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Containers filled with seasonal or permanent plants are extremely versatile. They can brighten up a corner of the garden, provide handy herbs by the kitchen or make the entrance look welcoming. Yet, life in containers can be tough for plants, so choose the right compost and carry out regular maintenance to ensure they put on a good show.
Containers: planting up
Containers are the perfect home for colourful annuals and half-hardy perennials - both of which are sometimes called 'patio plants' or bedding. Most shrubs, climbers, herbaceous perennials, grasses and even trees can be grown in containers. Fruit and vegetables can be successful too, as can some roses.
Plants take a little while to settle into their containers and begin making root growth. Make allowance for more growth from spring and summer-planted containers compared to autumn or winter plantings. In general;
Composts for containers are not the same as garden compost made in your compost bin, but specially formulated for use in pots and often called potting compost or potting media.
Short-term plants: Use a multipurpose peat-free compost
Permanent plantings: Use soil-based composts (e.g. John Innes No 3). To save cost, an aqequate homemade potting media can be made from a mixture of two-parts good garden soil to one-part garden compost. Add a general-purpose fertiliser at the manufacturers' rates
Lime-hating plants: Use ericaceous composts
Watch and learn! See our planting up summer containers video in addition to reading our advice below
Vine weevil can be a problem for any plants in containers, but fuchsias are particularly susceptible. Other pests to watch out for include aphids and glasshouse red spider mite, while diseases such as impatiens downy mildew, primula leaf spots, pansy: downy mildew and pansy: leaf spots may hit specific bedding plants.
Algae, liverworts and moss can also be problematic on containers.
Also take care not to overpot.
Containers: summer selection
Containers: winter selection
Fruit: growing in containers
Sink 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.