Tips for Getting Rid of Aphids

I’ve spent enough time complaining about aphids that it’s finally time for me to give them their own post. Having lost an entire family of much-loved chilli pepper plants to an aphid infestation a little while ago, I declared these creepy-crawlies my official arch-nemesis. Maybe you don’t feel as strongly as me, or maybe you do – either way, you’ve presumably found yourself on this post because you’re looking for advice on getting rid of aphids.

How to identify aphids

a group of aphids on a rose bud

What exactly are aphids? Also, what’s the problem with them, and how do you tell them apart from other annoying plant pests? Let’s take a look…

For starters, the term “aphid” doesn’t actually refer to one particular insect – in the UK, it actually covers over 500 different species. However, all of these critters have a few things in common. First, they all fall into the scientific classification of “true bug”. Aphids include bugs like greenfly and blackfly, but you’ll also find them in various shades of yellow, white and pink. Aphids are all between 1-7mm in length, and they’re all widely acknowledged to be incredibly destructive to plants. 

How do they cause so much trouble?

Aphids are sap-suckers. They’ll puncture the stem or leaves of a plant, and consume the sap inside, leaving the plant wilting and weak. On top of that, they excrete a sticky “honeydew”, that can attract sooty moulds, further damaging your plants.

You can find aphids on almost any type of plant, including flowers, ornamental plants, fruit and vegetables, house plants and greenhouse plants. Many types of target specific plant species, but there are plenty of aphids that are less picky. They also reproduce relentlessly, so one or two aphids can quickly turn into hundreds – spreading to any nearby plants.

As if that wasn’t enough, some aphids can carry viruses between plants. Brilliant.

Getting rid of aphids

Check your plants regularly, especially if you know you have species that attract aphids. When you’re watering or pruning, pay particular attention to the underside of leaves, the area around new shoots and flower buds. If you do notice individual bugs, or small clusters starting to appear, you need to act quickly!

a close-up of a ladybird getting rid of aphids on a flower bud

Tips for getting rid of aphids without pesticides

Chemical pesticides aren’t everybody’s thing – maybe you’re growing edible plants, are concerned for child or pet safety, or are simply eco-conscious. Getting rid of aphids without pesticides is possible, but they are stubborn little critters.

The most important thing is that eliminating your aphid problem shouldn’t wait – squash any lone rangers that you find to try and limit population growth as much as possible.

If your plants are outside, you should attract predatory insects, like dragonflies, hoverflies, ladybirds and ground beetles. Building a water feature or a bug hotel can help. Bear in mind that it will take several weeks for this method to take effect!

It’s possible to buy hoverfly larvae, parasitic wasps and lacewing larvae to use as a biological control for aphids. This method can be pretty effective in a greenhouse (but obviously, much less so outdoors).

If these methods are getting rid of aphids on your plants, you have a couple of options. Personally, I resorted to just writing off my infested plants. It was incredibly disappointing, but there were only a couple of plants that were really badly affected. If you’re not ready to give up the fight, it’s time to use pesticides.

simple garden bug hotel ideas

Getting rid of aphids with pesticides

If it comes to getting rid of aphids with pesticides, start by looking for products with a shorter lifespan. You may need to reapply them as they wear off, but  they’ll be certified for organic growing and will cause less interference with the natural balance of your garden. Organic sprays that have natural pyrethrum, plant oils or fatty acids as their active ingredient should help you control your aphid population.

In greenhouses, you can use a fumigant to try getting rid of aphids. There are several varieties available, including organic, garlic-based products that’s safe for use on crops.

Over winter, you can destroy dormant aphid eggs on shrubs and fruit trees with a winter wash made with plant oil. Be careful to wait until your trees are dormant too, to save damaging healthy leaves or buds.

You can also find synthetic insecticides if you’re struggling to control your aphid problem. Of course, always follow instructions when you’re using these kinds of chemicals. Don’t use them on plants that are actively flowering or you can cause serious harm to local pollinator populations and, if you’re using chemicals on crops, make sure that the product you have is safe for the specific plants you’re growing.

Are there any methods for getting rid of aphids that we’ve missed? Tell us your thoughts and successes against these pesky pests!

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What to Do in the Garden in July: 10 Gardening Jobs to Do Now

July is usually one of the hottest months of the year, but that’s no excuse to abandon your garden and greenhouse to the heat.

Gardening in July is a busy time; jobs include deadheading plants that can bloom again, mowing and fertilising your lawn, harvesting vegetables and fruit trees, and keeping an eye out for pests. There are also plenty of things to plant, from fast-growing lettuce and herbs to autumn, winter and spring veg. And, since it can be hot, it’s also crucial to keep flowers, trees and vegetables well-watered.

Read on to find out what to do in the garden in July and what to plant and sow this time of the year.

what to do in the garden in july

July is the time for beautiful blooms. Image credit: @the_little_end_cottage

Gardening in July: what you should be doing in the garden now

There’s no shortage of July gardening jobs you can do. From deadheading plants in the flower beds to keep them blooming and harvesting summer crops, to minding the small but important things like topping up bird baths and water features, here’s a list of the key things you should be doing in the garden in July:

1. Deadhead plants that can bloom again

Keep an eye on your flower beds, borders, pots and hanging baskets and remove withered flowers and spent blooms. Throughout this month, deadhead any plants that can bloom again to encourage the growth of new flowers.

deadhead plants

Image credit: @niff_barnes

2. Give your lawn a high cut

In July grass can lose moisture fast. You may notice this as the blades of grass lose colour and begin to droop. Regular mowing is still important, but allowing the grass to grow taller can help it shade the soil and retain moisture. It will also rob weeds of sunlight, making it harder for them to take over your lawn.

3. Keep your lawn and plants well-watered

Many gardens in the UK don’t get enough rainfall in July. Unless you water your garden regularly, it will struggle to stay healthy.

keep the lawn watered

Image credit: @loveheartsathome

4. Fertilise your lawn, plants and vegetables

You can continue to fertilise your lawn and most plants in July. Follow the instructions that come with the fertilisers you use. Don’t over-fertilise your lawn or plants to make up for the heat and dryness of summer.

5. Harvest mid-summer crops

Some July gardening jobs bring rewards faster than others. Your July garden can provide bountiful crops at this point in summer, from fragrant herbs to tasty veg and delicious fruits like cherries, peaches and apricots.

Tip: Picking cherries with stalks makes the fruits last longer after harvest, but can easily damage the spurs from which the fruits develop. For a rich crop next year, leave the stalks in the tree or pick the cherries carefully without damaging the spurs.

harvest mid-summer crops

Image credit: @akitafan_jp

6. Prune trees and bushes that need it

Pruning and trimming help to keep your trees and bushes healthy and looking at their best.

7. Deal with weeds

Weeds thrive in the summer heat so stay vigilant and remove them early on before they can become a problem.

8. Check for pests and remove them

Many pests won’t mind the heat of July. On the contrary, they can easily proliferate in and out of your greenhouse. You have to stay on your guard or you may run the risk of losing crops and plants.

check for pests

Encourage natural predators to do the hard work for you. Image credit: @rymannslandiv

9. Pinch out crop plants and trees that can benefit from it

Pinching out means removing new shoots from the stem or side branches of a plant. It’s a form of pruning that can help balance the foliage and crop production of a plant. It ensures that a bushy plant doesn’t put all its energy into growing greenery at the expense of crops.

