Things to think about

Pot plants and containers should complement each other.

If you have a greenhouse you can make pots and baskets from early spring. Keep them fed and watered so that they fill out, ready to be placed in position when the risk of frost has passed.

Many bedding plants are tender and cannot be planted out until the end of May when there is no danger of frost.

Plants grown in tubs, baskets and window boxes have a greater need for nutrients as they are grown very closely together. Use a slow-release fertiliser when you plant, to feed them throughout the season and keep them healthy.

Traditionally, boldly planted ornamental containers are changed and renewed several times a year. Place them wherever you would like to see vivid colour for months on end, in parts of the garden where there is little of interest.

For spring display, appealing choices would be wallflowers, forget-me-nots, double daisies, primroses and polyanthuses. Combine with tulips, hyacinths, narcissi and crocuses.

For summer display, there is a wide choice of half-hardy annuals and other plants that are easily grown from seed in spring. Combine these with half-hardy perennials or shrubby plants such as pelargoniums, dahlias, begonias and fuchsias.

Consider placing fragrant potted plants near doors and windows, or on patios, where you can best appreciate their scent.

It is essential to keep pots and hanging baskets well watered – about four litres a day per basket or container. Once a week use a highpotash feed to encourage fresh flowers.

Deadhead by removing spent flowers. This stops the plant wasting energy by producing seed, so that it will flower for longer.

A bucket is useful for supporting a hanging basket when planting up, to allow plants to trail over the edge without damage.

Pot plants for sun

Alyssum, calendula, cosmos, gazania, helichrysum, nasturtium, petunia, salvia, tagetes, zinnia

Pot plants for shade

Begonia, campanula, fuchsia, hedera, impatiens, lobelia, mimulus, nasturtium, nicotiana, viola

Bulbs for pots

Chionodoxa, crocus, fritillaria, galanthus, hyacinth, iris, lilium, muscari, narcissi, tulips

Plant a pot

1

Choose as big a pot as you can, with drainage holes. The greater the volume of compost you use, the better the display will be.

2

Add water-retaining granules and slow-release fertiliser to peat-based compost, to conserve moisture and promote healthy growth.

3

Place a generous layer of gravel or broken pot in the bottom of the pot. This will help to improve drainage and prevent water logging.

4

Fill the pot with compost, leaving lenty of space for a thick layer of decorative mulch to reduce evaporation. Firm the surface.

5

Dig individual holes for each plant. Alternatively, arrange plants on top of the compost and pack them in with more compost as you prefer.

6

A container bursting with many different flowers in tones of a single colour will extend interest in parts of the garden where colour is themed.

7

Alternatively, in a well-placed ornamental pot, plant one dramatic, sculptural foliage shrub, which will perform throughout the year.

8

If you plant bulbs in multiple layers, you will have prolonged interest from bulbs alone. Or, overplant them with winter-flowering pansies and primulas.

9

Mulch pots with a generous layer of gravel, bark or cocoa shells, to reduce weeds, conserve moisture and stop compost splashing when you water.

10

Water copiously to consolidate the compost around the roots of each plant. If you raise pots off the ground, this will aid drainage.

Plant a hanging basket

1

Pack as many plants as you can into as big a basket as you can manage to make a dramatic show. A 35cm basket will take 30 plants.

2

Carefully line the basket. Sphagnum moss is the best-looking material, although plant fibre or cardboard liners are available in various sizes.

3

Cut a disc of black plastic, or a circle from a bag of compost, and arrange it in the bottom of the basket to reduce water loss.

4

Mix water-retaining granules and slow-release fertiliser with peat-based compost, to conserve moisture and promote healthy growth.

5

Fill the bottom of the basket with compost. Push root balls through the wire and moss, placing plants low, so that all the basket is covered.

6

Tuck the lining around the plants to contain the compost. Add plants, lining and compost to fill the basket, firming the compost as you go.

7

Add more lining material and compost mix to within 25mm of the basket rim. Make a dip in the middle of the compost for the centrepiece.

8

Leave a little space around the middle of the basket for the edging plants and infill with filler plants to make a full basket.

9

Firm the compost well with your fingers. Tidy up any plants that have been damaged and remove brown leaves or spent flowers.

10

Water the basket thoroughly to consolidate the compost around the roots. Check the compost regularly to make sure that it doesn't dry out.