Gardening In Pots
"Earth, 'tis enough to know but this,
General Potting Advice
Growing plants in pots or baskets can be a very satisfying experience. Apart from the beauty and pleasure you will get from this pastime, the work involved is a lot less than in a normal garden - a lot less weeding is needed for a start! An added bonus is that pots can be easily moved around or even brought inside for short periods.
Pot plants are terrific for that small garden or balcony and nearly any plant can be grown in a pot, including trees. For best results, though, plant slow growing or dwarf varieties of trees.
The following is based mainly on a climate similar to that in Perth, Australia, where the summers are hot and dry and the winters cool and wet (for the most part anyway!). However the info will be the same for most climates - except anything too extreme.
Here are a few tips to help you grow happy and healthy pot plants.
Below is a list of a few plants that either I grow or friends and family grow in pots and baskets. Of course there are many more plants than those listed here, and over time I'll be adding to the list, so keep returning.
Azaleas make great potted plants, in fact they can be difficult to grow in a normal garden in some areas. They come in many different colours, sizes and bud types, from white through pink, red, mauve, variegated, single blooms, semi-double blooms, double blooms, small ground covering shrubs to large bushes, so you shouldn't have a problem picking one to suite. Position - Preferring a cooler climate, azaleas like semi-shaded positions that are protected from severe weather. Feeding - These plants are an acid plant so, in addition to a slow release fertiliser twice a year, regularly adding an acid plant food once a fortnight will make for a much happier and healthier plant. Flowering - Most types flower in spring with some having a second flush of flowers in autumn. Pruning - Just a light pruning is required after the last of the flowers have died to encourage more flowering and reduce leggyness. If the plant becomes too sparse, or leggy, give a harsher pruning. De-head dying flowers to improve the appearance and encourage further flowering.
Avery hardy and vigorous, warmer climate, vine with spectacularly coloured bracts and sharp thorns. However, growing them in pots allows you to keep them under control and still enjoy the beautiful display of colour, ranging from reds, oranges, purples and yellows. There are also a few varieties that are dwarf (bambino bougainvillea) and some that are thornless, check with your local nurseries for these. These vines can be grown on a framework, as a bush, a hanging basket or as a standard. Position - Bougainvilleas prefer warmth and full sun to flower well, although it is essential that they are kept moist during summer. Feeding - These plants can suffer a little neglect so a slow release fertiliser twice a year is all you will probably need. Naturally they will perform even better given a general plant food once a month. Flowering - Most varieties will flower for quite a while during the warmer months. Pruning - Prune after flowering in late summer by cutting out the dead stems and generally tidying the plant up, if required pruning can be done quite harshly and still have vigorous growth in the spring.
Along flowering vine with attractive green foliage and trumpet shaped flowers of red to pink. Best in warmer climates this plant needs plenty of water. Can be grown on a framework, as a standard, or even as a bush. To grow it as a bush you will need to pinch off the tips of the new shoots from time to time during the growing period. Position - They prefer light shade to full sun, I've seen this plant growing really well in full sun close to the ocean, although protection from the wind is needed during winter. Feeding - Give a monthly feed with an all purpose plant food as well as using a slow release fertiliser twice a year. Flowering - In the right spot these plants will flower from early spring to mid autumn. Pruning - Prune lightly in autumn or, if you want to keep it really compact, cut back a little more.
Camellias are lovely shrubs with glossy green foliage and beautiful flowers ranging in colour from red, pink, soft yellow, and a lovely white. The blooms can be single, semi-double or double. Position - Camellias prefer a mild climate so semi-shaded positions that are well protected from severe winds, frost and heat are best. It's important to keep them well moist during dry periods. Feeding - These plants are an acid plant so, in addition to a slow release fertiliser twice a year, regularly add an acid plant food once a fortnight to promote flowering and reduce yellowing of leaves. Flowering - Flowering depends very much on which type of camellia you have, with different varieties flowering at different times of the year, including winter. Some will flower for only a few months, others for longer. Pruning - Does not really require pruning, however it's a good idea to cut out dead wood after flowering to improve it's appearance.
