Planting up large containers

Growing plants in a group makes looking after them easy too. By grouping plants, you create a greater impact than if you display them singly. Grow three or four plants together in a large container for a dramatic display. The plants benefit from the increased humidity that results from growing them together, while the large amount of potting mixture makes watering easier and insulates the roots from any drastic temperature changes.


Choose plants that are good neighbours, and prefer similar light and heat conditions, potting mixture and moisture. Use permanent foliage plants, but ring the changes with an inexpensive flowering plant, and replace it as it fades. Whatever you choose, have a range of heights: a tall-growing plant, a shorter, spreading one and trailing plants. Aim for a range of leaf size, form and colour, too. The illustration shows a Spanish Bayonet, three variegated ivies, and a Poinsettia in a terracotta pot. There is a wide range of large containers available, from the traditional terra-cotta and glazed ceramic ware to modern plastics in unusual shapes. Always choose an attractive container that complements your d├ęcor. Wooden and terra-cotta containers have a country look, while plastic or metal in geometric shapes strike a contemporary note. Glazed ceramic containers may be patterned in a style and colour scheme that echoes the theme of the room.

Preparing the container

Fill the pot with suitable potting mixture, leaving enough room for watering. Using a trowel, now make a hole big enough to take the largest root ball.

Remove the first plant from its pot and place it carefully to one side. Use the pot as a mould, and check that the hole is wide and deep enough, adjusting as necessary.

Filling the container

Part-fill the container with potting mixture suitable for the plants chosen, first placing a layer of drainage material in the bottom of clay pots. Try out the plants while still in their pots, to judge the best effect, and check they all fit. The root balls of some plants can be flattened slightly, by rolling them between your hands. Don’t squeeze roughly or try to force plants in, though.

Plant the largest root ball first, then the smaller ones, following the instructions above. Place tall plants in the centre or back of the pot, with lower ones round the edges. Work the compost round the roots, finishing with an even, level surface. Water, then place a layer of fine, washed gravel on top, to conserve moisture.

Finishing off

When all the plants are in place and firmed in, water, then cover the surface with a thin layer of washed gravel, to conserve moisture. This also gives an attractive appearance.

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