10. Mind the small things in your garden

Last but not least, don’t forget about a few small but important jobs you can do in and around your garden at this time of the year.

dried blanket weed

Blanket weed can be dried and composted. Image credit: @peyrefic

What to plant in July

From fast-growing herbs and salad leaves to autumn, winter and spring crops like Brussels sprouts, winter cabbages and Swiss chard, there are plenty of things you can plant in July, both outdoors and in your greenhouse. Plants you can sow now include forget-me-nots, scented annuals like petunia and marigold, and winter and spring-flowering plants.

Let’s take a closer look at the many vegetables and flowers you can plant in July:

Vegetables to plant in July

You can plant more than salad leaves and herbs in your vegetable garden in July. Here’s a list of vegetables to plant in July including both fast and slow crops that you can enjoy next year.

keep container herbs close to the house

Keep container herbs close to the house for easy picking. Image credit:@wilderfolly

Flowers to plant in July

Flower seeds to plant in July include forget-me-nots, geraniums, echinacea, delphinium, pansies, foxgloves and sweet williams. Here are a few more ideas of flowers to plant in July in the UK to add colour and beauty to your garden:

The Wrap Up

As you can see, July can be a busy month for a gardener in the UK but that doesn’t mean you have to toil and sweat to keep things green and colourful in your garden.

Prioritise your gardening tasks according to the weather and tackle them systematically. You can fit most of them early in the morning or in the evening.

Don’t work in your garden during the midday heat. Watering, pruning, trimming or harvesting plants then isn’t healthy. And you also run the risk of heatstroke.

In the end, gardening in July can be a pleasure. Stay organised and don’t do more than you have to. That way, you can enjoy the process of caring for your garden even in the middle of a sweltering summer.

How to Get Rid of Ants in Lawn Naturally Without Killing Grass

When the weather is good, you might have the urge to put down a blanket or towel on your lawn and just sunbathe for a bit. Unfortunately, there are usually a few pesky critters crawling around – ants!

Ants on your lawn can be annoying, but they do a lot of good as well. If you really want to get rid of them, you can use methods such as heat treatment, soapy water, diatomaceous earth, white vinegar and more. 

ants in lawn

To find out how these methods should be used and to learn about a few more to try, keep reading.

How an ant infestation affects your garden

Ants are small insects that can be seen as garden friends and garden pests. A pest is an insect that transmits diseases and damages the environment or plants around them. Ants can fall into this category, but that doesn’t mean they are all bad. 

Ants can actually have a beneficial effect on your lawn and garden plants. Ants tend to dig through the soil,  aerating the earth and making it more absorbent and easier for roots to penetrate. They also carry organic matter like dead insects and plant material under the soil. When this material breaks down, plants can use the nutrients they provide as fertiliser. 

Some ants are also predatory. This means they will take care of other garden pests like plant lice, spider mites and more. Even ants that feed on plant material will benefit your garden. They tend to eat the algae and mildew that forms on some plants and not the plants themselves. 

Unfortunately, ants can also help some pests, like the aphid, survive. Aphids and ants have a symbiotic relationship where the aphids feed the ants and the ants protect them in return. This is a relationship you want to destroy as soon as possible since aphids are highly damaging to plants and crops. 

Some ants like the fire ant can also be dangerous to our health. They have a nasty sting that can cause severe reactions. If you have fire ants, it’s best to get rid of them as soon as possible.

You might also be wondering ‘do ants eat grass?’ the answer is yes and no, it depends on the species. Some ants don’t feed on grass, but their nests and ant hills will smother the grass killing it in the process. That also answers your second question, do ant nests damage lawns?

Do you need to remove ants from your lawn?

No, you don’t need to remove the ants if they don’t bother you. The only time you might consider removing ants is if you have a problem with a stinging species such as fire ants, or a potentially destructive species such as carpenter ants. These ants tunnel through wood as they build their nests and can be extremely destructive to your furniture and home. 

If you don’t spend a lot of time on your lawn and don’t have kids who do, you can leave the ants alone. They benefit your garden after all. Ants will also disappear on their own as lawn health improves, so keep up the good work. 

How to get rid of ants nest in your lawn naturally

Getting rid of ants naturally requires a bit of research. If you want the ants to go away but don’t want to kill your lawn in the process, here’s what you can do:

1. Find out which ants you have

There are as many as 50 ant species in the UK and the type of ant that’s infesting your lawn will determine how to get rid of them. Here’s a breakdown of 6 possible ant species that you might have in your lawn:

This is the most common species of ant in the UK.  Black ants tend to nest on the edges of lawns, under pavements and even in your walls if you’re not careful, in fact, they’ll nest just about anywhere there’s a suitable spot for them. 

Black ants are quite robust and use formic acid to attack their prey and defend their nests. Colonies can include as many as 15,000 workers, but 4,000 to 7,000 is the average colony size. Black garden ants prey on insects, nectar and even their own dead. 

Due to their fondness for sugar, you can easily bait these ants with a sugar water mix to get rid of them. 

Yellow meadow ants are another common garden ant species. These ants tend to build small mounds on your lawn and can easily be mistaken for the red ant due to their colouration. Yellow meadow ants aren’t destructive and won’t damage your lawn too badly. If you leave them be, you can easily coexist. 

Meadow ants also tend to stay underground so you’ll hardly know they are around unless you look for the mounds. The most common time to see them is during their mating flight or when the nest is disturbed. Yellow meadow ants are beneficial to your garden since they feed on small insects and mites that stray too close to their tunnels. 


By Paul Richards via Wildlife Trusts

The black stinging ant is a species of ant that’s typically found along the coasts of southern and western England. They have large nests of up to 30,000 ants which makes them quite a formidable opponent. As the name suggests, these ants will sting if they feel threatened in any way. Black stinging ants are beneficial to your garden as they appear to bury their food in mounds of soil. As the food decomposes, your plants will be able to use the nutrients. 

black stinging ant

By Michal Kukla, via AntWiki, CC BY-SA 4.0

The wood ant is a timid species of ant that prefers to nest under rotting logs. They are mostly found in the Midlands down to southern England. This ant lives in relatively small colonies of about a thousand ants. 

Unlike most ants, wood ants have extremely good eyesight that allows them to spot prey and danger from a distance. When confronted, these ants tend to run rather than fight. If you have wood ants in your garden, you can leave them be. They pose no threat to you at all. If they do get into your home, however, you’ll need to remove them quickly before they bore into your wooden furniture, floors and walls. 


By Mathias Krumbholz, via Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 3.0

Red ants consist of more than one species of ant. They can be found just about anywhere in the UK. These ants tend to be a deep red colour and are known for their painful stings. Myrmica ruginodis is the most common red ant. This ant lives in small colonies of about 100-300. Red ants are polygynous which means they can have many queens in one colony. They are extremely aggressive so watch out, they have no problem attacking humans. 


By Billy Clapham, via Wildlife Trusts

Horse ants, also known as red wood ants, are another common ant species found in southern England. This ant tends to build large mounds from pine needles and other woodland litter. For this reason, they are usually found on the edges of forest clearings, pathways and in dense gardens. They also have huge colonies with as many as 100,000 ants. 

Watch out if you have horse ants in your garden. They are large aggressive ants that will attack by biting and spraying formic acid if disturbed. 

