I know what you're thinking right now – "But I killed my last house plant!" Don't worry! You don't need a green thumb to do container gardening. With some basic information and motivation, you too can start growing beautiful potted plants today!
1) Picking the Right Container
If you walk into your local gardening or home improvement store, you'll probably find shelf after shelf of plant containers in a variety of material, size, shape, and color. There are a few things you need to keep in mind while you peruse the selection:
Containers and pots for plants come in all sorts of material including wood, plastic, glazed pottery, terra cotta, metal, and even concrete. You should pick a material that is not only good to look at but fits your needs. For example, since terra cotta is known for wicking off water, it shouldn't be used inside where it can leave rings on tables.
Besides the commonly found containers, there are the unique ones that stand out and add some whimsy to your home or garden. These can include wall scones, whicker, hanging baskets, shoes, or old tires. Be inventive and see what you already have around the house! You never know – your little petunia might look great in Grandma's old tea kettle.
You want a container that is non-toxic. Almost all of the pots you'll find at your local store will be fine for your plant but you'll want to make sure by carefully inspecting for stickers or labels.
Just like humans, most plants don't like sitting in wet soil, so it's important that your container has good drainage. Examine each pot that you're interested in – turn it over and make sure that there are drainage holes already in it.
You'd be surprised at the number of planting pots that do not have holes in them. These are usually meant to be used as a cachepot – plant your greenery in a smaller plastic pot and then place it into the decorative pot to give your new plant that extra zing.
There are some manufacturers of the plastic containers do not automatically place drainage holes in the bottom of their plastic pots. This problem is easy to fix – use a drill and a large drill bit to pop drainage holes all around the bottom of the pot. Make sure that you place holes in the lowest nooks and crannies since water will want to head there first.
There is a wide array of colors available at your local gardening store. Most gardeners pick neutral colors so the plant can be the star but others want a pot that will match their deck, siding, or color scheme. Just keep in mind that the darker the color, the more heat the pot will absorb if placed in the direct sun. This sort of heat on roots could kill off some plants.
It's important to find a planting pot or container that will last as long as you will need it. If you plan to plant annuals (one season only) plants, then the cheaper plastic pots will work for you, but if your want a new home for your spider plant or other perennial, you should look for something more durable.
Do not, under any circumstances, use regular dirt from your yard or garden in container gardening. It doesn't have the required nutrients or properties that a potted plant needs to succeed.
Instead, buy a bag of soil that is especially made for potted plants. You can usually find it at your local garden or home improvement store not far from where you found the planting containers.
While there, you'll probably discover all sorts of "specialty soils" on the shelf - soil mixes made for cactus, citrus, azaleas. Don't worry about these unless you plan to plant one of these special plants. Your little petunia or spider plant will be quite happy in the general (and cheaper) potting soil.
Of course, you get what you pay for when it comes to potting soil. Some of the cheaper brands will have more peat moss or bark in them and less of the more expensive items like perlite, or vermiculite. Your best bet is to read the label and see what's inside.
3) How to Plant Your New Potted Plant
Planting your new plant is super easy.
First of all, gather your plant, container, and potting soil in a location that you don't mind getting dirty. Most people do their planting work on their patio or back porch but some use whatever easy-to-clean surface they can find like a smidge of sidewalk or their kitchen floor lined with an old sheet.
Fill your container with potting soil and pat it down softly. You don't want to squish it down tightly but rather ensure that you remove any air pockets.
Then dig a hole large enough to hold the pot that your container is currently in. You'll probably have to remove some soil to do this – place it on a piece of paper or into another container so you can reload it into the pot later.
Pop the plant out of its existing pot. If it doesn’t come out easily, give the pot a little squeeze and tap it against the ground.
Take a look at the roots – are they tightly wound around one another? Use your fingers to softly tease some of the roots free. This will give your plant a little head start in taking over the new container.
Place the new plant in the pot and check height. The spot where your roots join the stem of your new plant should be even with the surrounding soil. If it isn't, remove the new plant and toss a handful or two of soil into the bottom of the pot to bring it up to level.
Use your extra soil to fill in around the root ball and press it firmly into place.
Then water the plant well. Once the soil is wet, it may settle a bit, so add in more soil as needed to bring it up to where it used to be at.
After your plant is panted, you might want to add a little bit of mulch or rocks to the top to protect the soil from pests / pets and to stop it from drying out prematurely.
4) Taking Care of Your Container Plants
Your newly potted plant will require a lot of the same care that the plants in your outside garden do – water, sun, and nutrients. Of course, since it's in a container, it will depend on you to provide all of these.
There's a fine line between providing enough water for your plant and overwatering. You can't just depend on your eyes to determine if your plant needs to be watered – the first layer of dirt dries out really quickly. You need to stick your finger at least an inch into the soil and see if the dirt of really, truly dry.
There are various ways to water your plant, including your house, a watering can, or your kitchen faucet. With any tool you use, you must be carefully about how much you water and how fast. If you dump too much water into the pot, you'll dislodge soil and just waste water. Pour a little at a time, carefully distributing the water around exposed soil.
Light or sunlight is an important ingredient for a healthy plant. Without it, they can't turn the water and soil nutrients into something useful.
Every plant has a different light requirement. Some will like shade while others would rather get direct sun for a good period of the day. Check the label that came with your plant or search online for information about your plant species.
Potted plants depend on nutrients in their soil to keep them healthy and green. Of course, being a in a pot, this supply is limited - you must replenish it over time.
The easiest way to do this is to fertilize your plants on a regular basis. You can find a variety of fertilizers at your local garden store. Make sure to find one that is made for potted plants. Follow the directions on the bottle – it will tell you how and when to use it.