire hanging basket is used, which requires a lining to be put down, then sphagnum moss added to make a waterproof seal so that compost can be added. The sphagnum moss also acts as a water reservoir preventing the hanging basket from drying out.

A hanging basket
A traditional  wire hanging basket

The problem with these hanging baskets is that they are so fiddly to place plants into the side of the basket. This requires so much trial and error to get it just right. This job is often messy, as when you cut holes in the lining the compost can fall out going everywhere. If only there was a better way of doing this?


The answer to the question is yes, with the easy fill hanging basket, where the guesswork has been taking out when planting annuals in these baskets.

Each basket is generous in size (35cm in diameter but smaller baskets can be bought) and can hold up to 12 litres of multipurpose or tub and hanging basket compost. It allows the plants inside to develop a good solid root structure and to ensure that there is limited competition between the plants each time. In order to get the maximum benefit of moisture retention that it is advised to mix the compost with water retaining crystals, so less frequent watering is required.

                                                   Easy Fill Hanging Basket


The lattice gates holes at the side of the hanging basket takes out the guessing of where to plant. This allows decent sized plug plants to be planted from the outside in, so as not to crush the roots or damage the leaves.

All you need to do is pass the plug plants through the hole in the side and then slide one lattice gate down to gentle lock the plant in position. Each easy fill hanging basket can hold up to 18 plants; 12 at the side and 6 at the top, so you can have an impressive display in summer of beautiful flowers.

The gates are latticed as this allows the roots to ‘breathe’, which will not only promote a healthy root system but will have the added benefit of producing larger, healthier plants.

                                               Lattice Gate Replacements

These hanging baskets are not only for flowers, but can also be used to grow strawberries, tumbling tomatoes, or how about some basil and parsley. The hanging basket is not only for summer, but can also be used for spring, autumn and winter displays. The hanging basket can be used throughout the year, adding a point of interest as the seasons change.


The benefit on offer are as follows:

  • There is no root damage.
  • Damaged stems or leaves become a thing of the past.
  • No liner required.
  •  You will find that there is no more mess.
  • Integrated reservoirs at the base of the basket, to allow water to be held. This is useful in hot, dry summers.
  • Reusable year after year.
  • It can be used as a permanent or semi-permanent fixture.

The hanging baskets are manufactured in the UK using recycled plastic. It also comes with a galvanized steel chain for rust protection. The chain comes with 4 anchor points with ‘T’ bar attachments for ease of securing the chains to the basket. This will prevent the hanging basket from turning and twisting in the wind.

This is one well thought out hanging basket.


As with any good products, there are disadvantages, which need to be considered before purchasing the item.

The disadvantages are as follows:

  • It is made out of plastic, so will not like being dropped from a great height.  This is, of course, unless you want it to end up in pieces.
  • The lattice gates can be broken if you press them in too hard. This can be solved as replacements can be bought here.


If you are looking for a hanging basket that has many advantages than disadvantages, then I would recommend the easy fill hanging basket. The hanging basket, which can be used not to only grow flowers, but can be used to grow strawberries, tomatoes, and herbs. The easy fill hanging basket is a basket for all seasons. If you are interested in purchasing an easy fill hanging basket, then the can be bought from Amazon UK.

If you have any questions or comments about this review, please leave a comment below and I will get back to you.

Growing Magnolia Trees in Containers

When you think about magnolia trees, your first thought is of a majestic plant, growing in well-kept lawns or in large gardens, bearing large pink or white flowers in early spring. You see them in gardens but never in pots due to their large root system. Your second thought is that you want one but that I have no garden to put it in. This article is about the suitability of growing magnolia in containers.

If you are going to use a container, you will get a level of control that is not available to those who grow directly in the ground, so that it may grow better than normal.  Generally, magnolias love sun, then containers offer a distinct advantage that it can be moved to any location in the garden to maximize sunlight exposure.

Traditional Magnolia tree
Traditional Magnolia Tree

It will also allow the magnolia tree to be moved into the greenhouse or conservatory in winter to offer maximum protection from severe frosts.  This is especially advised when the specimen used is young.

What must be noted is that not all magnolia varieties can be planted in a container.  This is especially true of the giant varieties. Dwarf varieties that grow less than 3 m in height, will do well in containers.


Star, Ann and Southern Magnolias all can be grown in containers, even Saucer Magnolias at a push if you have a big enough container. Remember magnolias are trees and will have a complex root system that needs feeding and watering, more than other plants in containers.

