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Container Gardening Principles

Plant Stand
Plant Stand


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1. Choose Healthy Plants

Healthy plants are the key to a successful container display.

Signs of poor health include:

General Poor condition
Avoid plants that do not look healthy on first inspection. The moss and weeds growing on the surface of the potting mix indicate that the plant has been in its pot for too long. Spots and speckles on the leaves may indicate damage from pests and diease.
Potbound Roots
Ensure that the roots of the plant are not packed in a tight mesh before buying it. Plants packed in a tight mesh will take longer to establish themselves in a container display. Check this by lifting the plant out of the potted container.
Yellowing Leaves
This is a sign that the plant is undernourished or has root problems. Once a plant has used up all the nitrogen in its potting mix, nitrogen will be carried away from the older leaves to the younger ones (causing the older ones to turn yellow).
Leggy Stems
If plants do not have access to sufficient light, their stems will extend in an attempt to reach a light source. This may lead to growth which the plant is unable to support because the stems will become weak, easy to break, and susceptible to fungal attack.

2. Prepare Containers Before Planting

Always check the container to make sure it is in good condition before planting, especially if it needs to withstand the harsh winter climate. If you discover any cracks or chips in terracotta, ceramic, or stone-based materials, these should be repaired with an epoxy resin to prevent the crack from worsening. Ignoring a crack may lead to frost damage. Long cracks in terracotta can be held together by copper wire that are threaded through holes drilled on both sides of the split. Alternatively, these cracks can also be patched with fiberglass matting.

Green Tip:

When planning your garden, include trees and shrubs. Placed correctly, they can reduce the heating and cooling costs for your home.

Clean your containers

Ensuring proper container drainage

For pots that do not have drainage holes (or have inadequate drainage holes) in their bases, you will need to drill them yourself:

3. Choose the Right Potting Mix

Mix Type Pros Cons
Peat-based mix
  • Light and easy to transport
  • Growing medium of choice for commercial growers and garden centers because of its ability to retain water and air.
  • Contains no nutrients
  • Nutrients need to be added (controlled-release fertilizers or regular feeding required)
  • Difficult to rewet when dried.
Coir-based mix
  • Produced from coconut waste, which is a renewable resource (environmentally-friendly)
  • Improved water retention, soil hygiene, and nutrition.
  • Although nutrition and trace elements are present, liquid fertilizer still needs to be applied regularly for best results.
Peat-free mix (especially bark)
  • Bark is a renewable ingredient in peat-free mix and can be produced on a large scale.
  • Bark is partially broken down by composting to help dissipate any harmful plant toxins.
  • Although nutrition and trace elements are present, regular feeding of plants grown in bark is required.
Loam-based mix
  • Contains a high proportion of sterilized soil (the equivalent of high-quality soil).
  • Plants do not require extra feeding because the mix contains nutrients and particles called colloids (that help in nutrient retention).
  • Heavy soil, which can be used for anchoring exposed plantings.
  • Extra organic matter is required to improve the soil structure and water-holding capacity.
Plant Basket Stand
Plant Basket Stand


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4. Reduce Container Weight


5. How To Plant

  1. Create a design and plan. Keep the plants in their original pots and arrange them on the surface of the potting mix to get a visual ideal of how everything will look.
  2. Water all plants before adding them to the display.
  3. Keep the soil structure aerated and do not ever-firm the potting mix around the plants.
  4. Work from the middle of the garden container – establish your central feature plant first, then move outwards. Plant your tallest growers first, then systematically move down to your shortest.
  5. Position the small plants by tilting the plants on their side, so that the best foliage faces outwards.
  6. After planting, add extra potting mix until the container is filled to 1" below the rim.
  7. Reposition the plants if necessary.
  8. Water the display thoroughly.