Now that you know a bit more about the ant species you’ll be dealing with, let’s look into how to remove them. 

formica rufa horse ant

By Richard Bartz, Munich Makro Freak, via Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 2.5

2. Make a sodium bicarbonate solution

Sodium bicarbonate, or baking soda, is an inexpensive and eco-friendly option for killing ants.  Before making a sodium bicarbonate solution, you’ll need to know what each species of ant prefers. Red ants for instance prefer protein over sugar water. This will affect how you mix your sodium bicarbonate solution. Here’s what you need to know:

Making a sugar water trap:



Add 3 heaped spoonfuls of sugar and one spoonful of sodium bicarbonate to a container. Mix about 6 spoonfuls of warm water to dissolve the solution. You can add less water if you want your solution to be less concentrated. Make sure you have something solid to place in the liquid. Allow your solid portion to absorb as much liquid as possible, but make sure you still have some liquid left for the adults. 

The reason for the solids is that baby ants eat solid food while adult ants prefer liquid. The adult ants will take the poisoned solids to the nest to feed their young. This way you’ll be eradicating the whole nest, not just the adults. 

This solution will work well for any ant species with a sweet tooth like sugar ants. 

Making a protein trap:



Add 3 heaped spoonfuls of sugar and one spoonful of sodium bicarbonate to a mixing container. Mix one or two egg whites into the solution. Make sure you have something solid to place in the liquid. Allow your solid portion to absorb as much liquid as possible, but make sure you still have some liquid left for the adults.

Making a fat trap:



Add 3 heaped spoonfuls of sugar and one spoonful of sodium bicarbonate to a container. Mix with lukewarm water to dissolve the solution. Add one heaped teaspoon of peanut butter and mix until it forms a milky solution. Add more water to get the consistency right. 

Alternatively, you can keep it as a thick solution and spread it on the bread. If you have a liquid mix, make sure to add something solid to the liquid. Allow your solid portion to absorb as much liquid as possible, but make sure you still have some liquid left for the adult ants.

The peanut butter trap works well for any ants that prefer something fatty. 

3. Make a trap

Now you have your poisoned solution, but now what? You don’t want to poison the wrong critters, so make sure to place your poison in a trap. You can simply use a closed container with some small holes drilled in the side. 

This allows the ants to enter, but other insects like bees can’t access the mix. Also, make sure to place the trap out of reach of any pets that might think it’s a toy or delicious treat. Once your trap is ready and baited, place it near an ant trail or nest to start the killing process. 

ant trap

Image credit: @goshenfarmandgardens

Other homemade ant treatments for the lawn

Besides the sodium bicarbonate solution trap, there are also other home remedies for ant infestations. Let’s take a look.

1. Boiling water 

Boiling water is a very effective method for eradicating ants if you can access the nest. Keep in mind that boiling water is dangerous, so take some steps to protect yourself while using this method. Boiling water will also damage any plants you pour it on, so make sure you’re prepared for some brown patches on your lawn. 

To use this method, simply pour boiling hot water into an ants nest. The water will kill them instantly and hopefully go deep enough to get to the queen. This method is not foolproof, so make sure you have a backup. 

2. Vinegar

Vinegar is another effective method to get rid of ants. To prepare a vinegar solution, mix equal parts water and vinegar. Once done, put it directly onto the ant hill. If you have some left, spray the area surrounding the ant hill with the solution. 

Ants use scent to find their way back home. Vinegar removes the scent which causes the workers to get lost. The ants inside the ant hill will be killed by the acidity since their small bodies can’t withstand it. 

Keep in mind that even though vinegar works really well, it will kill your plants and lawn. The roots of your plants will get burned and die off as a result. It may take a while for any plants to regrow as well since the vinegar will make the topsoil very acidic. 

DIY ant killer for lawns

Image credit: @heather_m_harcombe

3. Sun exposure

This might sound ridiculous since the nest is most likely already in the sun, but it does work. The ants built their nest there for a reason, after all, the environment in that area was perfect for homing them. To use the sun exposure method, you’ll be disturbing the criteria they need to survive. Here’s how. 

Ants can only survive up to a maximum temperature of 46°C. This means that if we raise the temperature above this level, they will quickly start dying. 

To do this, you’ll need a beautiful sunny day, some bricks or rocks and a black bag. 

Simply lay the black bag over the ant’s nest and hold it down with the bricks or rocks. Now you wait. As the sun shines on the black bag, it will heat up the nest below. If it’s a nice sunny day, the temperature will quickly exceed the critical thermal temperature ants require to live. 

Keep in mind that this method will also damage your grass. You’ll need to pay extra attention to your lawn to get it back in shape after effectively cooking it under the black bag. 

4. Soap and water solution

Soap and water are other methods you can use to get rid of ants. This method doesn’t work that well on lawns, but you can use it in your home and on your potted plants.

The soap masks the pheromones ants leave behind to find their way back home. This confuses them and they get lost. Secondly, if they are in direct contact with the soapy solution, it will stick to their bodies and suffocate them. Soap doesn’t kill plants, so you can safely use it on potted plants that have been infested with ants. 

5. Non-chemical ways to kill ants

If you don’t like the idea of using chemicals, even weak ones like sodium bicarbonate and soap, you can use natural pest control such as nematodes. Ants hate nematodes since they naturally predate the ants. For this reason, the ants will quickly relocate their nests to a safer area away from your garden. The best part, the parasitic nematode, Steinernema feltiae, is safe to use around children, pets and wildlife. You can use this method to get rid of black, red and yellow ants. 

To use this method, you will need to get your hands on some nematodes. After that, simply ensure the soil is moist around the ant’s nest and introduce the nematodes. Keep the soil moist for at least two weeks after setting them free. 

Keep in mind that the soil temperature needs to be above 5°C for this method to work. Nematodes can survive the odd frost spell but will die in constant coldness. 

What about commercial ant nest killers for your lawn?

Commercial products are very harmful to the environment, before you consider them, make sure to try the sodium bicarbonate solution again. This method is very effective even though it can take a week or two to work, so be patient. 

If nothing works, it’s time to get in pest control. They will quickly and effectively sort out your ant problem once and for all.

How to get rid of ant hills after ants are gone

Once the ants are gone, it’s just a matter of time before the nest will disappear. To speed up the process you can help it along by raking the loose soil into your lawn. This way, you’ll be exposing the grass below which will help it to recover faster. The extra soil will quickly be reabsorbed into the system so you won’t even notice it after a few days. You can also use water to help the ground quickly absorb any excess soil. 

How to prevent ant mounds from appearing on your lawn

As soon as you notice an ant hill appearing on your lawn, take action quickly. Create a sodium bicarbonate solution and place it near the ant trail or nest. In a matter of weeks, the problem will be solved.

You can also stop ants from coming onto your lawn in the first place by scattering diatomaceous earth over it. This is a fine rock powder with very sharp edges. Keep in mind that it will kill all insects that walk over it, not just ants. 


Why is my lawn full of ant nests?

If your lawn is unhealthy or struggling in any way, it creates the perfect breeding ground for ants. Ants will usually pick a bare patch of soil or a thin patch of grass to build their nests on. If the grass is lush and healthy, it creates a thick carpet that is too difficult for ants to burrow into. 

How do I get rid of ants in my lawn without killing them?

The best way to get rid of ants without killing them is to improve the health of your lawn. Ants will thrive on a lawn that’s struggling in some way. If you can create a lush, thick green lawn, you’ll notice the ants naturally moving away. 

Alternatively, you can spray a weak soap or vinegar solution on your lawn to remove any pheromones that the ants leave behind to find their nests. Make sure it’s weak, however, you don’t want to kill your grass. 

