Plants are often left in the pots they came home in, but those plastic containers don’t do much for outdoor aesthetics and nursery sizes are only to be used for a limited period.

When a plant outgrows its pot, it becomes hard for it to take up oxygen, moisture and nutrients, so growth may suffer, and the plant could die.

When choosing a container, the main points to consider are drainage, the weight after potting mix is added and how porous the material is.

“Consumer tastes have evolved from basic terracotta and glazed pots, with the new products made from composite materials now in demand,” says Simon Hupfeld of Northcote Pottery.

“Lightweight materials like fibre clay and glass reinforced cement are especially popular and offer many practical benefits given their increased manoeuvrability and functionality.”

When it’s time to repot, use the opportunity to update your containers, selecting colours, shapes and sizes that can be used to create a few showpieces in the garden.

“We have noticed a move away from plain finishes on pots towards textured surfaces and the addition of subtle details that accent the pot and add character,” says Simon. 

“Our latest range features a wide variety of finishes and details, from stone and rustic textures to scrolls and floral patterns.

Choosing a container 

Terracotta containers are porous and dry out quickly, making them perfect for plants and herbs that need good drainage such as lavender and rosemary. Painting the interior walls with a pot sealer can reduce evaporation for thirstier plants.

Plastic pots are lightweight, inexpensive and easy to move around but don’t provide protection against temperature extremes. Plant roots can get hot in summer and cold in winter, which can affect growth. 

Stone, ceramic and concrete pots are heavy, but less likely to dry out on hot or windy days than terracotta and are good at keeping an even temperature in the soil.

Drainage solutions 

Pots can provide excellent drainage, but the plants depend on you for water and nutrients. 

Consider each plant when repotting, choosing a slightly larger container with good drainage. 

Five to seven holes around the edge of the pot base provide better drainage than one in the middle.

Drill extra holes or pop a smaller well-draining pot into a container with no holes, elevating it slightly. 

Regularly empty the excess liquid that collects in the larger pot to stop mosquitoes breeding and reduce the risk of stagnant water smells.

Recycled Planters 

Another option for growing in pots is to make use of recycled objects. Take a creative approach and mix a random collection for a display that dazzles.

Wheelbarrows, buckets and even an old laundry tub can all be turned into homes for plants. Whatever the container, the size determines the type of species that can be grown.

Shallow-rooted vegies like lettuce or chives grow well in small vessels about 200mm deep. Plants with long root systems like carrot and parsnip need larger, deeper containers.

TIP: To improve drainage, add a layer of gravel to the base of the container.

Repot a root-bound plant 

Before repotting, soak the plant in its pot in a bucket of diluted Seasol for 10 minutes to reduce the stress of the procedure. TIP Don’t repot plants on a very hot day.

Step 1. Trim the roots

Trim the roots growing out of the drainage holes using sharp secateurs for a clean cut.

Step 2. Tease the rootball

Tease out the rootball by hand to encourage roots to grow down rather than around the pot wall.

Step 3. Plant and water

Water in well after planting into a slightly larger pot with fresh potting mix and firming it down. 

Republished with permission of Handyman Australia.