Tips for Potting Plants

Potting plants and arranging them in a pleasing fashion can create a container garden. Container gardens provide the beauty and bounty of an outdoor soil garden, but may take up less room and prove more convenient, depending on your lifestyle and the available yard space of your current home. To create a container garden, however, you need to first pot the plants of your choice.

Select the Right Pots

The type of pots or containers you select should be suitable for the plants you select and your regional climate. Terra cotta pots are porous and allow for air exchange, making them suitable for most plants. In dry, arid climates, however, the soil in terra cotta pots dries out very quickly. For plants that require constant moisture, terra cotta may be inappropriate. Consider ceramic or fiberglass, as these hold moisture longer. Any container you select, or any object you use for a container, should have drainage holes. If excess water cannot drain out, the plants' roots may become waterlogged and your plants will die.

Prepare the Pots

Clean the pots you intend to use for your garden. Place a small amount of gravel or rock in the bottom of each of your pots to prevent the soil from leaking out the drainage holes and to regulate drainage when you water the pots. Place the pots in their intended locations. Once you have the soil and plants in the pots, they may be too heavy to move. Fill the pots three quarters of the way full with potting mix.

Handling the Plants

When removing the plants from the original container for potting, soak the soil half an hour before you intend to move the plant. The moist soil will hold together, keeping the root ball intact. Hold the plant by the stem close to the soil surface and gently tug upwards, while keeping the container steady with your other hand. When you feel the plant loosen from the container, turn the container on its side and slide the plant out. Gently massage the root ball to loosen the outer roots from the soil. Cradling the root ball in one hand and holding the base of the stem in the other, turn the plant upright and place in the soil in the pot.

Getting the Plant Settled

Use your hand to dig into the center of the soil and ease the root ball into the depression. Push soil up to and around the root ball and over the top of it. Add more soil to the pot so that the bottom inch to 2 inches of the stem of the plant is immersed in soil. The soil surface should be approximately 1 to 2 inches from the top of the pot. Deep planting reduces transplant shock and allows for extended root growth. In container gardening, the extended root growth provides the plant with increased ability to uptake moisture and nutrients.

Keywords: potting plants, plants in containers, container gardens

About this Author

Shelly McRae resides in Phoenix, Ariz. Having earned her associate's degree from Glendale Community College with a major in graphic design and technical writing, she turned to online writing. Her credits include articles for, and several non-commercial sites. Her work background also includes experience in the home improvement industry and hydroponic gardening.