I have never been one to follow the so-called “rules” for gardening. I prefer to follow my path, experimenting and inventing my rules. And while most of the time it works, there have been times when trying my things has led to failure (and pain). But such is life and we must continue to fight in the wake of such losses – we hope with our pride in touch and willingness to learn from our mistakes. Container gardening is no exception.
Growing plants in containers
I once thought that growing potted plants simply meant sticking a solitary plant in a large container and ending it, aside from occasional water. Not like that! I learned the hard way that it’s not always better when it comes to growing plants in containers. I often wondered why my plants were so slender or failed to thrive and fill in their potted environments. There is a reason for this.
A small plant with a smaller root system in an oversized container is much more difficult to efficiently irrigate first. Either you don’t water it enough for fear of drowning the little tyke or do the opposite and completely saturate the pot (because that’s what you should do, right?) And you only end up rotting the roots, especially since the container remains more humid longer than in a smaller pot.
It also took some time to understand that returning something to another container does not mean two or three larger dimensions. Choose a container that is only a few centimeters larger than the old pot; an extra size is ideal.
The truth is that most plants are happy enough in a contained environment with little space, especially succulents, which are known for their surface root systems. Low root plants do well even in wider pots than they are tall. Of course, there are exceptions to adding small plants to larger containers, such as vegetable seedlings that typically don’t benefit from transplanting as they grow. Most vegetables also benefit from deeper pans and the types of vines perform better in larger containers such as half barrels, which are also relatively deep.
A large pot is also needed when growing more than one plant together, be it herbs, houseplants, flowers, etc. It never occurred to me in those previous years that you could actually grow more than one plant in one container. Surprisingly, many plants happily grow together in those larger pots. And they look even better.
As long as you leave enough room for them to grow, you can practically have plants in almost every small pot. And when you have a large container, add more than one plant. You can always follow the rules to plant more than one using the thriller, the filler, the spiller method or go on your path and plant what you want (provided they share similar growth conditions).
I have come a long way since those days of neophytes and now I am well known for plants that grow practically everywhere and in everything from old bags, books and boots to vegetable cans, cups and teapots. No more single tiny plant in a huge pot for me … now I fill those suckers with all I can (sometimes literally)!