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How to pot a plant

Noelle
Super Contributor

Difficulty: Beginner

Growing plants in pots is easier than ever. We have high-quality potting mixes made from renewable resources and a wide range of plants bred especially for growing in pots. There’s also plenty of fantastic pots, bowls, baskets and tubs designed to be both functional and decorative.

Steps

Step 1

Choose a pot that will complement the plant you want to put in it – both in colour and size. It may be plastic, terracotta, glazed ceramic or lightweight concrete-like. Porous materials like terracotta will need more frequent watering than sealed pots but they may also stay cooler for longer, protecting roots better.

 

The pot should comfortably hold the plant, with about 3-4cm clearance between the existing root ball and the sides. Don’t think that by choosing a pot several sizes larger you will be doing the plant a favour - you won't! Excess potting mix beyond the roots may turn sour, becoming smelly and also possibly damaging developing root tips.

 

Straight or tapered sides, widest at the top, are the best option. A globe-shaped pot may look attractive but you won't be able to remove the plant in the future without breaking it.

 

Check there is an adequate drainage hole (or holes) in the base to allow excess water to flow out freely. Too few or too small and the potting mix may be excessively wet and your plant may suffer root rot.

 

1.1 Terracotta pots.jpg  1.2 Pots & plants.jpg

Step 2

Always choose a potting mix that complies with the Australian Standard for Potting Mixes and Soils. Look for five red ticks for premium quality mixes that include a wetting agent as well as controlled release fertiliser and five black ticks for standard mixes that contain a short-term fertiliser.

 

For many plants, an all-purpose or multi-purpose potting mix will be adequate, but if your plant has special needs, look for a potting mix that has been specifically formulated for it.

 

2.1 Choose a premium potting mix.JPG

Step 3

Cut a square or circle of flexible flywire mesh to cover the holes in the base of the pot, to prevent potting mix washing out. Then add 3-4cm of fresh potting mix to the base of the container.

 

Carefully knock the plant from its existing pot (or carefully separate seedlings) retaining as much of the old mix around the root mass as possible. Gently tease off the upper 2cm of old mix from the top surface.

 

Remember to protect your hands by always using gardening gloves when handling soils and potting mixes. A face mask may reduce the risk of inhaling dust released when opening the bag if the mix is dry.

 

3.1 Cover the hole with mesh.JPG  3.2 Add 3-4cm of fresh potting mix.JPG

Step 4

Look at the root ball of the plant carefully.  If the roots are growing downward and are not too congested, then leave them alone. However, if they are spiralling around the pot and there’s little of the old potting mix left, lightly scrape your fingers down the outside of the root mass to loosen them a little and gently "tease" out the roots at the bottom.

 

The less you disturb the roots overall, the less “transplant shock” the plant will suffer and the faster it will settle in and get growing.

Position the plant into its new pot, making sure it sits at the same level as it did in its previous pot - remove and add more potting mix to the base of the new pot if required. Allow at least 3cm between the new level and the rim of the pot as a "saucer" for water and to prevent potting mix washing off the top.

 

Add fresh potting mix around the perimeter of the old to fill the gap between the root mass and the pot. Settle the mix by tapping the pot gently on a bench or table. Do not press mix down with your hands – it needs to be aerated for healthy root growth.

 

4.1 Position the plant.JPG  4.2 Add fresh potting mix around the perimeter.JPG

Step 5

Water well with a weak solution of plant starter or seaweed to thoroughly moisture the mix and remove any air pockets. Top up the potting mix if necessary, remembering to leave that 3cm "saucer" at the top.

 

Place your newly potted plant in a protected spot for a week or so to allow it to acclimatise before moving to its permanent home. Now just remember to water it regularly!

 

5. Water well.JPG

Materials

  • Premium potting mix (all purpose or one specifically made for the plant)
  • Suitable pot
  • Fibreglass flywire mesh
  • Liquid seaweed concentrate

Tools

  • Gardening gloves
  • Spray bottle 
  • Scissors
  • Hand trowel
  • Small watering can
  • Face mask (optional)

Images

1.1 Terracotta pots.jpg

1.2 Pots & plants.jpg

2.1 Choose a premium potting mix.JPG

3.1 Cover the hole with mesh.JPG

3.2 Add 3-4cm of fresh potting mix.JPG

4.1 Position the plant.JPG

4.2 Add fresh potting mix around the perimeter.JPG

5. Water well.JPG

2 Replies
jane_5
Budding Contributor

Hi @Noelle

I noticed the pretty teapots used as pots for plants in your picture, and I wonder about drainage with such pots. Do you drill holes in the bottom of them? And if so, how do you stop them from cracking! 

I love the thought of using such colourful and unusual vessels, but have resisted because of the drainage. 

Thank you jane_5

Noelle
Super Contributor

Hi @jane_5 

 

The teapots in question are purpose-made planter pots but if you want to use 'normal' teapots, make sure you choose solid china or ceramic ones, not fragile porcelain which will probably shatter.

 

Place a blob of blutac, plasticine or similar on the bottom of the teapot where you want to drill a hole and then proceed to drill through it and the teapot using an appropriate sized drill bit. The blutac gives the china some strength and stops the drill bit from slipping, protecting against the pot breaking or cracking.  Repeat the process for as many holes as you require - three would be ideal.

 

You can also use the same principle for drilling holes in tea cups to make pretty little windowsill planters.

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