Garden design: pots & containers

Relatively low-maintenance, plant pots can easily inject colour into your garden design, brightening up a patio or terrace and adorning your walls with flowers. If you choose well, your pots will add to the garden's appeal even when the flowers aren't in bloom. To get the most out of your containers, it's a good idea to do a bit of planning first. Here's how to go about it.

Garden design: pots & containers

Garden design: plant pots and containers

Top tips

  • Mix pellets of slow-release fertiliser into the compost in your containers. These pellets will feed your plants for around six months.
  • If you can, fill and plant your containers when they're in their final position. Once they're full of compost, they're very heavy to move around!

Container gardening has never been more popular. We're all making the most of our patios and decks, using them as extra space for outdoor entertaining and relaxing. Pots and containers are the perfect way to decorate these exterior living spaces. Flexible and easy to maintain, there's a style of potted plant to suit every garden with a price to match every budget.

  • How to pot plants
  • Make your own plant pots
  • Planting tips

    • Choosing plant containers

      Choosing plant containers

      Choosing a container can be quite a challenge: there are so many on offer. It's much easier if you first decide where you want the container to be and what sort of display you're aiming for. You might want a few large containers for your patio, some window bozes or hanging baskets.

      Once you've chosen the locations for your containers, you can think about the size of pot and amount of shade and sunlight the plants will get. It's best to go for as wide and as deep a pot as you can, so that your plants have as much room as possible. Standing your containers on feet will also help prevent waterlogging.

    • Planting up

      Planting up

      Your plants are more likely to thrive in a suitable soil. John Innes Number 2 soil-based compost is a good choice for larger plants and shrubs that need the extra weight for stability. See our article on how to pot plants. If weight is an issue (on balconies and roof terraces), use peat-free, multi-purpose compost. To make your pot arrangement more interesting, choose a taller plant or flowering grasses for the centre to add height.

      A good plant to add to your pot is coleus as the leaves range from light green to pink. For larger containers you could make the focus a perennial, and change the other plants depending on the seasons. See our video on window box plants.

    • Hanging baskets

      Hanging baskets

      Hanging baskets make a great summer display but if you want them to thrive, don't hang them in the shade. Traditionally, sphagnum moss was used to line baskets but supplies need to be conserved so ask your garden centre about alternatives. Mixing water-retaining granules with the compost will help to keep soil moist, but you'll still have to water the baskets in hot, dry weather.

      For variation, use your hanging baskets for trailing plants that spill over the side of the pot. Read our article on how to fit and fill a hanging basket and see our gallery of the top 10 plants for hanging baskets for inspirational ideas.

    • Grouping containers

      Grouping containers

      Arranging your containers in groups will give them far more impact than dotting them around a patio. Grouping pots of different heights together will increase the visual interest still further. Place pots on plant stands to add height to your display, or hang pots on hooks. Half-moon shaped pots are perfect for placing around the base of an umbrella for an unusual centre piece.

      There's also no need to stick to traditional containers like pots and troughs. All sorts of objects can be turned into funky containers, including wheelbarrows, teapots, wellington boots or birdhouses. Use your imagination and bring your garden to life. For inspiration, see our article on unusual planting containers.