Woman removing a flower plant from a small pot.

How to Use Pot-Grown Plants

Some plants, such as lavender, boxwood, holly, and privet, are not generally available in bare-root form and are grown and sold in pots. The planting technique is similar to that for bare-root types but pot-grown hedging can be planted at any time of year, as long as the soil is not frozen or very dry.

When to plant: Any time; early autumn or spring is best.

At their best: All year (evergreen); Spring to autumn (deciduous).

Time to complete: 3 hours or longer depending on hedge size.

You will need: Pot-grown holly plants – Ilex aquifolium, well-rotted organic matter – such as manure, all-purpose granular fertilizer, spade, fork, stakes, garden string, watering can or hose.

Dig planting holes

Prepare the soil and mark out the area as in Steps 1 and 2 from here How to Plant a Formal Hedge. Either dig a long trench or individual holes for each plant—holes need to be as deep as the root

ball and twice as wide.

Tease out roots

If planting in spring, add some fertilizer to the excavated soil. Tease out any congested roots before planting at the same depth as the plant was in its original pot. Firm in with your foot and water well.

Modern design garden with Chamomile plant.

How to Lay a Chamomile Lawn

Sweet, soothing, scented chamomile has long been a desirable alternative to grass, and with the availability of turf, it is quick and easy to lay. Chamomile likes free-draining soil and, because it will not tolerate heavy wear and tear, is most suitable for decorative lawns or fragrant seats.

When to start: Early autumn or early spring.

At their best: All year round.

Time to complete: 2 hours or more for larger lawns.

You will need: Chamomile turf, well-rotted organic matter – such as manure, horticultural grit, all-purpose granular fertilizer, topsoil and horticultural sand.

Lay the turf

Prepare your site as for turf (How to Turf a Lawn), and if you have heavy clay, dig in lots of grit to ensure that your soil drains freely; waterlogged soil will kill chamomile. Turf will consist of Chamaemelum nobile ‘Treneague’, a nonflowering, compact plant that spreads to form a dense mat. Lay the turf in the same way as grass (check: How to Turf a Lawn).

Caring for chamomile

There’s no need to mow chamomile because it naturally grows to just 2. in (6 cm) in height. Trim it occasionally during summer, using garden shears to remove straggly growth and sideways spread. Pull out any weeds by hand before they have time to establish—do not use lawn weedkiller, which will kill the chamomile. Each spring, apply a slow release granular fertilizer and sprinkle a top dressing of sieved soil and horticultural sand over the lawn. Tread in the dressing to crush the stems, which promotes strong root growth.

Tiered yellow and white garden.

How to Have a Tiered Courtyard in Your Home Garden

The perfect solution for a plant-lover with a tiny plot, this dramatic show garden features tiered raised beds that are bursting with color to make the most of a small patio.

When to plant: Early spring.

At their best: All year round.

Time to complete: 1 day to plant.

You will need: Soil-based potting mix, well-rotted organic matter, all-purpose granular fertilizer, gravel to aid drainage.

Selection of plants you could use: Rudbeckia hirta ‘Prairie Sun’, Fatsia japonica, Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald Gaiety’, Euphorbia characias Silver Swan, Agapathus – white form, Carex oshimensis ‘Evergold’, Coreopsis verticillata ‘Moonbeam’.

Fill the beds

Unless you have experience in this type of work, a professional should build these beds, made from medium density blocks, because they must be safe and drain freely. Once built, line them with 4 in (10 cm) of gravel and fill with soil.

Plant up

Set out the plants in their pots to check that you are happy with the display. They have been packed tightly here to give an instant effect, but in reality, they will need more space to grow.


Plant them up at the same depth as they were in their original pots, adding some granular fertilizer to the planting holes as you go. Water well, and feed the beds annually in spring. The shrubs here are evergreens, but the flowers will die down in winter.

Garden with a bunch of year-round shrubs.