Magnolia Tree in Pots
Magnolia trees in Pots


Magnolia roots grow very quickly and intricately, so getting the right size and shape of the container is of ultimate importance. A general rule is that for every centimetre of girth the tree makes in diameter, a 30 cm increase in height and the diameter of the container is required. For example, if a mature tree has a trunk diameter of 5 cm, then the container needs to be 1.5 m in height and 1.5 m in diameter. As you can imagine this is quite a large container, requiring a lot of compost, feed, and watering.


Fill the bottom of the container with any salvaged material that you have available. This could be broken crocks, stones, or anything else you may have lying around. You will then need to fill the container to near the top (about 2 cm below the container rim) with multipurpose compost, mixed with small amount of sand to make it free-flowing and not heavy.

Moisture needs to be retained as to make the compost neither too wet nor too dry. As typical when planting any tree, you will need to dig a hole twice the size of the root ball.  This is carried out to allow the roots to grow freely and without hindrance. Place the magnolia tree in the hole, making sure the tree is planted at the same level of depth as it was found originally in the store bought container.

You then backfill with multipurpose compost, making sure that the compost is firmed in. As an alternative to multipurpose, ericaceous compost can be used but as this is more expensive than other types of compost, and therefore it is not recommended to use unless you can afford it.


Once the tree is planted, mulch needs to be added on top of the compost layer. This can be anything from woodchips, cocoa shells, slate or decorative chippings ( see on how to do this). The choice is up to you.

In order to support the tree, a stake is required to ensure that the roots are not damaged in windy conditions. The stake needs to be planted adjacent to the tree (making sure that no roots are damaged when the stake is placed in the container) and then tied with two tree ties. One placed near the top and another near the bottom.


The fully planted magnolia tree will benefit by being placed in a sunny, sheltered spot. It may be better to move the tree around within its container until a position is found where the tree will thrive. Ann magnolias are more frost resistant and can be placed in a permanent spot outside if some frost protection is provided.


Water whenever the soil is dry, but especially in the first year of planting.   This will ensure the survival of the tree, as it takes that long for the tree to establish. Most trees fail in the first year due to insufficient watering, so do not water too much or too little. Ericaceous fertilizers are recommended at the manufacturer’s recommended dosage, at least one time a year in early spring.

In this article, the selection of suitable varieties, its method of planting and maintenance of magnolias to produce a healthy tree, has been discussed. Magnolias can be grown in containers with the right selection of tree, container, positioning, watering, feeding, and mulching.

Be sure to enjoy your beautiful blossoms in spring, glistening in the sunlight.

If you have any questions or comments, then please leave a comment below and I will get back to you.

Happy Gardening!

Mulching and General Plant Care in Containers


Mulching is defined as covering the surface of the compost after planting as a means of preventing excessive moisture loss and as a means of improving the look at the top of the container.

Mulches can be divided into two categories. Category one is when the mulch will decompose over time and therefore need replacing frequently. These mulches will eventually rot into the compost and provide an additional source of feed. Category 2 mulches are more permanent and are more attractive to look at.

The key to good mulching is to match the planting style to its container so that it will blend into the background. You do not want the mulch to stick out like a sore thumb.


There are many kinds of mulches that can be used in containers, these include :

  • Chipped bark (category 1 mulch) which is ideal for woodland themes, such as ferns and hostas (plants they thrive in the shade).

    Bark Chipping
    Bark chippping
  • Cocoa shells (category 1 mulch) has a similar application to chipped bark but has a superior slug and snail deterrence.
  • Gravel (category 2 mulch) can be coloured to many different shades and different sizes which will match numerous planters.

    Gravel mulch
    Gravel mulch
  • Slate shards (category 2 mulch) also come in various shades that include charcoal, green, old plum. They tend to go well with modern containers such as aluminium pots.
  • Pebbles (category 2 mulch) of various sizes, shapes and shaded can be used to match with the proportions of the container and the plants it contains inside. So small pebbles will suit small containers, whilst large pebbles will suit large container. This tends to be good for cordyline and other grasses.

    Pebble Mulch
    Pebble mulch
  • Glass and other aggregates (category 2 mulch) also look very attractive in containers. Glass chips of different colours and other aggregates can be used in metallic containers and modern glazed pots.