Can you mow over ant hills?

Yes, but they will return again. If you want to get rid of them for good, try diatomaceous earth or a sodium bicarbonate solution. 

What is the best ant killer for lawns?

Sodium bicarbonate is the best and safest solution when getting rid of ants in lawns. Alternatively, you can also try diatomaceous earth, but it only works when the lawn is dry for a period of time. sodium bicarbonate traps will work regardless of the weather and kill the whole colony as the ants take the poison back to the nest to feed the queen and young. 

How long does it take to get rid of ants from your lawn?

Depending on the method you use, it can take anything from one day to several weeks. The sun exposure method usually works within a day, while the sodium bicarbonate solution can take a week or more to kill off the colony. 


Ants on your lawn don’t need to be the end of the world. There are easy methods to get rid of them such as making a sodium bicarbonate trap and using vinegar or diatomaceous earth to get rid of them. Whatever method you choose, keep in mind that not all ants are bad and they do contribute to a healthy ecosystem. 

Which method did you use to get rid of ants on your lawn? Let us know in the comments below. 

Polka Dot Plant Care: How To Grow Hypoestes Phyllostachya

The polka dot plant, also known as freckleface, is a short-stemmed houseplant that’s super cute and easily maintained. It gets its name from the spotty appearance of its leaves. If that isn’t enough to grab your attention, it also comes in several colour varieties.

In this article, we’ll discuss the different varieties of Hypoestes Phyllostachya, how to care for them and how to identify problems.

Ready to start caring for your own Polka Dot plant? Let’s get you armed with the facts.

Polka dot plant care – Hypoestes Phyllostachya

polka dot plant

By Karl Thomas Moore – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wiki

Polka dot plant overview

Scientific name Hypoestes Phyllostachya
Common names Polka Dot plant, freckleface, pink dot, flamingo plant, measles plant
Family Acanthaceae
Plant type Herbaceous, perennial, annual
Sun exposure Partial shade
Soil type Moist, well-drained
Soil pH Slightly acidic to neutral (6.1 to 7.3)
Hardiness zones H2 to H1c RHS
Best time to plant Spring
Mature size 0.3-0.6 m (1-2 ft) tall, 0.3-0.6 m (1-2 ft) wide
Colour varieties Different patterns of green with white, pink or red spots
Flower colour Lilac, pink or white
Bloom time Summer or early autumn
Native to Madagascar
Toxicity Non toxic


Varieties of polka dot plant (Hypoestes Phyllostachya)

There are many varieties of polka dot plants all bred for their striking leaf colour and patterns.

They all come from the same species, Hypoestes Phyllostachya, even though they may look quite different. Here are four of the most popular varieties:

The ‘Pink Brocade’ shows off its green leaves with mottled pink spots.

This variety can be seen sporting dark green and red-spotted leaves.

‘Splash’, as the name states is a mix of colours featuring mixes of greens with red, white or pink splotched across leaf surfaces. The different colours are often referred to as ‘red splash’, ‘pink splash’ and ‘white splash’.

This variety boasts green leaves with spots of pink, white, red, rose or burgundy across their surfaces.

hypoestes phyllostachya

By James St. John – Hypoestes phyllostachya (polka dot plant) 2, CC BY 2.0, via Wiki


Hypoestes Phyllostachya is an evergreen shrub that can grow around 0.3 metres (1ft) tall and wide. The leaves are heavily spotted with pink, white or red as if splashed with paint. Sometimes these spots can bleed into each other causing a mottled pattern.

You can expect your plant to form bushy compact tufts if properly cared for. You can identify polka dot plants by their pointed, oval leaves that are splashed with colour. The most common colour variety of Hypoestes Phyllostachya has green leaves with pink spots.

Your polka dot plant may produce small, solitary pink, purple or white flowers at the nodes. They resemble honeysuckle flowers quite closely. If allowed to fruit, you’ll notice a many-seeded dehiscent capsule.

Polka dot plant natural habitat

The polka dot plant is native to Madagascar, but other species in the family Acanthaceae originate from South Africa and South-East Asia as well. This plant can usually be found in humid, forest environments. The plants grow in a bushy manner in partial shade and prefer tropical climates.

Growing polka dot plants

Hypoestes Phyllostachya plants are fairly easy to grow and care for. Warm temperatures and humidity are the keys to success when it comes to growing one of these beauties. You can expect to be quite involved in the care of polka dot plants. Here’s what you need to know:

Does a polka dot plant require special care?

These stunning plants need warm temperatures and high humidity to grow properly. If you live in a cold or very dry climate, you will need to pay extra attention to watering, temperature and humidity to keep your plant healthy.

Polka dot plants also need a lot of TLC. You’ll need to pinch back stems weekly, cut any flowers and fertilise regularly for the best results.

polka dot in plant pot

Brighten up your home with a beautiful polka dot plant. Image credit: @jasonrmcintosh>

Polka dot plant care: Watering

Watering your Hypoestes Phyllostachya properly is one of the most important requirements for growing a healthy plant. They like their environment to be quite moist so don’t be scared to keep the soil slightly damp, just make sure it drains well.

How often do I water a polka dot plant?

Watering correctly is very important to keep your plant alive. Despite loving moisture, your polka dot plant will succumb to root rot if the soil is too wet or doesn’t drain properly.

When watering, make sure to water evenly. You want all the soil around the roots to get wet. Ideally, there should be some moisture in the soil at all times.

If the soil dries out completely, you can expect your plant to wilt and you might struggle to bring it back to life. If the soil doesn’t drain well and stays soggy for long periods after watering, you will see signs of root rot pretty quickly.

To make sure this doesn’t happen to you, make sure the top 1.5cm (½ in) of soil is dry before you water it. You can check this by simply using your finger to dig in the soil and feel for moisture. There’s also some specialised equipment available if you want an accurate reading of soil moisture levels, but this isn’t essential.

Do polka dot plants need humidity?

As well as adequate water and light, humidity is one of the most important elements for a polka dot plant. These plants grow naturally in areas with high humidity and will thrive when exposed to a bit of extra moisture in the air. A minimum humidity level of 50% is required.

If you’re worried about humidity, you can create a humidity tray for your plant, or simply place it in a well-lit area with naturally high humidity, like a kitchen or bathroom.

Humidity trays work best for container plants. Simply place the plants on a tray filled with rocks and water. Make sure the rocks stick out above the water’s surface so your plant pot isn’t sitting in the water. As the water from the tray evaporates, it will raise the humidity level around your plant.

If you want to place polka pot plants outside, choose a sunny, sheltered spot. You can put them near water to raise the humidity level or stand them on humidity trays. If you aren’t growing your plants as annuals, you’ll need to bring your plants inside when the temperature falls below 12℃.

polka dot plant japan

By TANAKA Juuyoh (田中十洋), via Flickr

Soil conditions that suit polka dot plants

Hypoestes Phyllostachya prefers evenly moist soil that drains well. The soil also needs to be humus-rich since these plants need plenty of nutrients to stay healthy. Planting a polka dot in rich soil will reduce the amount of fertiliser you need to use monthly.

Well draining soil is also a must since polka dot plants are very sensitive to developing root rot.

The best soil for polka dot plants

Polka dot plants prefer humus-rich soil with a pH of around 6.1 to 7.3. Choose an organic potting soil mix and add some extra pumice or perlite to further improve drainage.