How to Create a Year-round Shrub Display

Containers are not just for summer flowers; displays for autumn and winter often last longer and help brighten up these cold, dark months when viewed from the warmth of your kitchen or living room. Make sure that the pot you buy can withstand low winter temperatures—frost proof clay pots tend to be more expensive but should come with a guarantee and last for many years.

When to plant: Early autumn.

At their best: All year round.

Time to complete: 1½ hours.

You will need: Large frostproof container – at least 18 in (45 cm) deep and wide, broken clay pot or plastic pieces, soil-based potting mix, mulching material, all-purpose granular fertilizer.

Selection of plants you could use: Skimmia japonica ‘Rubella’, Juniperus ‘Grey Owl’, Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Goshiki’, Erica arborea var. alpine, ‘Albert’s Gold’

Prepare the pot

Add some broken clay pot or plastic pieces to the bottom of the container, and cover them with a layer of soil-based potting mix. Set the plants, still in their original pots, on the potting mix and check that they will sit about 2 in (5 cm) below the rim when planted. Keep them in the container, and start to fill in around them with potting mix.

Slide the plants out

Pack damp potting mix around all the pots up to their rims—only one is shown here, but the method works equally well with a few plants. Carefully slide out the plants in their pots, to leave spaces for planting.

Tip plants out of their pots

Water all the plants well before tipping them out of their plastic pots. If the roots are congested, gently

tease them out. Carefully replace them in their positions in the container, and then firm more compost into any remaining gaps.

Add a mulch

Add a layer of gravel, slate chips, or other decorative mulch over the soil. Water the container well and set it on “feet” to allow the winter rains to drain through easily. Place it where you can see it easily from the house, and continue to water it during the autumn and winter if the soil under the mulch feels dry.

Tips: annual care

The container will need watering frequently in the spring and summer. Each year in early spring, remove the mulch and top few inches of potting mix and replace it with fresh compost mixed with some all-purpose granular fertilizer. Water immediately after this, and then renew the mulch. When the plants become congested, plant them out in the garden or move to larger containers.

Hanging basket with different flowers and plants in it.

How to Create a Winter Hanging Basket

Seasonal hanging baskets add a splash of color to the garden throughout the coldest months. This one includes a few cyclamens, winter-flowering violas, and a range of evergreens. In colder climates, evergreen boughs and branches with berries can be combined for winter color.

When to plant: Early autumn.

At their best: Autumn to early spring.

Time to complete: 1½ hours.

You will need: Hanging basket, liner, plastic bag, wide low pot, scissors, container potting soil, newspaper, small plastic pot, watering can.

Selection of plants you could use: Skimmia japonica ‘Rubella’, Heathers – Erica, Cyclamen, winter-flowering violas, Small ivies – Hedera helix.

Before you plant

Stand the basket on a wide pot to keep it stable during preparation. Then add a specially made basket liner.

Cut out planting holes

Lay a circle of plastic bag over the bottom of the liner to act as a reservoir. Cut out a few evenly spaced crosses around the sides of the liner.

Add ivy around the edge

Add a layer of potting soil to the bottom. Wrap paper around the root ball of each ivy and push them through the holes in the sides.

Plant the top and water

Add the plants and fill in around them with more soil. Firm them in. Place a small plastic pot near the center to act as a watering reservoir. Water into this pot to make sure it reaches the plants’ roots.

Woven basket with different plants hanging.

How to Create a Woven Basket Mix

When to plant: Early autumn.

At their best: Autumn to early spring.

Time to complete: 1 hour.

You will need: Woven hanging basket, scissors, wide low pot, container potting soil, watering can.

Selection of plants you could use: Choisya ternata Sundance, Deadnettle – Lamium maculatum ‘Aureum’, small ivies – Hedera helix, winter-flowering violas, haultheria procumbens.

Prepare the basket

Place the basket on a low pot to stabilize it and punch a few drainage holes in the plastic liner. Half fill the basket with potting soil, then arrange your plants on top.

Finishing touches

Remove the plants from their pots, place them in the basket and then firm them in with soil, as described in step 4 here LINK How to Plant a Winter Hanging Basket, and water well. Water baskets during dry spells.

