Container Maintenance

Planting in containers is an excellent method for bringing colour and life to otherwise drab areas of your garden. Plants can be easily introduced into containers on balconies, patios, and window boxes. Plants in a container needs more attention than those in gardens, but if you follow our recommendations, this will be easy.

Mixed texture planting
Mixed shrubs and perennials – container garden


Plant early in the spring so that the roots grow quickly and the plant becomes established. Evergreens may deteriorate over the winter as a result of dryness at the roots or wind-burned foliage, and autumn planting may result in losses as a result of waterlogging.


When growing plants in containers, one of the most crucial tasks is watering. To grow well, roots need a balance of air and water, which you can easily provide with good compost or soil. Plants won’t grow well if their roots are in very wet compost because there isn’t enough air, and it’s often in their best interest to let the compost dry out between waterings.


Roots eventually fill containers, which slows the growth of the plant. This is not always a bad thing because plants that are slightly stressed are often attractive and need less care because they grow slowly. However, because compost lose their structure over time, the plants will eventually need to be relocated to a larger container or the compost will need to be refreshed in the same pot. Unless re-potted, shrubs and trees that have been in a pot for a long time are particularly vulnerable to diseases.

Re-pot plants in the early spring as soon as they begin to show signs of growth when moving them to a larger container (one size larger at each stage). Slide the plant out, snip the roots if necessary, and remove a small amount of the old compost.

Plants should be re-potted in the same pot at least every other year when it is no longer convenient to repot them in larger pots annually. Fresh compost should replace one third of the existing compost and roots. Top-dress by removing 5 cm of the old compost from the top of the pot and replacing it with fresh compost in years when repotting is not performed.

Summer care

Plants in containers need attention all year, but summer is the most crucial period as plants can soon run short of water and nutrients.


In warm or windy weather, check the soil for moisture every day (or twice a day in hot weather). Even if it has rained, it is still important to make sure that the soil below the surface is moist. Fill the container with water until it reaches the rim, allowing the water to drain into the compost before filling it again to ensure that the compost is adequately moist.

The majority of plants will thrive if they are given some time to dry out between waterings, and they will learn to use less water if they have to. Plants are likely to recover, but their growth may be affected if allowed to reach the wilting stage.

Your plants should not receive an excessive amount of water; the bottom of the pot should not leak water. You could save water and nutrients by using a saucer to collect the excess. Assess the structure of the compost and check the drainage holes for obstructions if water is not draining freely. The compost becomes soggy, dense, and devoid of air spaces as the organic materials decomposes.

Since the majority of water is lost through the plant’s leaves, lining or sealing terracotta pots with waterproof materials is unlikely to significantly reduce watering requirements. Container plants will experience less heat stress if they are grouped together for shade. Despite the fact that the majority of water is lost through the plant’s leaves, careful watering will still be required even after the pots have been mulched to reduce heat and control weeds.


You might need to use a general-purpose liquid feed from the end of April to the end of August. Or apply a fertiliser with a controlled release prior to planting. Fertilisers should contain essential trace elements when using composts that do not contain soil.

After late summer, feeding is usually suspended until mid-spring; however bedding plants and other short-lived annuals will benefit from feeding until early autumn. It is best to feed when the compost is moist.

Winter care

In winter, there is a large danger of compost freezing, which may damage or kill plants.

Frost protection

Use bubble wrap or temporarily cover pots to protect them. If the compost becomes soggy during periods of rain, cover the plants temporarily until it dries out. Pots should be raised off the ground in wet weather to prevent water from building to the bottom. In the winter, it is essential to remove saucers from the bottom of pots.


Even if you have moved evergreens under cover so that they do not get wet, they may still require watering. These should be checked each week and watered as necessary, but watering on frosty days should be avoided.


Container plants commonly die from excessive watering; When watering, it’s important to keep the compost moist but not soggy, and to avoid dryness and saturation at the same time.

Plants grown in containers suffer from many of the same pests and diseases as when grown in beds and borders, such as aphids, algae and moss.

Overpotting is yet another frequent problem. Even though plants need to be re-potted every year or two, moving them into a pot or container that is too big can shock them and cause them to stop growing. “For this reason, we recommend increasing the size of the pot one size at a time,” says Chris Bonnett, a gardening expert for The Express.

Updated on April 25, 2023

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