Polka dot plant fertiliser

If you have container plants, make sure to feed them with organic fertiliser meant for potted plants. For garden plants, you’ll need to mix in a good amount of compost. Polka dot plants are heavy feeders so make sure you give them enough organic nutrients.

How do I fertilise polka dot plants?

Potted polka dot plants need to be fed once a month with an organic fertiliser. If you’re using a liquid fertiliser, increase feedings to twice a week. Make sure to water your plant after feeding to make sure the roots don’t get burned. Watering will also help the fertiliser to soak into the soil.

For garden plants, you’ll need to mix a good amount of compost into the soil every spring. If you think your plants need more nutrients, add a layer of compost on top of the soil or lightly mix it in without disturbing the plant.

Only fertilise polka dot plants during the active growing season from spring to autumn.

polka dot plant flower

By Andreas Kay, via Flickr

Lighting for polka dot plants

Polka dot plants grow best in areas with partial shade. If you give them too much or too little light, the colours of the leaves will fade. Your plant might also become leggy.

What lighting conditions are best for Hypoestes Phyllostachya?

The best lighting conditions for polka dot plants are medium-light. They prefer to grow in an area that gets morning sun but afternoon shade. Too much light will cause leaf burn and fade colours. You might also notice your plant dropping its leaves prematurely.

How do I stop my Hypoestes Phyllostachya plant from getting leggy?

If your plant is planted in an area with very low light, you will notice it growing longer stems with larger distances between the nodes. To stop this from happening, move your plant to an area with partial sun. Morning sun with afternoon shade is best. Bright indirect light also works for potted plants.

You can also counter leggy growth by regularly pruning your polka dot plant. Simply cut off the first two nodes with leaves on the tips of the stems. By doing this, you’re forcing your plant to grow from nodes lower down on the stems. In time, this will cause bushy growth.

If your goal is to grow a short but dense plant, trim the tips of stems weekly. If your plant is a leggy mess, cut it down to just above the last node. This will force the plant to sprout new growth from the base.

Temperatures for polka dot plants

Polka dot plants are only hardy in RSH zones H2 and H1c. In any other areas, your polka dot plant will need to be a houseplant or annual.

If you live in an area where temperatures regularly drop below 15.5°C (60°F) then this plant might not be for you unless you’re willing to grow it as a houseplant.

Polka dot plant care – propagation and repotting

These stunning plants can be grown from seeds and cuttings. A great way to preserve your plants in a non-tropical climate is by taking stem cuttings before the first frost hits. Frost will kill off your outside plants, but your cuttings will live on if protected in a heated greenhouse or indoors.


By Karl Thomas Moore – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wiki

How do I propagate polka dot plants?

Polka dot plant propagation is really simple. If you’re growing plants from seed, the best time to sow them is in spring. Simply sow the seeds on top of warm, moist soil inside a seed tray. Place the tray where it will get morning sun.

Your seeds should sprout in a couple of days. Allow the seedlings to grow for a couple of weeks to become strong enough for a transplant. A good indication that they are ready is when they grow their first set of true leaves.

If you’ll be planting outdoors, make sure the threat of frost has passed, this is usually at the end of May.

If you’ll be propagating from cuttings, you will need to take a 10cm (4in) piece of stem from anywhere on the plant. Make sure to use sharp, sterilised scissors to prevent any contamination.

Dip the end of the cutting in hormone rooting powder and then place it in a glass jar of water or into moist soil. If you’re planting in soil make sure to cover the plant in clear plastic wrap to increase humidity. You can remove the clear wrap when you notice new leaves or obvious growth.

To test for roots, gently tug on the cutting. If it doesn’t come out of the soil, it’s established itself. Once you’re sure that the plant has a nice root system and is actively growing, you can repot or transplant it outside.

Diseases and pests that affect polka dot plants

Healthy polka dot plants usually don’t have any problems with pests and diseases. If your plant is under stress, however, it’ll be more susceptible. The most common pests are aphids, mealybugs and whiteflies.

Diseases you should look out for include root rot, leaf spot diseases and powdery mildew. You can tell your plant needs some extra care when foliage becomes discoloured, leaves have holes in them, the plant appears sickly and struggles to grow and you can see small insects moving on your plants.


By Vinayaraj – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wiki

Are polka dot plants toxic?

Polka dot plants are safe to grow around pets and small children. If large amounts of foliage are consumed it might cause vomiting and diarrhoea.

Buying polka dot plants

You can buy polka dot plants at your local garden centre or online. They should be available from around spring into summer.


polka dot plant hanging basket

Polka dot plants are great for hanging baskets. Image credit: @infinite_green42

Can I grow a polka dot plant outside?

Yes, but only as annuals as they will die over winter. They will grow as perennials in tropical climates.

Can I place my polka dot plant outside in warmer weather?

Definitely. Polka dot plants can be grown completely outdoors during the warm months of summer. Just make sure to bring them inside when autumn hits. Frost will kill your plants pretty quickly.

Should I avoid positioning my polka dot plant in direct sunlight?

These plants prefer bright indirect light. They don’t do so well when exposed to direct sunlight all day long or when grown in very low light conditions.

What’s the ideal temperature for polka dot plants?

Polka dot plants like it warm. They don’t do well when temperatures drop below 15.5°C (60°F).

Polka dot plant care: how to grow hypoestes phyllostachya

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Best Plants For Shady Areas Of The Garden

If your garden has a few shady spots, you might be wondering what plants will grow there. Luckily, there are several shade-loving species that you can add to your garden.

To choose the correct plants you’ll need to understand the different types of shade as well as which aspect your garden belongs to.

Here’s everything you need to know:

Understanding shade and garden aspects

Before you head to the garden centre to buy your favourite shade-loving plants, you need to know what kind of shade you’re looking to plant in. Not all shade lovers will grow in all kinds of shade.

understanding shade

Credit: mwms1916

Garden aspect

Your garden’s aspect simply refers to the direction your garden faces; north, south, east or west. Figuring out which aspect your garden faces will help you to determine which areas will be shady all day, which get partial shade and which have full sun.

The easiest way to determine the aspect of your garden is by using a compass. Simply stand by the outside wall of your house that faces your garden and look at the compass.

North-facing gardens

North-facing gardens are shady spaces but the shady areas do move according to the season. The house, trees and walls will block the sun for most of the day depending on where the sun is. Keep in mind that the back of the house will get decent sun in the afternoon, especially from May to October, but full shade any other time of the year.

North-facing gardens are great for any plants that enjoy midday shade as it stops colours from fading and prevents leaf burn on others. Great plants for these gardens include hellebores, snowdrops and pulmonaria. These plants prefer morning and evening sunlight and will grow despite having shade overhead during most of the day. For more shade-loving plants, check out our list below.

north facing garden

By Richard Croft, CC BY-SA 2.0

South-facing gardens

If you have a south-facing garden, you can expect plenty of sunshine throughout the day. The house will be in full sun all day long while the east and south borders will get evening and morning sun respectively. The north-facing borders will only have sun from May to October depending on if the house blocks it or not.

Once you know which areas of your garden will get very little or no sun at all, you can plan where to plant shade lovers. In the shady north-facing areas, you can plant ivy, hostas and ferns. These plants do just fine in morning and evening sunlight but prefer to be shaded during midday. The rest of your garden can be filled with sun lovers or those that prefer partial shade.

south facing garden

Credit: Max Pixel

East-facing gardens

Gardens that face east get mostly morning sun. It’s best to plant partial shade lovers here since they’ll be getting sun for at least half the day and shade the rest. Plants with white flowers like honeysuckle, Nicotiana sylvestris and clematis will enhance this garden aspect.

