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  • Writer's pictureMartin Steel-Brown

Part 1: 9 Tips When Selecting Pots, Choosing Plants, & Looking After them

Plants in pots are a fantastic way to bring greenery into your space, especially when space is tight, if ground soil is either limited or has bad structure or when there is no existing soil at all. We use pots in almost all of our jobs and not just for plants! Pots can also be used to add structure and focal points within the garden.

Here are some inside tips and tricks on how to choose pots, what to plant in them and how to place them for optimal design impact. SIZE

In the case of pots, size really is important. Pots will naturally dry out much quicker than ground soil, especially over the warmer months. The larger the pot, the more soil volume it will hold and

therefore the more water it can retain which in turn will provide better conditions for your plants.

The other thing to consider when choosing a suitably size pot, is the scale in which it will sit within your space. A pot that is too small for a large space, will look un

balanced and will get lost among other elements. A single large pot will often provide a bigger dramatic impact than lots of small pots. That being said, be sure to measure your space first and pick a pot that doesn't dominate or restrict movement around your garden. This is especially important for balconies and decks, where movement is already limited.

Keep in mind that weight is very important when it comes to placing pots on balconies. Understanding the load bearing limits of your balconies will determine the size of pots you use, but also the type and number. If in doubt, pick light weight pots and a light potting mix to reduce the overall weight. SEALING When choosing pots for your space, it is important to know whether a pot is sealed, unsealed or does not require sealing. Sealing is a process in which the interior (or exterior) is sealed in a way that prevents water and soluble nutrients & salts from leaching through the pot, which can dry out the soil, take away valuable nutrition from your plants and cause unsightly marks on the outside of your pots.

Terracotta pots need to be sealed

Cement & Ceramic (including terracotta) pots need to be sealed before planting. A sealant can be purchased from a hardware store and is applied in dual coats to the interior of the pot. While glazed pots are made from a ceramic base, they don't need to be sealed as the exterior glaze provides this protection. Metal Pots, Plastic Pots and Poly Resin pots do not need sealing and are ready for planting.


Cement pots, metal pots, ceramic pots, plastic pots, poly resin pots - the list goes on! Choosing the type of pot can be just as daunting as choosing the plants. It is important to know that every pot has its advantages and disadvantages. Plastic pots are cheap, but will deteriorate over time when exposed to the elements and they don't have the same aesthetic appeal as other pots. Ceramic and Cement pots are strong and durable, but are often limited in their colour range however they can be painted for adding a custom look to your design. On the downside they are heavy and expensive and large pots may need multiple hands to put into place. Glazed pots are similar, except they come in a wider colour range and cannot be painted. They also retain a lot of heat and can dry out quicker in summer Metal pots are often available limited to rectangle and square shapes but are durable and long lasting. Some are even available in a rusted finish for the ultimate industrial look! Keep in mind that they will also heat up in summer Poly resin pots are made from a durable plastic, but are designed to look like cement or ceramic pots with more modern aesthetic. They are made to last and are super light weight, making them easy to lift and reduce overall weight on balconies. Their colour range is often limited to neutrals like black, white and grey.


Often this is where many go wrong. After spending lots of money on the pots and plants, the cheapest soil mix is chosen. Soil is life and a potting mix which is made from low quality ingredients will lack nutrients and structure, will struggle to retain moisture and will essentially be depleted much, much quicker. A good potting mix should consist of an even mix of compost, bark fines and peat, with added perlite or pumice to improve drainage and reduce overall weight. When it comes to potting mix, the old saying "You get what you pay for" rings true. If your budget is tight, spend more on the potting mix and less on the pots and plants. Not the other way around!

PLACEMENT The placement of pots needs important consideration to achieve maximum design impact. Large pots will also be too heavy to move once they are placed, so take some time to consider this carefully. Choose a spot that receives plenty of sunlight as this will increase the range of plant choices. If you have the option to place it where it will be exposed to rain, then this will also help keep the plants well watered and reduce your maintenance.

Use pots as a focal point - with or without plants!

Pots can be placed as single focal point or in groups. For a neat design trick, group a cluster of three pots, either in the same style and colour or in complementary styles and colours. Not only does this provides a great way to create asymmetrical balance in your space, it also creates dimension with pots at varying height.

Pots can also placed to frame views or other focal points in your garden by placing two pots side by side and at either end of the view you wish to frame. In terms of balance, this is referred to as symmetrical balance. This trick is often used in small spaces as it directs the viewers eye to a central point and distracts them from how small the surroundings are!

Grouping pots in a cluster of 3, using the same style pot but different colours and patterns
Another cluster of 3 example. This time using the same colour and same style pot

Stay tuned for PART 2 where we discuss plant choice, watering requirements, feeding and the need to re-pot from time to time.

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