An important thing to keep in mind is that growing plants in containers takes more effort than growing them in the ground. Being confined in their pots, plants will rely almost entirely on you for their subsistence. You will be their sole provider of water and food, and when their roots get too crowded, theyíll have to rely on you to pot them on to a bigger container. They will also have to count on you to put them in a location that fits their preference.
Sounds like a lot of responsibility, doesnít it? It only seems so at first. But with patience and practice, youíll be able to grow almost any plant in almost anything! And donít worry, it isnít necessary for you to talk to them. (Unless you want to.)
Free your mind when you start to think of what to use for a container. Clay and plastic flower pots are naturally the first things that will come to mind. And, of course, they are very practical choices. But lots of other items have good potential, like metal buckets, tin cans, wooden boxes, barrels, garbage cans (the nice decorative types), stone troughs, ceramic pieces, hanging baskets, even antique urns. Your little garden can virtually double as a museum! Featured at right are hot peppers growing in ice cream pots.
Clay vs Plastic Pots
Do note that the material of the container is worth giving some thought. The potting mix in containers made of porous materials, like clay, dries out more quickly. But it stays relatively cooler. On the other hand, plastic retains moisture longer. If your container is the non-porous kind, choose light-colored ones so they can reflect rather than absorb the heat. If heat is an extreme problem in your area during summer months, raise the pot several inches above the ground on some stones or a low stand. Or double pot by inserting one container inside another and filling in between with moss or newspaper.
Weight is also to be considered. Come the windy months, you donít want your containers easily toppled over. And if youíre gardening on a rooftop or a balcony, or if you need to move your containers about frequently, lightweight containers such as plastic would be best for you.
Keep in mind that good drainage is a must. Whatever
you do, never, ever plant in a pot without a hole in the bottom. In a closed
pot, thereís nowhere for the water to go and the roots will rot. Plants will
become weak if grown for any length of time in water-logged soil.
(Exceptions, of course, are aquatic plants.) Even with drainage holes, itís
still a good idea to put a layer of washed gravel at the bottom of the
pot to keep the potting mix from leaking out of the holes. You can also use clean shards of broken pots, called
crocks, to cover the base of the container.
The size of your pot is also important. If your pot is too small, the nutrients in the soil are used up too quickly or the roots would easily get too crowded. On the other hand, putting a small plant in a large pot will not necessarily give you a bigger plant. Since the container is likely to hold more water than the plant can absorb, the chances of root rot are greater Ė caused by pockets of water left in the excess potting mix. BACK TO TOP
The Potting Mix
The potting medium is the most important element of container gardening. Donít be tempted to just pick up any sack of ordinary garden soil. That's how GreenHearts started out -- using garden soil in pots for its plants. But we learned our lesson fast. Many plants did poorly and some even died unexpectedly days after the plants were repotted into fresh soil. Our own sad experiences with garden soil used in pots is what led us to develop soil-less potting mixes which we formulated, tested, reformulated and re-tested until we got the results we wanted.
If you use garden soil n your pots, your plants could suffer and actually die. Garden soil is simply too heavy for the the small, controlled environment of a pot. The roots cannot readily get through it and it often clumps up, retains water, and could harbor a lot of diseases. Result: dead plants. Donít simply re-use soil from old pots either. That old pot once had a plant in it which could have either depleted it of important nutrients or left some soil-borne diseases in it.
A fact overlooked by many container gardeners is that the secret to pest- and disease-resistant plants is a well-made potting medium. Plants grow best when their root systems are able to spread easily through the mix, getting the right balance of water, air, and nutrients. Too much or too little of any one will result in unhealthy, or worse Ė dead plants! Fill your pots with a good-quality soil-less potting mix and be rewarded with happy and healthy plants which will require less care. (Professional gardeners who use soil in their pots always sterilize the soil before using it in pots. Cooking or steaming soil is the common way of sterilizing. This helps eliminate weed seeds, harmful organisms and soil-borne diseases.)
Just like all other plants, your potted plants have their preferences in terms of how much light, water, fertilizer and what temperatures they prefer. So make sure you know what these preferences are before you decide on where to put your plantís container. Do take note that the top causes of death among potted plants are mistakes in watering, particularly over-watering. Obviously, thereís always the danger of loving your plants to death!
For more information on these other potting essentials, hop over to our soil-less mix website by clicking here.