In terms of mulches cost will be a factor and if you are cash strapped then you can do without one, but you will need to water more frequently if you do not mind do it. Mulches can turn the plain to the spectacular, so think about using them.

There is no right or wrong choice as what mulches to use but the rule of thumb of using category 1 mulch for traditional wooden containers, and category 2 mulches for more modern metallic and glazed containers is a good guide.


The general care of plants in containers is dependent if you have planted annuals, which require more maintenance, or perennials such as shrubs and trees, and how much initial preparation you have done beforehand in terms of compost choice, feeding, watering and mulching.


You need to maintain the display in order to improve its aesthetics. This is done by clearing away (or deadheading as it is technically known) of spent flowers, yellowing or brown leaves, dying or dead plants and other debris. This will keep the container in tip-top condition, as long as it is done regularly. Deadheading is normally done by pinching using fingers or can be done by the use of special deadheading secateurs.

Powdery Mildew
Powdery mildew commonly affects plants

At the same time as deadheading, it is advised that you check for slug/snail damage. Aphid infestations or other pest problems, along with diseases the plant may face. One example that commonly occurs is that dry compost and humid conditions can promote powdery mildew or grey mould, which makes the plant look unsightly. Dilute milk can be used to treat powdery mildew and must be used at the first sign of the disease.


Some plants grow vigorously, whilst others grow at a more sedate pace. The vigorous plant will start to choke the slow grower and could kill it eventually, and so must be cut back to avoid this happening, so plants become good neighbours and not choking each other, fighting for nutrients, water, and light. You need to make sure that the plants are not shading each other, which can have a detrimental effect on the growth of plants and the blooms it produces.


When you are ready to get rid of your summer display, and you are preparing for autumn/winter. You can get rid of all the annuals, but you can consider taking cuttings of stock plant of the tender perennials. If you have a cold frame or a greenhouse to keep the cuttings sheltered from frosts. You can always use ivies as a means of adding greenery to autumn displays.

Ivy in container
Ivy in a container

Some tender plants can be rescued and used the following year and thus saving a bob or two. This is providing that this is done before the end of September when the first frosts are due. This includes geraniums, fuchsias, Lotus, Bidens, and argyranthemums.

If you move winter bedding plants close to your house near its wall, then this will offer some frost protection and will encourage the plants to bloom. If severe frosts are predicted then move hanging baskets in warmer areas such as a greenhouse, porch or conservatory. Pots and other containers can be wrapped up in fleece of varying thickness. They must be applied at night but taken off in the morning, otherwise, the plant may overheat.

Fuchsias in containers


In this article, the use of mulches has been discussed in terms of matching the mulch to the container and plants that grow in them. The general care of plants has been discussed and the importance of keeping planting open and the importance of re-using plants in your display.

If you have any questions that you want to raise or points to discuss, please leave a comment below, and I will get back to you.


Choosing Plants and Seasonal Planting

Some plants fair better in containers than others. For example, yews hate being restricted in pots for any length of time, and it will never flourish. Some plants hate root disturbance and therefore must be planted with great care (with kid gloves).

Yew tree
Yew tree avoid planting these in containers

Otherwise, they will not take root and you will have plenty of losses through the year. In this post, we discuss what to look for when buying plants for containers, and the avoidance of any pitfalls which can take beautiful colourful containers and make them look substandard and unprofessional.


Good plants to look for in containers are quick to mature in producing flowers or fruit, but at the same time do not grow to ginormous proportions. They need to be of interest for a long period of time, can be neglected for a short period of time once it has been established, and they must not succumb to disease.

When buying plants at a garden centre, DIY shop, pound shops or any shop in general, look for plants that are just coming into bloom rather than those crowned in flowers. For perennials make sure that the leaves are healthy, and it is not wilting and that there are no diseases or pests present, which must be avoided at all cost even if it is on offer at half price.

Wilting Flower
Look for signs of the plant under stress and wilting

This is a sign of neglect and of poor plant management at the shop or garden centre. You also need to lift the plant from its pot to check the root system are well-formed and that the plant is not root bound.

If you want to avoid paying larger amounts of money for large plants later on in spring, then buy bedding/patio plants or tender perennials earlier in the growing seasons as seedlings, plugs or mini-plants.


Remember to loosen the roots at the bottom of the plant to encourage them to grow into the new compost and not go round and round as it did in the original container, thus failing for the plant to establish. This is the commonest reason why plants fail in containers and must be avoided at all costs.