West-facing gardens

Gardens that face west are usually shaded in the morning but get sun in the afternoon and evening. It’s best to plant specimens that can handle the heat of the midday and early afternoon sun in summer. Plants you can consider include magnolias, sedums and camellias.

west facing garden

By mym, CC BY-SA 2.0,

Degrees of shade

Once you know which areas of your garden are in the shade and when, you can find out how deep the shade really is. Here’s a quick explanation of the degrees of shade.

Partial shade

Whatever the aspect of your garden, you will have some areas with partial shade. Partial shade means the area receives sunlight for at least 3 to 6 hours a day depending on the season.

Many plants, such as geraniums, thrive in partial shade. If you have areas with this type of shade in your garden, you can consult the list below for great plant options.

Dappled shade

Dappled shade is usually seen in areas with large deciduous trees. This means the plants will be sheltered from the harsh summer sun, but they’ll be in full sun from autumn until spring. Fortunately, the sun is very weak during this time. In summer months the tree’s leaves will create a patchwork of shady and sunny spots that move around the ground as the wind blows. Plants that prefer afternoon shade and woodland plants will do very well in this type of shade.

dappled shade

Credit: Pxhere

Deep shade

Deep shade is usually found right next to north-facing walls and under evergreen trees. This area rarely, if ever, gets sunlight and tends to be dry and cold. Plants like hostas and ferns tend to do very well in these areas.

16 best plants for shady areas

Now that you understand the shade in your garden, it should be a lot easier to choose shade-loving plants for those hard to fill areas. Here are a few plants to consider:

1. Iris foetidissima

Other names: Stinking iris, Blue seggin, Gladden

Care level: Easy

Position: Full shade, partial shade or full sun

Aspect: All

Moisture level: Moist but well-drained

Soil pH: Acidic, alkaline or neutral

Size: 1 metre high, 0.5 metres wide

Stinking iris is an evergreen plant that bears yellow-tinged, purple flowers in summer. After flowering, you can expect this bush to fruit creating orange-red fruits in autumn that persists into winter. These fruits stand out quite spectacularly against the dark green foliage.

To keep this plant happy, make sure to plant it in well-drained, slightly acidic loam. It will tolerate other soil types, but slightly acid loam is best. You can plant it just about anywhere as well.

Iris foetidissima shade

Credit: Geograph

2. Snowdrops

Other names: Candlemas bells, candlemas lily

Care level: Easy

Position: Partial shade

Aspect: All

Moisture level: Moist but well-drained

Soil pH: Acidic, alkaline or neutral

Size: 15cm high and wide

galanthus nivalis

Credit: Torange

If you’re looking for a plant that will brighten up your garden in mid-winter, then snowdrops are a great choice. This stunning bulbous perennial creates white and green flowers in mid-winter along with silvery green leaves. The leaves will last a bit longer than the flowers before the bulb goes dormant for summer and autumn.

This bulb needs to be planted in moist, well-drained soil to keep it healthy. Partial shade is best. It will also grow really well in dappled shade. Make sure the soil is humus-rich and never dries out completely, especially in summer.

3. Winter aconites

Other names: Winter hellebore, Winter wolf’s bane, Eranthis hyemalis

Care level: Easy

Position: Partial shade or full sun

Aspect: All

Moisture level: Moist but well-drained

Soil pH: Acidic, alkaline or neutral

Size: 10cm high and wide

eranthis hyemalis

By Martin Olsson (mnemo on en/sv wikipedia and commons, – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Winter aconite is a perennial that will return year after year. It has foliage and flowers from late winter into spring. The flowers are yellow in colour and cup-shaped.

You will find that this plant tolerates most soil types but it does best in alkaline soil. Make sure to grow aconites in an area with partial shade, dappled shade or full sun. Deep shade would cause this plant not to flower.

4. Campanula portenschlagiana

Other names: Wall bellflower, Adria bellflower, Campanula muralis

Care level: Easy

Position: Partial shade or full sun

Aspect: All

Moisture level: Moist but well-draining

Soil pH: Acidic, alkaline or neutral

Size: 0.5 metres high and wide

campanula portenschlagiana

By Syrio – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

Adria bellflower is a mat-forming perennial that prefers to grow low to the ground. This plant is sometimes used as an annual in containers. You can expect star-shaped, violet-blue flowers from late spring into summer.

Wall bellflowers are often used as planted borders or in rock gardens. The soil needs to be able to retain some water so it will feel slightly damp when touched but drain well. If you have very wet winters, Adria bellflower can only be planted as an annual.

5. Foxgloves

Other names: Digitalis purpurea ‘Serendipity’

Care level: Easy

Position: Partial shade (Dappled shade)

Aspect: All

Moisture level: Moist but well-drained

Soil pH: Acidic or neutral

Size: 1.5 metres high, 0.5 metres wide

digitalis purpurea 'Serendipity'

Credit: Pxhere

Foxglove ‘Serendipity’ is a biannual perennial which means it will grow for two seasons before it needs replacing. This plant forms sterile flower spikes in its first year so you won’t need to worry about this plant self-seeding and taking over your garden. Foxgloves are excellent for attracting bumblebees.

Foxgloves are best grown in moist, humus-rich but well-drained soil. If left to stand in water for too long, they will quickly develop root rot. It’s also best to plant foxgloves in an area with dappled shade for the best results.

6. Pulmonaria officinalis

Other names: Common lungwort, Bedlam cowslip

Care level: Easy

Position: Partial shade or full sun

Aspect: North-, West- or East-facing

Moisture level: Moist but well-drained

Soil pH: Acidic, alkaline or neutral

Size: 0.5 metres high and wide

Lungwort is a semi-evergreen perennial with greenish-white spots on the leaves. This plant creates clusters of flowers in early spring that emerge as pink before changing to blue.

Lungwort needs moist but well-draining soil. If you leave it standing in water for too long, your plant will quickly develop root rot. If the soil drains too quickly without retaining any moisture, the plant will wilt and become stunted. Make sure the soil is humus-rich for the best growth and flower production.

7. Brunnera macrophylla ‘Looking Glass’

Other names: Brunnera macrophylla ‘Silver all over’

Care level: Easy

Position: Full shade, partial shade or full sun

Aspect: All

Moisture level: Moist but well-drained

Soil pH: Acidic, alkaline or neutral

Size: 0.5 metres high and wide

brunnera macrophylla 'looking glass'

Photo by David J. Stang – source: David Stang. First published at, CC BY-SA 4.0

Looking glass is a silver-leafed, clump-forming perennial that flowers from late winter into summer. It creates beautiful sprays of blue flowers that will brighten up your garden in late winter before anything else really grows. The silvery leaves with green veins can be seen in spring and summer before they disappear back into the ground.

Looking glass can grow just about anywhere as long as it’s sheltered from extreme wind and frost. This makes it ideal for growth in all garden aspects. Make sure to keep the soil moist but well-drained, your plant should never stand in water for long periods of time.

8. Helleborus thibetanus

Other names: Tibetan hellebore

Care level: Easy

Position: Partial shade

Aspect: All

Moisture level: Moist but well-drained

Soil pH: Alkaline or neutral

Size: 0.5 metres high and wide

Helleborus thibetanus

By Josh Westrich – eigene Arbeit – own work, CC BY-SA 2.0 de

Tibetan hellebore is a deciduous perennial that carries its leaves from spring into early summer before they die back. In early spring, you can also expect to see large bell-shaped flowers. These flowers are white to begin with, before turning to pale pink then green.