Tip: Organic basket liner

For a natural, organic alternative to a plastic liner, use conifer clippings from a hedge or tree. These also help insulate the plants and will decompose over time and create an acidic soil environment, ideal for Gaultheria to thrive.

View from above of a Hosta ‘Francee’ plant.

How to Have a Luscious Leaves Garden

With their bold foliage and wide color range, hostas are the darlings of the designer world. Grow a few in pots on a shady patio for a lush, sophisticated display that will last from early summer until the autumn.

When to start: Spring.

At their best: Early summer to early autumn.

Time to complete: 2 hours.

You will need: 4 pots of different sizes, soil-based potting mix, broken clay pot pieces, slow-release fertilizer, horticultural grit.

Selection of plants you could use: Hosta ‘Francee’, Hosta ‘Krossa Regal’, Hosta fortunei var. albopicta f. aurea, Hosta ‘August Moon’.

Choosing pots

First choose suitable containers. Hosta ‘Francee’ and H. ‘August Moon’ have spreading habits and suit wide pots, while H. ‘Krossa Regal’ is more upright and looks best in a taller container. H. fortune f. aurea is small in stature, so select a little pot for this diminutive plant. Buy frostproof containers for your hostas; they are perennial plants and will pop up year after year.

Planting up

Prepare your pots according to the instructions here, and water the hostas well before planting. Add slow-release fertilizer to the compost and plant the hostas slightly deeper than they were in their original pots. Water them and apply a gritty mulch to deter slugs and snails (see Tips, below).


Hostas like damp conditions and need frequent watering, especially in summer. Use about half a full watering can on each plant, so that the moisture reaches the bottom of the pot. Take precautions against slugs and snails, and feed annually.

Tips: Slug and snail repellents

To keep your hostas free from slug and snail damage, sprinkle a few slug pellets sparingly around young plants after planting. Organic controls include pouring used coffee grounds around the plants, applying a mulch of eggshells or grit, or fixing a copper strip around each pot.

Part of a garden with winter flowers and plants in it.

How to Create a Winter Windowbox

When your summer flowers are spent, and window displays are looking bedraggled and dull, give them a quick makeover with colorful evergreens that will last the course through the coldest winter. This combination of conifers, shrubs, grasses, and herbs is guaranteed to perform for many months.

When to start: Early autumn.

At their best: Early autumn to spring.

Time to complete: 1½ hours.

You will need: Large windowbox, ericaceous potting mix, broken plastic pieces, bucket.

Selection of plants you could use: Carex oshimensis ‘Evergold’, Cupressus macrocarpa ‘Goldcrest’, Golden thyme – Thymus pulegioides, ‘Archer’s Gold’, Leucothoe Scarletta.

Before planting

Buy a frost-resistant windowbox—this one is made from terracotta, but a plastic imitation would be best if you live in a cold, exposed area that is prone to frosts. Check that your plants fit comfortably in the container.

Soak the plants

Water each plant well, either with a watering can without a rose, or by dunking the plants in a bucket of water. Allow the bubbles to dissipate, then remove the pots and allow them to drain.

Provide good drainage

Break up a plastic plant tray and add the pieces to the bottom of the windowbox. Then add a layer of ericaceous potting mix—the Leucothoe and Gaultheria are both acid-loving plants and do best in this type of soil.

Place plants in position

Place the plants in their original pots in the windowbox and make sure that they will sit about 1 in (2 cm) below the rim when planted to allow sufficient space for watering.

Plant up and firm in

Plant up and fill in around each plant with soil, firming it in with your fingers as you go. Water well. Water your box once or twice a week in winter, and more frequently in spring.

Garden with autumn flowers and plants in it.

What Plants to Use in Your Garden in Autumn

Patio planters need not fade away as summer comes to a close. There are lots of plants that will leap into action as the days shorten, filling your patio with colorful foliage and plenty of flowers.

When to plant: Late summer or autumn.