Choose right and your container will flourish, choose wrong or neglect your containers and the plants will die. Be wise with your plant selection, but be also bold and daring.


Use of bedding plants and bulbs such a crocus, daffodils, tulips, grape hyacinths, hyacinths, glory of the snow, iris and many more are a great way of introducing seasonal colours in containers and to ring the changes throughout the year.

Hyacinths make good bedding in spring

Many spring planted containers require careful planning, especially when hardy plants and bulbs that are planted in the autumn the year before. It is not advised to put in too much bedding as this could suffocate any bulbs that want to come through.

It is also not good to pack them in too tight, as this will not only ruin the aesthetics but will promote competition between the plant for water and nutrients.


In summer the choice of plants that can be used is very extensive from brightly coloured flowers and foliage. The choice of what to use is up to the individual but remember that each plant must complement each other and not suffocate or fight amongst themselves. You could choose a colour scheme to contrast with each other or you could blend them into the background using subtle differences.

Nemesia a good summer plant

You could buy plug plants in bulk in summer such as marigolds, petunia, begonias, nemesia, busy Lizzies and many others but if you have the time and patience you can grow them from seeds planted in late winter/early spring. You can start them from pennies and you will have more choice of varieties that you can grow.


In autumn, the use of combining flowers and ivies and other hardy foliage plants such as ornamental cabbages can be all combined to produce a different display than the one used in summer. You can be original in your design throughout the growing season, saving some plants and discarding and replacing others.

Ornamental cabbage
Ornamental Cabbage, good for autumn display

There is always a place for violas and pansies that can be used through autumn until February the following year. So in effect you can have a bedding plant in containers throughout the whole of the year including winter.

One interesting fact is that summer pansies and winter pansies are exactly the same plant but planted at different times of the year. Pansies are hardy perennials but in fact are often treated as annuals, where new plants are planted every year.


If you want to have a plant display throughout the different seasons, you can use liners which are plastic pots or troughs that slot into the same container, allowing the previous display to be replaced with ease by a new display. In effect, you can be a man or woman for all seasons.

If you have any questions or comments that you want to make, please feel free to do so at the bottom of this post.

Thank You.

Feed your Plants and not your Containers+ Watering

Once your containers have been filled with the right compost such as multipurpose, ericaceous, or a tub mix, within a short time of 4-6 weeks all the nutrients will be depleted. After this in order for the plants to flourish an additional feed is required at frequent intervals (once a week or fortnightly).

Composts and grow bags

If plants are fed right at the right intervals they will reward you with plenty of blooms, bountiful fruits and vegetables, or lush leaves. Remember overfeeding can cause as much damage as underfeeding, as this can promote diseases and attacks by pests. It is always recommended to feed your plants at the manufacturer’s direction on the package.

You will also save money as fertilizer can be expensive.


All plants need three elements in varying quantities. Nitrogen (N) to produce new shoots and leaf growth, phosphorus (P) for healthy root development and Potassium (K) for flowers and fruit development. All the fertilizers that you will buy contain these elements at different ratios, so you can match the fertilizer to your plants’ requirements.

Fertilizers also contain macro elements (such as sulphur and calcium), elements required by the plant in small quantities but not as much as nitrogen, phosphorous or potassium, and trace elements (such as manganese, iron, magnesium, zinc, molybdenum, chlorine and iodine) that are required in tiny quantities in order for the plant to be healthy.

Look out for problems in plants as this can show element deficiencies that will need to be corrected via fertilizers.

My own range of fertilizers

Fertilizers with high nitrogen content, such as sulphate of ammonia, are best for plants that produce mainly foliage. High potassium content, such as sulphate of potash, are used when flowers and fruit production is desired. If you are growing root vegetables in containers, high phosphorous content is required, such as superphosphate or bonemeal, which promote good healthy roots.

You may need to swap between fertilizers later on the growing season, so that early on you may use a high nitrogen feed to help produce green leaves but change to a high potassium feed later on to produce more bloom or fruits. General fertilizers such as growmore and fish, blood and bone can be used throughout the growing season as a quick tonic for plants.

These general provide nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium at the right ratio for good plant health and growth.


Nowadays slow release fertilizers are widely available that slowly release their nutrients to the plant over six months. The obvious advantage is that the plants will not need feeding again in the growing season. They are no substitute if your plants are showing nutrient deficiencies, as the nutrient will need to be taken up quickly by the plant in order to survive.

