How to plant pots so that flowers bloom all year round

Now that most of us are devoted plant parents and enthusiastic gardeners, it’s important to learn how to pot them properly so that the flowers bloom all year round.

On a balcony, in awkward side branches or paved yards, containers become closest to flower beds. I treat them pretty much the way I treat my garden beds now, and I expect them to do the same: color, interest, and texture all year round. At any rate, last winter the pots looked better than the shy perennials lurking along the edges of the lawn.

Get the planting right and you’ll be endlessly surprised by your pots, which receive far less attention than the rest of the garden. These trusted containers of long-planted plants are my horticultural equivalent of old friends whose homes you can go to in your tracksuit with a bag of Doritos and demand to see the Bake Off. No wonder I’ve taken them to three different apartments and countless stairs over the past five years.

If this sounds like you, read on for my top potting tips for optimal flowering.

building foundation

Start by taking a close look at your growing space. None of the balconies I grew up on were large, but each had a few different aspects: morning sun, midday sun, rain shadows (where the cover keeps things dry) and deep shade. Everything can be grown, but it’s important to understand these limitations before you start buying plants.

Wind can also be a factor for roof gardens and higher balconies, and can’t be discounted – it dries out and can mince more tender plants that need shelter.

However, if you are working in a nook with brick walls, you will have a warmer temperature than anywhere else on your property. Be honest with yourself about how much sunlight your space actually receives. Penumbra means three to six hours of bright, direct daylight in summer; full shadow is something else. If you have a completely open space, this is also worth noting.

These conditions will help you get closer to the top of your plant palette. It can help to think about comparative situations in the wild: coastal and dry gardens, for example, can be great occasions for outdoor rooftop terraces (if that’s you, I highly recommend you take a look). Derek Jarman’s garden at Prospect Cottagefollowed by Gravel Garden Beth Chatto).

Instead, I delved into planting a forest, trying to figure out what would thrive on my shady balcony.

To keep your container looking good all year round, you’ll need a base of hard-working perennials. For artificial forest conditions, I prefer ferns, geuchera, hellebore and, of course, plectranthus.

But if you’re blessed with lots of sunshine, herbs, stonecrop and sagebrush will work too. Look for something that will sit in the foliage for most of the year: flowering is a bonus and fun, but by embracing the beauty of the foliage, you’ll enjoy your pot for longer.


Along with these larger plants, you’ll want something that sits flush with the top of the pot, or better yet, falls on top of it – again, most of the year. Small ivy, mühlenbeckia, saline soleirolia (also known as mind your own business) and even ivy toadflax and robert’s grass do a great job and have a not too intrusive root system.

A mixture of these two categories of plants will do the trick, but seasonal perennials, which hide below the surface and appear for a season or two, are of additional interest.

I like hostas, peaches like ‘Red Dragon’ and ‘Purple Fantasy’, and Oxalis triangularis ‘Purpleleaf False Shamrock’, but I’ve also experimented with angelica and lamium in the past. All are shade tolerant, but fennel and scabies Erigeron karvinskianus ‘Lavender Lady’ can be great in sunnier locations.

I also count light bulbs in this category: tiny fanfare for the darkest days.

My more evergreen containers also treat the occasional muscari, Ipheion uniflorum ‘Froyle Mill’, iris, fritillaria and dwarf daffodil – ‘Phasant’s Eye’ is a current favorite – that don’t overwhelm the balance of things. But if you have less greenery in winter, beat with tulips and daffodils; there is nothing more joyful on less sunny days.

top dressing

Finally, annuals. If you have space or are dreaming of a new color, sow a few seeds – ideally for plants that won’t completely dominate like nasturtiums and violas – this can brighten up your pots. As is the case with several fork plants ordered from a catalogue. For sunnier locations, overwintering pelargoniums can be great sources of flavor and interest.

The amount of each plant depends on the size of your container, but sticking to your plant palette will create a greater sense of opulence. I stick with a few plants and repeat them in all my containers for a more cohesive effect in every corner of the garden. In a smaller space, this is even more important.

In terms of suitable containers, I highly recommend that you get the largest you can afford and/or fit, and ideally at least 40 cm in diameter – these can grow perennials but dehydrate faster.

In terms of care, I was really referring to the Doritos-Bake Off set: get the right palette of plants and they’ll be quite happy with minimal effort. Trim and trim any crunchy bits, water thoroughly during dry periods, and mulch generously in late fall and again in spring; A thick layer of organic compost will do.

Your biggest enemy will be the boll weevil that loves to hide around containers: watch out for control leaf-eating and apply nematodes to keep them at bay organically.

Year-round container combinations for various aspects

full shadow

Ferns (Penlan Perennials makes great combinations without peat)

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