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Home Gardening Potting It Up – An Easy Guide to Container Planting

Potting It Up – An Easy Guide to Container Planting


Do you love flowers and plants but don’t have a garden? Do you want to add some colour to your balcony? Then containers are the ideal solution for you.

Many gardens in Cape Town have alkaline soil, restricting what can be planted in them. But there isn’t much you can’t grow in a container – from flowers or vegetables, to strawberries and tomatoes. You can even plant herbs to create an edible container garden.  All you need is the right container and the right type of soil and remember to water regularly. It’s so easy to create your own little urban garden and you certainly don’t need to be an expert gardener.  So, get outside and brighten up your patio or small garden with some colourful containers.

Which container?

You will need to choose between concrete, plastic or clay containers. Each have their own advantages and disadvantages.

  • Concrete containers are strong and sturdy, but may become too heavy to move when filled with soil. But if you position heavy containers where you want them before filling and planting then it shouldn’t cause you a problem.
  • Plastic containers are lightweight and affordable, but over time can become fragile and crack in very warm, dry areas.
  • Unglazed clay containers require watering more often in dry areas. However, lining them with a plastic liner does help. But if not lined, then water the outside of the clay pot too every time you water the plants.

You will also need to decide on the size of container you need, which will largely depend on what you want to grow. Plants with longer roots will need some decent depth. For summer planting, use deep pots to avoid the pot drying out too quickly. Any container you use must have drainage holes and should have coarse gravel or stones placed at the bottom.

Planting in containers

Planting in containers isn’t difficult and you can plant anything from herbs, vegetables, tomatoes, strawberries, to many beautiful flowering plants.  As long as you remember these steps, you cannot go wrong:

  • Check that there are enough holes for drainage at the bottom of the container and cover the base with a layer of small pebbles.
  • Add some wet river sand, before covering with a layer of moist compost.
  • Make the planting hole around 16cm wider than the width of the plant’s root.
  • Gently remove the plant from its container and loosen the roots with your fingers. You can cut any roots that look unnecessarily long.
  • Pour some water into the hole where the plant will go.
  • Spread the roots out evenly and place the plant in the hole and add in a handful of bone meal.
  • Cover the roots well with the soil, firming it down around the plant. Then give the plant plenty of water.

Creating beautiful colourful containers

When it comes to planting up your containers, you can find inspiration anywhere, from your neighbours garden to even the Cape Town Flower Show. Water the containers regularly, especially during hot summers. It’s also good to feed the plants too, so use liquid fertiliser, once a fortnight. It doesn’t matter if you have a very small garden, or no garden at all. From window boxes to pots on balconies or even a container on your window sill, if you choose the right soil, pots and plants, you can turn any space into your very own little Eden.

Text: Jackie Edwards

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