This is when liquid fertilizers are a blessing as they are quickly taken up by the roots of the plant.

Hand fertilising
Fertilising is important

Acid loving plants need to be grown in ericaceous compost, compost where no lime has been added and therefore acidic. Iron sulphate and ericaceous fertilizers need to be used in this case as you do not want to increase the pH of the compost.

By careful selection and dosage rates, there is a fertilizer for your container garden, as long as you use the correct method highlighted in this post.


When plants are thirsty they sulk and wilt, or when they are overwatered the plants do not like it. When plants are overwatered the soil is constantly over wet and the plants cannot take up oxygen in their roots. This causes the plants to wilt even though the soil is wet.

lance hose
Watering plants with a lance hose

The result would be also that the leaves start turning yellow, and eventually brown and drop off. The roots also start to rot. Do not assume that if the plant is wilting that the plant needs water, which is why a moisture level meter can be useful in this regard.

watering can
watering plants with watering can

Do not allow the compost to dry out too much as it can be difficult to re-wet it, as water will just run off the surface, and it can reach a point where a plant is beyond redemption. Check all pots, planters and hanging baskets daily from spring to mid-autumn, and in winter to make sure that the containers are not waterlogged.

When watering fill the space between the compost surface and the rim of the pot with water so that it diffuses through gradually, and the compost is wetted to the right depth. Small containers will dry out very quickly and so may need watering twice a day in a hot, dry summer.


If you have little time, a water trickle irrigation system may be useful but could be costly for those on a water meter, but is really useful for those forgetful gardeners. Another way to keep water losses down is to use mulches, which is a topic of another post.

Watering spikes with a drinking soda bottle attached to it or watering glass bulbs or globes have come into fashion for those who are conscientious

Water irrigation
Water irrigation can be important

about their water usage. These are great when you go on holiday during the summer months and you need to make sure that plants are watered and you have nobody who could do this task.

They are also relative cheap especially compared to an irrigation system.

For hanging baskets out of reach do not use watering cans as this will put excessive strain on your shoulder and back. It is recommended that a lance attachment on your hosepipe is used and also safer than climbing a ladder.


Watering is important in plants, get it right your plants will flourish, get it wrong and they will die because of under and over watering. For those who wish for their plants to flourish in containers getting the feed and watering right will ensure that the balance- the ying and yang- is maintained through the growing seasons.

If you have any questions that you want to raise or points to discuss, please leave a comment below, and I will get back to you.



Preparing your Containers for Planting-Getting it right the first time

In order to grow successfully in containers it is essential to have good drainage and soil structure so that a healthy root system can develop in the container. It is paramount that the right compost is used and matched to your plant requirements, so that acid loving plants are planted in ericaceous compost, and the rest is planted in multipurpose or sometimes specialised compost such a citrus compost if you are growing citrus fruit.

good compost
A good multipurpose compost

Most bedding plants, fruits, vegetables and bulbs can be planted in multipurpose compost which are designed to give you plants feed enough for 4-6 weeks but need to be complemented throughout the growing season with additional fertilizers.

You need to make sure that the compost you use is moist but not soaking wet before planting any plants in the container, as this can kill plants very quickly.

Better results will be generated if the plants that are used are watered before and after being planted in the container, as this will settle the roots and make sure that they have enough moisture.


The container used must have drainage holes to remove excess water, especially after it had been raining very hard, as you do not want a waterlogged plant.

If the container you buy does not have any drainage hole you need to create your own by either drilling at 5cm (2 inches) intervals at the bottom of the pot or by using a red hot awl to manually create holes at the bottom of the container.

The argument if these holes need to covered has been going on for such a long time but it is advised to cover the holes with either a layer of broken crocks or a layer of stones (in order to prevent the drainage holes from becoming blocked).

Anything can be used as long as it is cheap, impermeable to water and you can quickly get your hands on them. The jury may still be out but it is better to be safe than sorry.


Most compost bought from garden centres, allotments, online suppliers or DIY centres will have a wetting agent (in order to improve the moisture that is retained by the compost) mixed in with it, and so water retaining gels or crystals will not be required.

If no wetting agents are used in the compost it is advised that you add some at the recommended dosage in order to keep the compost moist and to reduce the watering needs.

