Growing in Containers

Planting in containers is one of the best things to do in the garden because the options are endless. It’s your chance to experiment in your own space, the plants are never wasted because if it doesn’t work you can plant them in the garden.  The only thing you need to remember is that the conditions the plant requires in the ground are the same as it would be in a pot. Ot will get the same diseases and pest - nothing changes because the plant is in a pot.



There is pretty much no type of container that that hasn’t had a plant stuck in it but pots are the main holder for plants. The beauty of planting in pots and containers is that we are only limited by our imagination. Choosing a pot is like choosing something for your wardrobe. The classic pieces will be the main stay of your collection as they don’t date and they will always suit whatever you put in it. Typically they have little decoration and are the more earthy colours.

Some pots standalone and they deserve to, these are usually very large pots, or ones with a certain look like an urn, but on the whole pots should be grouped together. Grouping pots together gives you a wider scope for creativity and certainly a bigger impact. You can combine more colours; heights and textures, even tuck in a garden ornament or statue to anchor the whole look. Your pot grouping can be haphazard, using whatever you have on hand or for a more cohesive look, choose pots that are of a similar style, material or colour

A group of pots will complement each other and give you continuity of colour, as not all the pots will flower at the same time. Another advantage with pot grouping is that it makes to maintain and water them; you actually can conserve water, as all sides of the pots are not exposed to the sun so they won’t dry out as quickly.  

Drainage needs to be considered when planting. A container with insufficient holes will retain water and waterlog your plants. To prevent this from happening add a layer of broken pots and/or rubble at the base. In doing this you are providing a loose base for the water to sit in while it drains away. Ensure some of these pieces are over sitting over the drainage hole but not blocking them; this keeps the  holes  clear of potting mix and allows the water to drain away better.  Keep the pot slightly lifted, pot feet are good but you can use anything that gives you a space between the surface and the bottom of the pot, this will allow the water to flow better, lifting the pot will also stop the water marking a wooden deck

A few tips to think about when choosing what to buy as not all pots are not created equal.   

  • Larger pots will give you more options for planting but you do need to consider the weight especially if you like moving them around!
  • Pots with a narrow base are prone to topple over if not support well – these are best put in the middle of a group.
  • Pots that are smaller at the top than the bottom or even the middle are virtually impossible to repot because of the narrow neck, often the pot or the plant is sacrificed


This is where your own sense of style and imagination can really come in to play; plants will ring in the seasonal change, decorate a special occasion or contain a special plant. Pots can also provide the right soil conditions for a plant that you may not be able to grow in the garden e.g. acid loving plants.

  • Herbs have always made great container plants, keep them close to the kitchen for easy access. 
  • Use lighter foliage to lighten up a dark area.
  • Use annuals to fill hole in more permanent plantings they are not expensive to buy either as seed or seedlings and will give you months of cheerful colour. When planting add a small handful blood and bone to the soil this will give them a good start.
  • Plant scented shrubs like Daphne in pots that are close to your seating area.


The quality of the potting mix will be determined by its price. Generally the cheaper the mix, the added less ingredients it has. For successful container gardening you need to use the best mix you can afford as this is where your plants will get their supply nutrients. If you are planting a specific plant (such as veges) then the decision is easy as there are now specially blended mixes to suit the plants such as tomatos, herbs and strawberries.
For general plants and flowers look for a mix that has a long term fertiliser already added. Generally these potting mixes will state the period of time the fertiliser will last for. Once the premixed fertiliser runs out apply McGregor’s PlantMAX - one application will last your pot for up to 18 months and is safe to use on all plants.

Pots are susceptible to drying out and are often the reason pots fail. Potting mix shrinks as it dries and this is evident when you water and it pours straight through the pot and out the bottom. If you can afford it choose a mix that has an added water retention product (saturaid is one of the best). These water retention products work like blotting paper ensuring that the water is used by the whole plant and will help to stop the pot drying out to quickly. Saturaid can also be added to existing pots that have become too dry by scratching it through the surface of the soil - you will see instant results.


There are many reasons we re-pot plants but primarily it is because the plant has out-grown its pot. When a plant is too small for its pot will it doesn't receive the water or nutrients it needs to continue growing. Also potting soil will not last forever; over time it will become exhausted and has no valuable nutrients or water holding capacity left. 
To ensure your plants keep growing: 

  • Empty out the pot completely of soil, no need to waste the old soil though, throw it in to the garden beds and mix through the existing soil.  Sweep out the empty pot with a half brush; this will make sure any bugs or diseases are removed before you use new potting soil.
  • The potting soil will settle after potting or repotting - remember this and lightly firm down the soil as you are potting.  The aim is to be left with a gap that is from the top of the soil to the top of the pot. Having this gap will stop the water falling over the sides when you water.
  • It is never a good idea to leave any plants that have been lifted out of one pot to long before you re plant; the sun will dry them out very quickly.  If this cannot be avoided then have a wet sack or old sheet handy. Cover the plants roots and move them in to a shady spot until you are ready.


  • Slugs and snails like your plants where ever they are, so you will need to supply them with protection. Sprinkle McGregor's Snail and Slug Pellets over your garden to ward them off.
  • Broken pots are never wasted! Roots can push through a broken bottom and a broken side can be turned to the back of the garden where it can’t be seen. Use them in the garden to add height or half plant them in the soil to give them a slant, then you can have a trailing plant in an otherwise flat space.
  • Use a McGregor’s Transplanting Trowel, it is narrower than an ordinary trowel making great for working in smaller spaces.
  • If you are spraying for bugs and diseases in the garden don’t forget your pots.
  • If you want to get that aged look that you see on pots – paint the outside with yogurt it will quickly start the process of growing moulds.
  • McGregors Moss Control will clean off any moss that grows on the outside of you pots.
  • Always water deeply, give them a good soaking, check by sticking your finger in the soil it needs to reach down to the sub soil.
  • Use pebbles over the surface for the decorative effect it will also act as mulch and help to conserve water.

WARNING –All potting mixes can carry Legionnaires disease, follow the instructions on the bag when opening and using. These instructions are especially important when using mix that has been stored away for a while as it becomes dry.