It’s best to grow Tibetan hellebores in partially-shaded woodland gardens with moist, well-drained, humus-rich soil. In summer and autumn when the plant is dormant, reduce watering and allow the soil to be on the drier side to prevent the bulbs from rotting.

9. Heuchera sanguinea

Other names: Coral bells, crimson bells, fairy flower

Care level: Moderate

Position: Partial shade or full sun

Aspect: All

Moisture level: Moist but well-drained

Soil pH: Neutral

Size: 0.5 metres high and wide

Coral bells are semi-perennial, shade-loving evergreens that usually grow in clumps. The leaves range from bright green to purple and silver. In summer you can expect to see sprays of red flowers.

Heuchera can be grown just about anywhere, as long as it’s not in full shade all day long. If kept in full shade, you will notice less marbling on the leaves and it won’t flower.

10. Hosta

Other names: Plantain Lilies ‘Wintersnow’

Care level: Easy

Position: Full or partial shade some can grow in full sun

Aspect: East-, North- or West-facing

Moisture level: Moist but well-drained

Soil pH: Acidic, alkaline or neutral

Size: 1 metre high, 1.5 metres wide

Hosta ‘wintersnow’ is a clump-forming perennial with large, glossy heart-shaped leaves. The leaves are bright green with cream variegated stripes. In summer, you can expect to see clusters of pale purple flowers.

To keep this plant healthy, make sure to grow it in moist but well-drained soil that doesn’t dry out completely. This is especially important in summer. It’s also best to pick a sheltered spot to plant in.

11. LigulariaLeopard’

Other names: Gold-spotted Japanese farfugium,

Care level: Easy

Position: Partial shade

Aspect: East- or South-facing

Moisture level: Moist but well-drained

Soil pH: Acidic, alkaline or neutral

Size: 1 metre high, 0.5 metres wide

Leopard plants are rhizomatous perennials that flower in winter. You’ll recognise this plant by its dark green, kidney-shaped leaves with yellow splotches. The golden yellow flowers of this plant are daisy-like and can be seen in winter.

Ligularia is best planted in well-draining, moist soil in a sheltered area where it will be protected from the wind and cold. This plant is fairly low maintenance but must be checked for pests such as snails and slugs every now and then.

12. Viola tricolour

Other names: Heart’s ease, pansy, wild violet

Care level: Easy

Position: Partial shade or full sun

Aspect: West-, South- or East-facing

Moisture level: Moist but well-drained

Soil pH: Acidic, alkaline or neutral

Size: 15cm high and wide

viola tricolour

By GuidoB – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

There are hundreds of different pansy species to choose from. These small bushy plants grow really well in containers and can even be used as borders for your flower beds. Pansies like moist, well-drained soil to prevent any unnecessary diseases such as powdery mildew. You will also have to keep an eye out for quite a few pests like aphids.

Violas are usually planted as annuals, but it is possible to keep them as perennials if you live in a warm enough climate. These plants don’t do too well in summer since they tend to become quite leggy. You can, however, expect flowers all the way through spring to autumn if cared for properly.

13. Primula smithiana

Other names: Candelabra primrose, Glory of the bog, Glory of the marsh

Care level: Moderate

Position: Partial shade or full sun

Aspect: West-, South- or East-facing

Moisture level: Very moist, poorly drained soil

Soil pH: Acidic or neutral

Size: 1 metre high, 0.5 metres wide

Primula smithiana

By James Steakley – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Candelabra primrose is a clump-forming perennial. The leaves are formed in a rosette of deep green. If you look closely, you will notice that the leaves are spoon-shaped. In spring you can expect to see several whorls of bright yellow flowers on erect stems.

This moisture-loving plant isn’t the easiest to care for since you need to make sure the soil drains poorly to keep it alive. You can plant it just about anywhere as long as it stays out of full shade. This makes it ideal for all aspects except north.

You will need to cut it back after flowering and look out for pests such as weevils.

14. Heuchera ‘Red Lightning’

Other names: Alumroot ‘Red Lightning’

Care level: Easy

Position: Full or partial shade

Aspect: All

Moisture level: Moist but well-drained

Soil pH: Acidic or neutral

Size: 0.5 metres high and wide

There are many varieties of heuchera and most prefer to grow in shade, but the density of the shade will vary. Make sure you read up on your variety before you buy.

This variety prefers to grow in full or partial shade. Before planting, you will need to make sure the soil is well-draining but has the ability to stay moist. The area also needs to be sheltered from extreme wind.

This clump-forming perennial can be expected to produce white flowers in spring and summer. The striking leaves of this plant are bright golden-green with red veins.

15. Coleus thyrsoideus

Other names: Flowering bush coleus, Plectranthus thyrsoideus, Solenostemon thyrsoideus

Care level: Easy

Position: Partial shade

Aspect: South-facing

Moisture level: Moist but well-drained

Soil pH: Acidic, alkaline or neutral

Size: 1 metre high, 0.5 metres wide

C.thyrsoideus is an evergreen perennial with heart-shaped, round toothed leaves. It usually produces spikes of bright blue flowers in winter.

This plant is best grown in a sheltered area with partial shade, usually in south-facing gardens. Despite being easy to care for, it’s important to plant this beauty in moist, but not waterlogged soil.

If you want your plant to grow bushier, you can pinch back growth tips to stimulate lateral growth. C.thyroideus is best grown in a container.

16. Lobelia pedunculata

Other names: Blue star creeper, Pratia pedunculata

Care level: Easy

Position: Full or partial shade

Aspect: North-, West- or East-facing

Moisture level: Moist but well-drained

Soil pH: Acidic, alkaline or neutral

Size: 10 cm high, 1.5 metres wide

lobelia pedunculata

By Ghislain118 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Blue star creeper is a mat-forming, evergreen perennial. It has tiny rounded leaves and forms star-shaped, pale blue flowers in summer. Male and female flowers occur on different plants. This means that your plant is unlikely to fruit unless you have quite a few of them around.

Make sure to plant this lobelia in a sheltered spot in full or partial shade in moist, well-drained soil.


You should have quite a bit of thinking and planning to do now.  As soon as you’re ready, run to the nearest nursery, or simply order your chosen plants online and get planting.

Happy gardening!

Read more: 21 vegetables to grow in shade

Best plants for shady areas of the garden-min

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January Flowers: 10 Plants That Bloom in January

Gardening in the winter sounds counter-intuitive; however, plenty of flowering plants bloom in January. If you want to add some colour to your home this Winter, let me introduce you to some stunning January flowers. A graphic design containing lots of flowers that bloom in January

Flowers that bloom in January

In this list, we’ve written about 10 of the most popular January bloomers and some vital information to help you choose and look after them.

But that’s not all. I’ve included two links at the end of the article that include even more winter flowering plant ideas, so make sure you continue reading till the end.

Let’s take a look at our January flowers:

1. Anthurium andraeanum

Anthurium, also known as the Flamingo flower, is a popular ornamental house plant that flowers all year round. This plant is particularly sought after for its colourful, wax-like spathes and bright yellow or red tail-like flower spikes.

Flamingo flowers are popular at Christmas time due to their festive red or white flowers and dark green foliage. Keep in mind that these plants are climbers and need warmth and humidity to thrive.