By following a few simple steps you can ensure that your containers will flourish and be easy to maintain. You will have to make sure that the compost used is moist but not overly wet, and that it is mixed and broken up as the container is being filled.

This will endure good contact with the plant roots with the compost, and also ensure that no air pockets will exist.

Try the plant for size making sure the plant is suitable for the container, not too big or not too small. This is when foresight comes into play, and it is advised to buy the plant they will suit the planter and not the other way.

Plants should be planted no deeper than they were in the original container, or below the graft union (for fruit tree or roses) or at the visible soil level that it was planted at the nursery.

This is done in order to avoid neck rot, and with the leaves above the soil level in the container (no leaves buried below the surface) so that the plant can be firmed in at the roots. It is recommended that the plant is watered afterwards to give it a good drink but also to help settle the compost around the roots.


There are many types of hanging baskets and wall planters, depending on your taste and preference. The problem is that some hanging containers are difficult to plant up, whilst more modern designs have got around this problem and can be planted with little hassle.

The traditional wire hanging basket, still used by many gardeners, can have plants, especially trailing plants, growing from its side, and also use plants at the top of the basket, so that the ensemble can be matched to produce impressive displays of colour and depth.


wire hanging basket
Various wire hanging baskets

In order to have success the correct planting regime is required, which means that the hanging basket has to be prepared correctly before any plants can be used.

Sphagnum moss acts as a water reservoir and retainer, and so must be used to hold the moisture in. So it is advised before you set up a hanging basket, enough moss is soaked in water in a bucket or another container.


Firstly you need to cut a circular piece of polythene (to act as a liner) from an old compost bag to the size of the bottom of the hanging basket, with the black side facing up and positioned at that location.

Taking large pieces of moss, tuck the plastic liner edge underneath with moss and then continue adding moss until you have a thick layer covering the bottom of the hanging basket, to a height of a couple of centimetres.

A hanging basket
A traditional hanging baskest

In effect, a bowl shape of moss is created at the bottom of the hanging basket. This ‘bowl’ is then filled with multipurpose compost (or tub compost if you want a better result), water retaining gel or crystals, and granular feed to give an initial boost.

Starting at the top of the bowl, trailing, spreading and bushy plants can be added all the way round, placed at equal intervals.

The opening around the plant needs to be filled with moss to prevent water leaking out when you water the hanging basket. Add another layer of compost on top, and more moss around the edge, before more plants are added, making sure that no gaps are visible. Water well and then attach to the hanging basket wall bracket.

Instead of using a black polythene liner, coir matting can be used, with holes cut out in predetermined positions and plants placed in them.

Please remember that hanging baskets are heavy and so good strong brackets are needed in order to avoid the possibility of a hanging basket falling on your head!


Modern easy filled plastic hanging baskets are in many ways similar to a wire basket, but no lining or moss is required. The plants have stations already created for which plants can be positioned and held there by plastic lattice gates. These baskets are very easy to install and are less messy than traditional wire baskets.

Wire baskets are cheaper, but more fiddly, whilst plastic hanging baskets are more expensive but easier to fill with compost and plants. The preference is up to you!


In recent years pocket vertical hanging walls have come into favour in which pockets inside a felt container is filled with plants of your choice. It is mainly used to cover bare walls and fences, as a means of a talking point. The main advantage is that the vertical pocket hanging walls are moveable and can be altered at the owner’s will.

They vary from 7 large pockets to 72 smaller vertical pockets. They  look attractive and cover  bare walls very effectively. The main problem of the compost drying out too quickly can be solved by lining each pocket with a polythene liner, but this can be cumbersome.

Wall planter
Wall planter add interest to walls.

Other wall planters are also possible and you can let your imagination run wild with the possibilities that you can come up with such as

So if you want a traditional hanging basket, a modern easy fill hanging basket, a vertical pocket hanging wall, or a vertical wall, there is a planter for you.

If you have a comment, please leave it below and I will get in contact with you as soon as possible.

Designing Your Container Garden- From pot choice to aesthetics


The choice of what container to use for what plant is very extensive as any visit to a garden centre will tell you, and anything can be used from Belfast sinks, bird baths, old baths, toilets, buckets, old recycling boxes, Wellington Boots and even old dustbins.

Toilet planter
Flower pot toilet make an attractive display
Tyre planter
A well-painted tyre planter, looks very attractive

There is a container that is suitable for the design of your garden being contemporary or traditional, or somewhere between the two. Your choice will follow a theme, which can be carried out throughout your garden.

