Planting pots

Planting pots
Why not think about planting perennials in your pots & containers instead of bedding plants this year? The benefits are that you won’t need to replant every year, you can plant for more than just summer colour & interest & whilst bedding plants are very colourful in summer they don’t provide pollen or nectar for insects & also need more water!
The best compost to use in containers is John Innes No. 3 which is soil based compost so it doesn’t dry out as quickly especially in hot weather. Most of the peat-free composts are for short term planting & also dry out quickly unless water retaining gel/crystals are added.
         Perennials for sun and well-drained soil.
To ensure the compost in your containers is well-drained, make sure to put a layer of crocks (broken up terracotta plant pots), large pebbles or a thick layer of gravel) in the base before adding the compost. The container can also be raised on pot feet or bricks to help drainage. Grit can also be mixed into the compost.
  • Coreopsis (Tickweed) – Sun & good drainage. Prolific flowering all summer. Varieties with yellow, orange, red or bi-coloured flowers. Long, repeat flowering especially if faded flowers are removed regularly. Foliage can be either broad or threadlike. Few insect or disease problems.
  • Nepeta spp (Catmint) – Long flowering through spring & summer. The whole plant is covered with rich blue flowers which will withstand heat & drought. After initial flowering cut back by about one third & it will flower again in late summer/autumn.
  • Liatris – Clump former with tall spikes of purple, white or pink flowers & narrow foliage in mid-late summer. Loved by bees, butterflies & other pollinators.
  • Phlox – Large fragrant flower heads from summer into autumn. Choose from a range of pink, purple, white or bi-coloured flowered varieties. Can suffer with mildew so keep moist as less likely to be affected. Some newer varieties have been bred to be more mildew resistant. Full/part-sun with good drainage. Look for shorter growing varieties.
  • Veronicastrum virginicum (Culver’s root) – A native from the American prairies producing candelabras of white, pink or light purple flowers all summer over finely cut foliage. These plants look attractive even when not in flower. Attractive to butterflies & other pollinators. Full/part-sun & well-drained soil.
  • Echinacea (Coneflower) - Another native from the American prairies. Flowers can have single, double & even triple petals. Flowers with single petals are best for pollinators. Attractive to butterflies & birds. Lots of newer varieties so flowers are available in purplish-pink (traditional colour), white, orange, yellow, red & even green. Long flowering from early summer into autumn.  
  • Perovskia atropurpurea (Russian sage) – Flowers from summer into autumn. Loves hot, dry conditions. Bluish-purple flowers & fragrant silvery foliage. Quite a tall grower so best out of wind.
Plants for sun or part-shade with good drainage.
Hemerocallis (Daylily) – Plants in a wide range of colours & flowering times available – early, mid or late season. Some are repeat flowering from spring until autumn. Each flower lasts only a day but the plants produce a number of flowers on each stem. Drought resistant.
Sedum – A great plant that can tolerate heat, drought, or cold & is low maintenance. Various sizes, foliage & flower colours of pink, red or white. Summer into autumn flowering.
Asiatic lily – Grow quickly from bulbs. Plant in autumn or early spring. A wide range of single or bi-coloured flowers available. Most flower in early or midsummer. Some varieties are fragrant. They bulk up quickly so can be split to make more plants.
Geranium (Cranesbill) – A range of flower colours to choose from – white, pink, blue or light purple in a range of sizes & can flower in late spring, summer & autumn. Some flower once but some varieties repeat flower from early summer right through until October. Many have attractive veined or mottled foliage. Varieties with green leaves often turn red in autumn. Some new varieties have been bred with more unusual chocolate coloured foliage. Choose from low, carpet growing plants or others that grow taller. Some varieties that can look a bit straggly in midsummer so cut them back & they will flower again.
Lilium spp (Oriental lily) – These lilies provide colour & fragrance from mid to late summer. Pink, white, rose, cream or pale orange flowers can be speckled or striped. Can be easily grown from bulbs planted in spring or autumn.
Paeony – Flower colours range from white, red, yellow, pink & red. Some Peonies are fragrant. Select from single, semi-double or double flowered varieties. Foliage can be attractive when the plant is just coming into growth & after flowering. Seed pods also create interest. Flower between May & June. Plants require shallow planting with the crown being planted just under the soil’s surface & might need staking.
Plants for shade in well-drained or moisture retentive soil.
To ensure your pot holds moisture it is best to mulch the surface with gravel, grit or bark. Moisture retaining granules can also be mixed into the compost but shouldn’t be necessary with soil based compost. Terracotta pots lose moisture through the sides especially in hot weather. You can seal this inside with a waterproof sealant, put a layer of polythene in the container before adding the compost, put a large plastic pot inside the container or alternatively use glazed ornamental pots.  
  • Hellebores (Christmas or Lenten rose) – Great, easily grown plants to provide colour & interest in the bleaker months of the year from late winter into spring (check labels for flowering times). Pink, white, yellow, rose, purple even almost black flowered varieties some with spotted or bi-coloured flowers. Little maintenance required except dead or damaged leaves are best removed so flowers are more visible. Plant with spring bulbs such as Narcissus, Crocus or Snowdrops to create an extra long period of interest. Deer & rabbit resistant. Plant in full or part-shade in a moist, well-drained, humus rich soil.
  • Hosta – Hundreds of varieties to choose from with leaves of different shapes, sizes & colours. You can choose from miniature, middle or large sized leaved plants. Mainly grown for their attractive foliage but also produce flowers of pale blue, white or pale lavender in summer. Their flowers are attractive to pollinators. Leaves can be various shades of green, blue-green or yellow, they can be single coloured or variegated & smooth or undulating. Hostas look good when planted as an individual specimen in a pot or when combined with other plants or spring flowering bulbs. The bulbs flower before the Hosta comes into growth & the bulbs dead leaves are covered by the Hostas growth later in the spring. Slug damage is the main problem with Hostas planted in the garden but slugs usually leave the plants alone in pots. Full/part-shade in a moisture retentive soil.
  • Ferns – Ferns love shade & a more moisture retentive soil. Although ferns don’t produce flowers they have very attractive foliage & make ideal specimen plants. Fronds are mostly green but some Athyriums have foliage which is silvery red or pink & green. A range of sizes so check labels before purchasing as some varieties are much too tall to grow in a pot or container. Some varieties are evergreen providing all year round interest & some produce attractive reddish, yellowish or orange coloured fronds when emerging in spring. Little maintenance required although deciduous ferns need dead fronds removing in early spring before the new growth emerges. A wide range of frond shapes & textures to choose from.
  • Epimedium(Barrenwort) – Flowers are white, orange, pink or yellow on evergreen or deciduous plants. Foliage is attractive, usually green but leaves can be almost heart-shaped or even longer & spidery. Flowers emerge in early, mid or late spring & can last into early summer. Easily grown in full or part-shade in any reasonable, well-drained soil. Drought resistant.
Cath Sanderson
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