Planting Your Pot: Step by Step Guide from an Expert

I’ve shared some planting tips and tricks to guarantee success and ensure your planted pot grows well and looks amazing!

Tip 1 – Planting Mix

The type and quality of planting mix is really important as it provides the foundation for growing healthy, beautiful plants. Not all planting mixes are the same. I recommend that you don’t scrimp here and buy the best quality – typically made with a combination of bark, pumice and compost with slow release fertiliser and wetting agent added. Don’t use topsoil as it will tend to compact over time compromising air and water movement, making it harder for your plants to grow well and it will be difficult to wet the pot to depth, as well as introducing weeds. Don’t use a compost as it will be too rich for plants to grown healthily.

I prefer container mixes rather than potting mixes as they have a coarser texture which helps with aeration and drainage whilst retaining the right amount of water for optimum palm, tree and shrub growth.

Tip 2 – Pot Drainage

If your pot is being used outdoors, check to see if it has drainage holes. If it hasn’t, these can easily be drilled with a masonary bit (clay pots) or steel/wood bit (fibre glass pots). Before adding the planting mix, place a handful of pebbles or riverstone (18-20mm grade) over-top the drainage hole to prevent it being blocked by planting mix and slowing drainage. You can purchase bags of riverstone from your local garden center, landscape supplies yard or hardware store.

Tip 3 – Reducing the Amount of Planting Mix in a Large Pot

Large pots can use a lot of planting mix. A clever way of reducing this is to fill the bottom third of a large pot with polystyrene used in the packaging of most products we purchase. If arranged carefully it will fill the void without the planting mix slumping. Place it in the pot and add a layer of planting mix and water in. The planting mix will settle in the spaces between the polystyrene fill.

Tip 4 – Planting

Once you have the drainage pebbles placed, add the planting mix to your pot and firm it down, creating a consolidated platform for the plant to sit on.

Take the main feature plant out of its pot and line up the top of the pot planting mix level with the final height of the planting mix level in your pot (the finished level of the planting mix should be below the pot rim).

Once you’re happy with the position of the feature plant, add the planting mix around it and firm gently with your foot or hands.

If you’re adding groundcovers or smaller plants to supplement the feature plant, just dig the holes, plant and smooth off the surface before watering the plants in. Use a gentle spray and check the soil to make sure the water has gone right down to the root ball depth.

Tip 5 – Post-Planting Care

Watering during dry periods is the key item to monitor. The best approach is to water less often but deeply, allowing the pot to dry back between watering events. Keep an eye on the foliage during really hot weather and water if the leaves start to droop. Your plants are best watered after the sun has gone down or early in the morning for plants that are susceptible to fungal disease.

A quality container mix will have several months of fertiliser incorporated but you can supplement this by spraying monthly with a liquid organic fertiliser such as Seasol. It will keep the foliage looking vibrant and help the plant stay healthy. Annually, you might want to top-up with a slow release fertiliser (incoporating the top 50mm of planting mix) or an organic conditioner like sheep pellets.

Happy Planting!