Some containers are more suited for certain conditions and planting regimes than others. For example in gardens which have limited heat, permanent displays should be in larger pots with good insulation to protect the roots from frost damage-wooden barrels cut in half are a good choice for this.


Glazed terracotta pots are useful in hot, dry spots because the plants in them will not overheat, and therefore need less watering. If you have a balcony or a roof garden, light pots need to be used in order to avoid overloading the load-bearing capacity.

ceramic pots
A large variety of glazed ceramic pots

This is when plastic pots come into their own. The cost aspects cannot be ignored where plastic pots are cheaper but less aesthetically pleasing and more likely to be damaged over time, whilst terracotta pots are more costly but are more pleasing to the eye.

Large variety3
A large variety of terracotta and plastic pots

Terracotta pots can be severely damaged by severe frosts. So this needs to be taken into consideration and frost prone spots must be avoided.

Whatever your budget there is a type of pot and planter that is suitable for you, as long as you take the plant you are thinking of planting in the container into consideration. You need to match the plant to the container and not the container to the plant.

Terracotta pots
A vast array of terracotta pots


Pots and planters can have a great impact on your garden by choosing its position and by making good attractive planting groups. In effect the containers are acting as active sculptures, improving the aesthetics of the garden.

The size of the pot and its proportion to its surroundings are both important criteria that will determine whether a container or group of containers look good in a particular spot.

Generally, if you are in doubt, buy large pots as this will be a more striking feature in the garden. This may sound counter-intuitive, but it is especially true when dealing with small spaces which are enclosed by high walls such as courtyards. If you use small pots in these circumstances, then they will look insignificant and misplaced.

The solution to this common problem is to group small pots together, with one of two large pots at the background to visually ‘anchor’ the collection. This will look striking.

On plain walls to add interest, you can make a large hanging garden by combining planters and hanging baskets at varying positions to create a focal point or you can use terracotta pots bracketed to the wall using special anchors. There are now special containers that you can hang over fences and even drain pipes.

Other aspects that are essential for good planting on containers are the colour scheme, along with the combination of different forms, plant shapes, textures, and even fragrance. As you may what a pot of fragrant herbs or flowers or shrubs close to your front door, so when you open it first thing in the morning your nose is hit by such a pleasant odour.


The style of containers suits different combination of plant shapes, where nominal upright pots need a wide horizontal element to make them look balanced. If topiary is your thing, heavy formal design is preferred which will make the plant look outstanding.

Plants of various sizes
Plants of various sizes in various containers make an attractive display

Modern planter looks spectacular if sculptured specimens are used. The size of the container used must be in proportion to the size of the plant in order to avoid the plant looking out of place. It is no point in using a small plant in large containers or large plants in small containers, the proportions will be totally mismatched.

Using plants of different sizes and shape of leaves, along with flower heights can be used to contrast texture.


With colours you can be bold or not depending if you want the plants to blend with its surroundings or not. The colour scheme can be extended by actually changing the container colour, which can help out in the blend or contrast scheme. Remember at the end of the day the choice of what you do with your container is up to you, and it is actually quite fun going online or garden centres looking for the right pot or plant that is suitable for your garden.

The choice you make is not fixed and you can play around until you have reached a satisfactory display of the plants of your choice with the containers of your choice. Have fun!


If you get the right container in the right position with the right plant in the right form and color scheme then you can turn any boring old plain garden to your own oasis. Try it today.

If you have any points you want to discuss in this article, please leave a comment below and I will get back to you.

Garden Pots and Planters- Why use containers? The flexible choice

The main advantage of container gardening is that it is flexible.  You can choose anywhere you want to grow without being tied down to a fix garden bed, or poor soil growing conditions.

If your garden bed is not ideally situated, or maybe not getting enough sunlight or your garden, rooftop or balcony is not suitable to support a soil based fixed garden, then containers provide a means to plant almost anything you want in the desired position.

Roof Top Garden
Roof Top Gardens can be spectacular.

The attractiveness with containers is that they can be moved with ease to maximize the position so that the plants can obtain the best sunlight


Container gardening is a dynamic branch of horticulture, as numerous varieties of plants are being developed and marketed specifically for their suitability to be grown in pots and planters every year.