Aleggy shrub with maple like leaves that can come in a variegated leaf. They have hanging bell shaped flowers ranging in colours from white through pink, red, orange and yellow. They can grow up to 2 metres in height, although there is a dwarf variety available and these make very good potted plants. Chinese lanterns are hardy plants and do well in most areas except cold climates. Position - They like any spot from sunny to filtered shade, I have mine completely under a shaded pergola that gets almost no direct sunlight and it is thriving. Feeding - As with most potted plants, feed with a slow release fertiliser twice a year and also a general plant food once a month. Flowering - Flowers mainly in summer, although some varieties will flower for a lot of the year. Pruning - There is not much need to prune chinese lanterns as they are naturally quite leggy.
Daisies are free flowering shrubs, with some varieties being quite small and easily suited to hanging, or wall, baskets. Colours range from white to pink, mauve and yellow, with single, double or anemone centred blooms. As long as they are kept well watered they are a hardy plant. Position - Does extremely well in a sunny spot and will tolerate a semi-shaded position. Feeding - As with most potted plants, feed with a slow release fertiliser twice a year and also a general plant food once a month. Flowering - These plants will flower for most of the year especially if you de-head dying flowers and keep the soil moist. Pruning - The smaller varieties of daisies just require de-heading of dead flowers, the larger ones can look sparse towards the end of autumn so pruning these back in winter can be beneficial.
Fuchsias are a very popular plant and grow well in a pot or basket. Either as bushes, standards or hanging baskets they make a colourful addition to any garden or balcony. They have delicate, hanging, fairy like flowers that come in many colours, both single and multicoloured, often contrasting. The birds will also like your fuchsia, I often get honey eaters having a feed when my fuchsias are in bloom. Fuchsias prefer warmer climates and plenty of watering, twice a day during the hottest days. If you find your fuchsia dries out place the pot or basket into a bucket of water and leave it to absorb the water. Fuchsias are extremely easy to grow cuttings from, just take a cutting from the soft tips in summer and plant it in another pot - before long you'll have another fuchsia! Position - Fuchsias like filtered sunlight in warmer climates. Feeding - As with most potted plants, feed with a slow release fertiliser twice a year and also a general plant food once a month. Flowering - These plants are prolific flowerers, usually during spring, however some will flower right through to early winter. Pruning - Hard pruning should be done in late winter, cutting back to leave two or three sets of nodes (where leaves have been), also root prune at this time and replant in the same pot or basket. A light prune after the first flush of flowers will help to encourage more flowers and create a bushier plant.
Abeautifully fragrant shrub that goes well in a pot. With foliage that is a lovely glossy green and white, perfumed flowers, this is a very popular plant. Height can vary, depending on the variety, from 30 cm to 4 metres. Position - Even though gardenias prefer a warm climate, a shady spot with plenty of water, protection from the full summer sun and frost is essential. If you can position your plant near a window or doorway you will have the beautiful perfume of the flowers coming through your home too. Feeding - These plants are an acid plant so, in addition to a slow release fertiliser twice a year, regularly adding an acid plant food once a fortnight will make for a much happier and healthier plant and reduce yellowing of leaves. Flowering - Gardenias flower, generally, from spring through to autumn. Pruning - These shrubs do not need to be pruned at all except very lightly to restrict the size of the plant, be careful not to prune back into the mature wood as new shoots may not develop.
Geraniums make excellent pot plants, being quite hardy and able to stand a little neglect, ivy geraniums make very attractive hanging baskets. They come in a large range of colours, including bicoloured, splotched and feathered, also a good variety of leaf shape and blooms. Another bonus with this plant is that it is very easy to grow a new one from a cutting, just cut a 15 cm piece and plant into another pot, watering often so as to not allow the roots to dry out. Position - Even though they are a hardy plant, to really thrive they prefer a sunny spot, and if in a too shady spot they may not flower. Feeding - Geraniums like a slightly acidic soil so, apart from the slow release fertiliser, feed with and acid plant food several times a year. Flowering - These plants mainly flower from spring to mid summer with some varieties flowering throughout the year. Pruning - Prune geraniums heavily in April - at the end of their flowering. As geraniums can get a bit leggy, pinch out the tips from time to time during the growing season.
