Well-prepared pots with good drainage and lining will keep your plants happy. Preparing your pots well will also help to protect them from the elements so you can continue using them year after year.
It’s a little more work than just filling your pot with soil and plugging in the plants. But it’s worth it as it saves you the headache of removing weeds and pests later.
Here’s everything you need to know about preparing your pot for planting, from choosing the pot to filling it with flowers.
Flower pot preparation: A step-by-step guide
You can prepare a flower pot for planting in 7 easy steps. Start by choosing a pot that’s the right size and material. Then add drainage holes, clean it and line with plastic or fabric.
Let’s take a closer look at how to prepare a pot for planting.
Step 1 – Choose your pot
Your pot can be big or small, porous or non-porous, depending on your needs. Large pots hold more soil, stay moist for longer and resist rapid fluctuations in temperature.
Small pots are perfect for planting annuals like petunias and pansies, and succulents. You’ll need a larger pot for azaleas, hydrangeas, and other roomy perennials.
Tip: The ideal pot is 25% taller than the height of the plant.
Next, select your pot material. Clay and porcelain pots are attractive but breakable. They can also be damaged by frost. Concrete pots are more durable, but heavy to lift. Plastic and fibreglass are lightweight, inexpensive, and sturdy.
You can also opt for wooden or metal pots. These can add a rustic feel to your space. Whatever you decide, make sure the pots can handle the elements if you plan to leave them outside year-round.
Step 2 – Add drainage holes
If your pot has drainage holes, you can simply move on to the next step. If not, you’ll have to fix its drainage. Drainage holes are very important. They allow excess water to flow out of the planter. Stagnant water in your pot can rot your plant roots and even kill it.
You can make holes in plastic and wooden pots yourself. Simply punch holes using a nail. For materials like porcelain and fibreglass, use a drill.
Tip: Drill either one large hole in the centre of the pot for easy drainage, or three small ones in a triangular pattern.
Step 3 – Clean the pot
Whether you’re using a pot stored in the garage or one left in the garden, you need to clean it. Pots left unused for too long can become a breeding ground for pests and diseases.
Use a stiff brush to remove any dust and deposits then scrub the pot with a mild soap solution and let it sit for a few minutes before rinsing with clean water. Allow the pot to dry well before using it.
Even if you’re using a new, store-bought pot, give it a good wash. Don’t use harsh chemicals for cleaning, especially if you plan to grow vegetables and herbs in it.
Step 4 – Line your pot
Line your pot with a plastic sheet or a piece of fabric. Don’t use newspapers or brown paper as these will decompose after you water your plant a few times.
A sturdy lining will help to prevent your pot from cracking in colder weather, especially if it’s made of porous materials like clay and ceramic. It will also keep the drainage holes from getting blocked and the soil from being washed out.
Lining your pot is also a good way to keep it clean once you fill it with soil. Plus, it will stop minerals from depositing on the surface and tarnishing your pot in the long run.
Tip: Remember to cut holes for drainage if you’re using a plastic liner.
Step 5 – Make the pot lighter
A pot filled with soil can be heavy to move about or lift. Even more so after you water it. It’s a good idea to lighten the pot before filling it with soil.
Use fillers like polystyrene packing, bubble wrap, empty milk cartons, and plastic bottles. These are lightweight and help to keep non-biodegradable material out of local landfills. Fill one-third of your pot with these fillers.
Important: If the plant roots grow extensively, add a thin layer of polystyrene or skip this step altogether.
Read more: How to fill a big flower pot in 6 steps
Step 6 – Fill it with the right soil
You can fill your pot with different types of soil: coco coir, compost-rich mix, and more. Choose the right soil for your pot based on the specific needs of your plant.
If you’re not sure, opt for an all-purpose, peat-free soil mix that contains all the essential nutrients to grow plants. Plus, it’s sterile and will keep your plants healthy.
Whatever you decide, make sure the soil is light and fluffy. It should have good drainage, but also hold moisture. And finally, it shouldn’t contain too much sand or clay.
Tip: Don’t use soil from your garden to fill a flower pot. It may contain pests that can eat your delicate potted plants.
Step 7 – Fill your pot with plants
Your flower pot is ready for planting. Fill it with annuals like verbena and sweet alyssum that will bloom all summer. You can also choose low-maintenance perennials like hostas and asters that come back every year.
Water your potted plants regularly but not too much—overwatering is what kills most potted plants!
You will also need to add fertiliser to the pot every two to three months since potted plants are entirely dependent on what you feed them. Use a mild, liquid fertiliser, or slow-release granules.
Preparing a flower pot FAQs
From planting in pots without drainage to using glazed pots, read on for answers to some commonly asked questions about preparing a flower pot.
How do I prepare outdoor pots for planting the easy way?
To prepare your outdoor pots for planting the easy way, choose a durable pot. Fibreglass, plastic, and concrete are good options that can be left outside all year round. Also, make sure your pot has drainage holes. If not, add them before filling the pot with quality potting soil. Lining is optional for outdoor pots. Before winter you can use fleece to insulate the pot.
If my pot does not have drainage holes, can I still use it for planting?
Yes, you can. But it can be trickier than using pots with drainage holes. First, add a layer of pebbles or polystyrene peanuts to your pot. This will allow extra water to seep into the spaces between them, keeping the roots safe from rot. Be careful not to overwater your plant and avoid leaving the plant where it can get rained on.
Are glazed pots bad for my plants?
No, glazed ceramic or terracotta pots are not bad for your plants. They are non-porous and can keep the soil moist for longer than other pots. Use them to grow plants that thrive in moisture.