How to Plant in Pots – Everything You Need to Know

How to plant in pots is one of the questions we receive most often in our mailbox. Some of our readers have the immense luck of being able to enjoy a small orchard or garden where they can watch their aromatic plants, flowers, and crops grow; but the vast majority of amateur horticulturists have to make do with creating gardens in pots, small natural worlds adapted to our terraces and balconies.

So, today we are going to talk about the “basic” care of plants in pots, those useful tips to have pots and pots turned into small gardens with many plants. Some tips that are equally useful for people who have a garden or an urban garden and prefer first to plant in pots and then repot to the ground.

How to Plant in Pots – Choosing the Pot

When we talk about how to plant in pots, almost all of us forget the first step: choosing the perfect pot for each crop.

The container – the home – where you plant your seeds is as important as it seems because choosing one or the other will influence those basic plant and pot maintenance tasks we all know such as watering, repotting, fertilizing, sulfating…

Some keys to select the best pot for your balcony or terrace:

1- The square feet/meters available and the number of plants we want to have.

The first key to choosing the best pots is to take a pencil and paper and make a simple rule of three calculating how much free space we have and how many different plants we want to grow. It seems like an obvious tip, but trust me: not everyone takes this into account when they go to buy their pots.

2- The type of plants.

A fern doesn’t need the same space to grow as, say, a tomato plant or a rose bush. A bonsai will need a wider pot than, for example, a small cactus; a shrub will need a sufficiently large and deep container to allow it to develop while a vine will need a very tall and deep pot… In short: knowing what type of plant you are going to grow is thus the second key to choosing the best pots for your mini home garden.

3- Indoor/Outdoor.

The third key to choosing the right pots is to decide whether they will be outdoors – garden, balcony, terrace… – or indoors. If you are going to grow flowers and plants indoors, you won’t need to invest in resin or PVC pots (more expensive), but if your plants are going to live outdoors and you don’t want to repot now and then, you shouldn’t choose bad plastic, metal pots that rust every time it rains or untreated wooden planters that catch fire with humidity and dry out in the sunlight.

how to plant in pots choosing the pot

Care of Potted Plants: The Soil

After choosing the most suitable indoor or outdoor pot, it is time to talk about the second key to caring for potted plants: the potting soil or substrate.

The substrate is, along with water, the basic food for your crops so it is worth investing a little budget in acquiring a quality potting soil, loose, low in clay, and rich in nutrients.

A mistake that almost all of us make with potting soil is to never remember to renew it or, at least, to replenish it with those nutrients that fade with time, the presence of pests, overwatering, etc.

Some Tricks to Keep the Soil in Our Pots in Perfect Condition:

  • Stir the soil from time to time so that it doesn’t clump and allows moisture to pass to all parts of your plants. If you use a gardening tool to aerate your potting soil, remember to clean it well before storing it again.
  • Nourish the soil of your plants with homemade compost that you can make from organic waste such as egg and banana peels, coffee grounds, fruit and vegetable peels, etc.
  • Add nutrient bars to your pots. These energy bars are very easy to place, they are inexpensive and their effects last between two and three months.
care of potted plants the soil

How to Plant in Pots – Watering

The third key to caring for potted plants is watering, the moisture that our home-grown plants need to grow strong, healthy, beautiful, and, most importantly, without the presence of pests such as aphids, whiteflies, etc.

Some Useful Tips for Watering Your Pots:

  1. Typically, small pots need less watering than larger pots, but they need to be watered more frequently.
  2. As a rule, potted plants are usually watered two to three times a week during the summer and once a week in the winter months, but this rule is not untouchable since the frequency and amount of watering your pots will need depends on many factors: type of plant, indoor or outdoor plant, quality of soil, quality of irrigation water, temperature, humidity, presence of wind, etc.
  3. There is a very simple trick to know if you have to water or not your pots: touch the soil with the tip of your fingers, if your finger does not get dirty it means that your plants need water.
  4. If a pot has become waterlogged due to excessive watering or rainfall if the pot is outdoors, remove the water as soon as possible. If you see that the plant is excessively soaked, you will have to repot it to another pot changing the wet substrate for new soil.
how to plant in pots watering
About Henry Morgan

We are the Morgans, Henry, and Julia, both agronomists from the University of Michigan, where we met. We are experts in putting our hands in the soil and developing organic foods and improving production processes for decades. Likewise, we have worked for companies such as Mondelez International, BASF, Monsanto, etc. currently in our role as science writers for as well as advisors in promoting large scale food growing in urbanized areas. In this website, we share what we are most passionate about, gardening and farming. Enjoy and see real photos on our website.