These are lovely shrubs with dark green foliage and large blooms that do well in temperate to warm climates. The hibiscus is a very good plant if you want lots of colour as they are prolific flowerers. The blooms can be single or double and come in a range of colours such as white, cream, yellow, orange, pink, mauve, purple and red and they bring to mind Hawaiian dancers with hibiscus in their hair. Some can be quite large growing, from 1.6 mtr to 6 mtrs, so check labels before purchasing one for a pot as the smaller ones will need less pruning and re-potting. Position - Likes sunny spots that are protected from wind and frost, they prefer warmer climates but will do fine in milder areas if they are kept in full sun. Feeding - Hibiscus just need to be fed a slow release fertiliser twice a year and a general plant food once a month. Flowering - They flower, generally, from early summer through to winter and will give you plenty of blooms. Pruning - Prune off about a third of the bush in September. To encourage a bushy plant pinch the tips off the new growth when it is about 15 cm long, this will delay flowering for a few weeks but will produce more flowers and a better looking shrub.
Hydrangeas are popular shrubs with large leaves and huge heads of tiny flowers that make very good plants for pots. The flowers are generally white, however they will be blue in an acid soil and pink if grown in an alkaline soil. You can get tall, medium and dwarf hydrangeas, with the medium and dwarf being the best for potting purposes. Position - These shrubs prefer a semi-shaded position as they may burn if they get hot summer sun. It is important to give them plenty of water during hot and dry periods. They will grow in cool areas but are deciduous. Feeding - Feed with a slow release fertiliser twice a year and a general plant food once fortnight. To get blue blooms apply sulphate of aluminium, approx. one tablespoon per square metre surrounding the plant, after pruning and again in late August and October (instead of sulphate of aluminium, applying the same amount of lime at these times will give you pink blooms). Flowering - Hydrangeas flower during summer and occasionally into autumn. Pruning - De-head dead flowers and then cut back fairly hard in late winter to maintain a compact bush and to help produce good blooms.
Afast growing and vigorous climber, for temperate to warm areas, that has dark green leaves, small star shaped white flowers and an exquisite perfume. I must admit that out of all the perfumed plants this is my favourite. Jasmine makes an excellent pot grown plant as the vine can be easily controlled, whereas it can tend to become a pest in a normal garden. You will need to grow it on a framework or up a trellis against a wall or fence. Position - Jasmine likes to be out in full sun, however it is very important to keep the roots cool and moist. It will grow in cooler areas but may be semi-deciduous. Feeding - As jasmine is a hardy plant it doesn't need much more than twice yearly feeding with a slow release fertiliser. Flowering - The jasmine polyanthum flowers in late winter through to late spring. Pruning - After flowering thin the vine out with a light prune. To keep it under control a severe pruning may be necessary at this time and will not harm this robust plant.
Lavender is a lovely shrub with sweet smelling flowers of blue, mauve and purple on spikes, you can get white or pink flowers in some varieties. Lavenders usually prefer a mild to temperate climate, although French lavender, one of the most popular, grows almost anywhere except the tropics. These plants do quite well in pots and can be grown as a standard, which I think looks particularly good. I have been told that you can grow these quite easily from cuttings but I have not tried this for myself yet. Position Lavenders prefer a sunny position to flower well. Feeding Feed these plants twice a year, in early spring and again in late summer, with both a slow release fertiliser and a general plant food. Flowering Lavenders can flower throughout the year but mainly through winter and spring. Pruning Prune in summer as this is the dormant period for lavender. Prune only the flower spikes and about 2cm of growth from the shrub itself as if you prune too hard you may get die back.
Petunias are sun loving, small growing annuals that produce plenty of colourful, trumpet shaped flowers. The blooms can be single or double, plain or frilled and come in white, yellow, pink, red, blue and purple. They are hardy plants that prefer a cool to temperate climate but they do like plenty of sun. Petunias make a great display of colour all on their own in a pot or hanging basket, you can also use them in the same pot as a larger plant to add colour around its base. Position As stated above a sunny position is best for these annuals. Feeding Petunias just need a slow release fertiliser added when you first plant them and then a general plant food during mid summer to encourage further flowering. Flowering These plants flower for quite a few months during spring and autumn. Pruning Even though petunias are annuals cut them back hard after their first flowering to encourage a good second flowering in autumn. If you also cut them right back once they have fully finished flowering in autumn you will sometimes get them coming back up the next spring.