Plants for pots

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As sum­mer rolls in it's time to brighten out­door liv­ing ar­eas and there’s no sim­pler way to cre­ate a wel­com­ing al­fresco sanc­tu­ary than fill­ing some well placed pots with your favourite flow­ers and fo­liage. WHAT MAKES A GREAT CON­TAINER PLANT?

Al­most any­thing will grow in a con­tainer if given the right level of care, but some plants are more tol­er­ant of pot life than oth­ers. Plants with drought tol­er­ance in their breed­ing are the most for­giv­ing of lapses in wa­ter­ing. Those that in­sist on per­fect drainage will per­form bet­ter in potting mix than heavy soil.

Choose plants that are wor­thy of the pride of place their con­tainer be­stows on them. They might have a su­per long-last­ing dis­play of colour or an espe­cially ap­peal­ing shape. Ideally both! At this time of year gar­den cen­tres of­fer an ex­cit­ing ar­ray of flower packed plants with tidy, pot-per­fect growth habits.

Rather than flow­ers, beau­ti­ful fo­liage may be the main event, as is the case with dry-lov­ing suc­cu­lents, swishy grasses, colour­ful heucheras and soft leafy hostas. Shapely ever­green shrubs hold the fort all year round, the most fa­mous of th­ese be­ing clipped English box. NZ na­tive al­ter­na­tives which re­spond well to shap­ing in­clude many dif­fer­ent corokia and co­pros­mas with in­ter­est­ing fo­liage.


Life in a pot can be tough. When con­tainer plants run out of water, food or space to grow, they can’t just spread their roots like a plant in the ground, so they’re com­pletely at the mercy of their gar­dener. But as long as your ves­sel is large enough and has ad­e­quate drainage it has great po­ten­tial as a place to grow plants. The role of the con­tainer and its potting mix is to hold enough water and nu­tri­ents to keep plants happy while let­ting the ex­cess water drain away.

The smaller the pot, the more of­ten you will need to water. Err on the large side, espe­cially when plant­ing fast grow­ing peren­ni­als, vege plants and fruit trees. Hang­ing bas­kets are par­tic­u­larly vul­ner­a­ble to dry­ing out if too small. On the other hand a pot that’s too big for its plant may be a waste of potting mix and nu­tri­ents or worse, lead to cold damp con­di­tions that cause root rot. This ap­plies to the likes of or­chids and house­plants. As a guide, the new pot should be 3 to 5cm wider than the old one.

LEFT: Sem­per­vivum

FAR LEFT: Ba­copa

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