Plants in Container
Various plants in Containers

‘Patio living’ is the phrase used to describe gardening in concreted modern housing, where vacant paving, especially mainly in summer, have containers.  These containers and hanging baskets of all different sizes and shapes, contains annual flowers, perennial shrubs and flowers, vegetables, fruit or exotic foliage.

So that a vacant garden will turn from a dreary space to your own piece of paradise, full of large pots and planters on the ground or affixed upon a wall. This will brighten a dull space and maybe if you have the time and expense, a small water feature can be added. You can let your own imagination run wild.

With the right selection of hardy, long-lived plants then you can design your garden in containers that will require little attention from one year to another.  This will make gardening easier for those with busy lives. Container gardening is for all types of gardeners from novices, to intermediates and experts.

This website is tailored to your own needs and I hope you will enjoy it and make the best use of it. Even if you don’t have a garden but only a balcony or rooftop then a container garden is a requirement to brighten any space.


Every garden presents a challenge where adverse weather conditions and growing environments must be met in order to have a successful container garden and avoid failure. There is nothing worse than planting a costly plant in the wrong place in the wrong container for it to die in the same growing season.

For a successful container garden choosing the right plant for the right container in the right place is very important.  This will involve mixing only plants that will thrive in similar growing conditions, which is so important to your growing success.

For example, growing tender plants need protection and will benefit from a shelter of a warm wall.  This wall could be a side of the house or a wall in the garden itself. This is why window boxes are good for growing tender plants, which will make your house look more attractive.


Wind is also another factor that must be taken into consideration when container gardening.  Light pots can be blown down in windy areas of the garden, so must be securely positioned. Hanging baskets are especially prone to wind turbulence where delicate shoots can be damaged.

Wind in garden
WInd can be detrimental to your garden

Look out for cold Easterly winds in winter, which can kill tender and unprotected plants, so try to shelter plants from this.


The sun is such an important aspect in container gardening and in fact in any gardening.   The position of the sun throughout the seasons must be gauged in order to avoid severely shaded areas.

You must position sun-loving plants in containers so that they receive at least six hours of sun per day. For example, strawberry plants in planters will have a large yield of strawberries if positioned in maximum sunlight. They will also ripen must more quickly.

Partial shaded plants can be grown where the plant gets some sunlight for part of the day, whilst shade tolerant plants can be grown where the plants get limited or no sun at all, such as a North facing wall.

Sun in Garden
Sun can really highlight a garden

Another consideration of container gardening is that temperature tends to be higher than in a normal garden, especially as the walls and paving slabs can reflect heat back into containers. If you are using pots that are black or very dark where radiation from the sun can heat the compost in the container very rapidly.

Sun and water
Sun and water make a good garden.

This is good for seed germination but could make it very difficult in a heatwave.  This is because the soil will overheat, causing the plants to wilt and even die. This makes watering problematic in summer where the container may need to be watered daily or even twice a day!


Position the pots and planters so that maximized sunlight is achieved if at all possible. If on the other hand, the plants you choose prefers the shade then keep them away from bright sunlight. You also need to minimize wind disturbance so that containers are not damaged when a gale is blowing, and also positioned in a sheltered spot as protection from frost pockets.

If you have any points that you wish to discuss, please leave a comment below and I will get back to you.

About Antonio

Antonio PachowkoWelcome to my site fellow gardeners and those new to gardening where I hope you will learn how to be a better container gardener.


Throughout my life from childhood to adulthood plants have always fascinated me, from growing vegetables and fruits, to shrubs and flowers of many kinds. Gardening has brought to me so much pleasure and I hope you will catch the gardening bug too!

I have worked as a gardener for a number of years and have picked up skills and knowledge which I hope to pass to you.

I have always grown in containers with much success and failure from fruit bushes, vegetable crops, shrubs, bulbs and flowers. You name it and I have done it!

Growing in container allow those who have no or limited spaces to grow edible and non-edible plants, so that you can turn an empty space into your own oasis.


If you possess gardening skills, then gardening in containers is similar to growing in the ground, but different as new skills and methods will need to be acquired. I will give to you those skills and knowledge, no matter if you are a total beginner or more confident in your gardening skills. This website will help you.

Let us grow together!


To become an efficient gardener in containers, to become more confident in container selections, what soil/compost to use, what feeds and feeding regimes to use, watering methods and general maintenance.

Let us take your failures and turn them into success.

If you ever need a hand or have any questions, feel free to leave them below and I will be more than happy to help you out.

All the best,


Growing Plants in Containers