At their best: Autumn.

Time to complete: 4 hours.

You will need: Planters, broken clay pot or plastic pieces, all-purpose potting soil.

Selection of plants to use: Salvia officinalis ‘Tricolor’, Lamium galeobdolon, Carex conica ‘Snowline’, Sedum ‘Lemon Coral’, Aster dumosus, purple hybrid, Heuchera ‘Amber Waves’.

Prepare the pots

Add clay pieces to the base of each pot. If you are using tall planters such as these, half-fill with clay or plastic pieces, then fill with soil to within 4 in (10 cm) of the rim.

Position the plants

In autumn, plants don’t grow very much, so avoid leaving gaps as you would when planting summer bedding. Pack your plants in closely to make the planters look “finished.”


Densely planted containers can get very dry, even in wet weather, so water them regularly. These plants do not need feeding since they will soon become dormant and growth will halt over winter.

Hedge made of different colored plants.

How to Create an Informal Hedge

If you prefer a relaxed, rustic style of garden, avoid formal hedges, and opt instead for one that contains a mix of species. This style of hedge is good for wildlife, as it provides food and somewhere to live. It is also relatively easy to look after, needing just one trim per year in late autumn.

When to plant: Autumn.

At their best: All year round.

Time to complete: 3 hours, or more for long hedges.

You will need: Wildlife hedging plants (blackthorn, dog rose, hawthorn, hazel, holly), spade, fork, string and pegs, well-rotted organic matter, such as manure.

Selection of plants you could use: Berberis darwinii, Blackthorn – Prunus spinose, Dog rose – Rosa canina, Field maple – Acer campestre, Guelder rose – Viburnum opulus, Hawthorn – Crataegus, Hazel – Corylus avellana, Holly – Ilex aquifolium, Rosa glauca.

Prepare the site

Hedges are permanent structures, and fare best in well-prepared soil. Dig over the area, removing all weeds, especially the roots of perennials. Fork in some organic matter deep into the soil to improve its structure.

Compress soil

Use your weight to compress the soil, shuffling slowly over the entire area. Then repeat this at right angles. If planted immediately after it has been dug over, the soil will settle, and plants will not be anchored properly.

Mark guide lines

For a deep hedge, set out two lines of string, held taut by pegs, 14–16 in (35–40cm) apart. These form the planting guides for your two rows of plants. For a narrower hedge, you will need just one line of plants.

Plant in trenches

To ensure a really straight hedge, dig out a long trench, rather than individual holes. Plant one line at a time and position the plants along its length, about 14 in (35 cm) apart. Alternate the different plant species for a mosaic effect.

Check planting depths

Hedging plants suffer when planted too deeply or shallowly, so take care to ensure that they are at the same depth as they were in the nursery, or in their pots. The stems will be darker where they previously touched the soil.

Stagger planting

If planting a double row, stagger the second line, so that the plants grow in the gaps between those in the first row. Water in all plants well, and mulch with organic matter, keeping it clear of the stems. Water the hedge regularly throughout the first year.

Thorny barriers

An informal wildlife hedge can also double as a barrier to deter intruders because many wildlife-friendly plants are covered in vicious spikes and thorns. Deer will avoid barriers that look tricky or painful to negotiate, and are more likely to go elsewhere for easier pickings. Alongside the classic native plants, there are also many roses that make beautiful but fearsome hedges.

Site and soil

Ideally most hedging plants, including roses and the other plants used here, prefer a sunny site, with well-drained and fertile soil. If your soil is not perfect, spend some time preparing the ground by digging in plenty of organic matter down to a spade’s depth.

Plant species roses

Follow the advice for planting roses. However, species roses, which are ideal for hedges, do not have a graft union, and are planted at the same depth they were growing at in their pots, or in the field.


Once plants have started growing in spring, cut them back by about a third to encourage bushy growth from the base. Keep them watered throughout their first year and regularly remove any weeds around their base. This will prevent your roses from having to compete for nutrients and water while they are in the process of becoming established.