They also need bright indirect sunlight, but should never be placed in direct sun. Make sure your plant is kept in well-draining soil and given just enough water to stay moist but not wet.

Care Instructions: 

2. Lonicera × purpusii ‘Winter Beauty’

Honeysuckle is a popular plant due to its incredible scent. These beauties have a tendency to be bushy, but you can train them to climb up a trellis or something similar. This plant is easy to care for so ideal if you’re an absolute beginner.

The cream coloured flowers will be the highlight of the season. They usually appear on the bare branches somewhere in winter and will last into spring. Make sure you plant this specimen in well-draining soil to keep it healthy.

Care Instructions:

You might also like: 7 Vivid Winter Flowering Climbing Plants

3. Narcissus tazetta subsp. Papyraceus

narcissus tazetta subsp. Papyraceus

By Dominicus Johannes Bergsma – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wiki

Paperwhite daffodils grow from bulbs that like to grow in well-draining soil. It’s best to keep the soil constantly moist, but not wet during the growing season and dry in the dormant season. The flowers have an extraordinary scent and are often favoured as cut flowers in the home.

If you leave the flowers on the plant, it’s best to deadhead them once they fade. The leaves of the plant should be left to die back naturally.

Care Instructions:

4. Lachenalia pendula

Lachenalia pendula - Bulb-bearing leopard lily

By KENPEI – Own work, CC BY 3.0, via Wiki

Lachenalia, otherwise known as the bulb bearing leopard lily, is a low growing plant with stunning red, green and purple flowers. If given enough sunlight, the leaves usually have spots on them, hence the name leopard lily.

When walking past this beauty, you can’t miss it. The flowers are extremely eye-catching and it makes for an excellent container plant. Make sure to plant leopard lilies in soil that retains moisture, but still drains well. The best place to grow them is in an area with full sun.

Care Instructions: 

More on this: 12 Winter Flowering Plants for Pots: Lively Winter Colours

5. Strelitzia reginae ‘Kirstenbosch Gold’

Strelitzia reginae 'Kirstenbosch Gold'

By Axxter99 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wiki

The stunning, evergreen bird of paradise plant is more commonly associated with warmer climates; however, under the right conditions, it will bloom in Winter and Spring. To encourage this, provide an environment as close to its native environment as possible. Strelitzia reginae requires bright light to bloom. In its natural habitat, it enjoys full sun. However, you’ll need to keep it in a bright covered location during January and other winter months. The Plant is not frost tolerant and needs warm temperatures, ideally between 65°F to 70°F (18°C to 21°C) during the day and slightly cooler at night, but not below 50°F (10°C).

Strelitzia reginae likes moist but well-drained soil. This plant grows quite large, so locate it somewhere where it won’t interfere with other plants.

Once these plants flower, you won’t be able to walk past them without admiring the strangely shaped flowers. The flowers appear to have a beak and are often used in arrangements. Bird of paradise is very easy to care for and requires no pruning.

Care Instructions: 

6. Tulipa biflora

Tulipa biflora

credit: Wiki

The two flowered tulip is a grey-green perennial bulb with fragrant white and yellow flowers. This stunning plant needs well-drained soil to stay healthy. Two flowered tulips usually form clumps when growing.

The flowers appear first in winter and are then joined by the foliage in spring. They will naturally die back and disappear in summer and autumn just to reappear again sometime during winter.

Care Instructions: 

7. Crocus sieberi ‘Bowles’s White’

Crocus sieberi 'Bowles's White'

By Meneerke bloem – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wiki

Corcus sieberi is a perennial bulb that produces its leaves and flowers at the same time in winter. The foliage will stay around after the flowers die back, but will eventually disappear at the end of summer.

When planting this bulb, keep in mind that it needs full sun and well-drained soil. This plant is extremely easy to care for. After the initial planting, leave it to do its thing. No pruning is required.

Care Instructions: 

8. Galanthus ‘Trumps’

Galanthus 'Trumps'

Credit: Piqsels

Snowdrops are bulbous perennials that start to flower in mid-winter. The foliage of this plant is green-grey and appears at about the same time as the flowers. Once summer arrives it will die back completely, just to resprout once it’s winter again.

Make sure you don’t accidentally dig snowdrops up. They won’t be visible during summer and autumn. It’s best to keep the soil in the area moist, but make sure it drains well to prevent the bulbs from rotting. Watering isn’t necessary in summer while the bulbs are dormant.

Care Instructions: 

9. Erica carnea f. alba ‘Winter Snow’

Erica carnea f. alba 'Winter Snow'

credit: Wiki, via CC BY-SA 3.0

Erica carnea heather is a dense clump-forming plant that produces beautiful white flowers in late winter. This plant prefers to grow in full or partial sun and should be grown in very well-drained soil. Make sure that the soil retains some water since this heather doesn’t like to dry out completely.

Even when Erica carnea isn’t flowering, its bright, evergreen foliage will add interest to your garden all year round.

Care Instructions: 

10. Eranthis hyemalis

Eranthis hyemalis

By Kora27 – Own work, via Wiki, CC BY-SA 4.0

Winter aconite is a perennial plant with yellow, cup-shaped flowers that appear in winter. The foliage of this plant usually appears and dies back at the same time as the flowers. Make sure not to dig up the tubers since they will reappear next winter.

Plant winter aconites in well-drained, moist soil in an area with full sun or partial shade. These stunning little flowers will brighten up your winter garden, even when there’s still snow on the ground.

Care Instructions: 


Now that you have an idea of which flowers to expect in January, you can start planning your winter garden. Also, check out our list of indoor plants which flower during winter and tasty vegetables to grow in winter.

You can find more suggestions for winter flowering plants by clicking the links below. I suggest researching the plants before buying as not all the plants on the linked lists will flower in January.

Happy gardening!


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How to Grow Passionflower in a Pot

The passionflower grows wild in South American rainforests but it will also grow happily in a pot in the UK, provided it’s placed in full sun and you give it lots of fertile soil.

However, be warned… a passionflower vine can climb as high as 16-20 feet in a pot (or even higher), so it may throw shade on any other nearby plants. Give some thought about where you place the pot.

Read on to find out how deep the pot needs to be, the types of passionflower available, which varieties produce fruit, and why it’s called a passionflower.

grow passionflower in a pot

Image credit: @northhavengardens

Can you grow passionflower in a pot?

Definitely. In fact, the pot will help to contain some of its growth and, as passionflowers are considered invasive in some parts of Latin America, the pot may save it from spreading all over your garden. Passionflowers are perennial so the plant will come back year after year if you look after it well. If you buy your plant from a nursery, check if the roots are trying to escape the pot and if so, re-pot it immediately.

Provide the passionflower with a pot that’s at least 1 foot deep, although a pot double this size will promote more vigorous growth. Although passionflower has shallow roots, it will spread everywhere. You will need to mulch the pot every year with fresh compost and leaf mould to encourage the exotic blooms.

How to grow passionflower in a pot

passionflower tendrils

The passionflower’s curling tendrils will attach to surrounding plants and supports. Image credit:@abi_ellison_barker

Passionflower will bloom every day from July to October given the correct conditions. The stunning flowers are a complex mix of white or lavender petals, a corona and vivid stamens. Here’s what you need to consider when growing a passionflower in a pot.

  1. Use a deep, heavy pot. Think of how high this plant can grow and remember that all its nutrients come from the soil inside the pot. A passionflower vine can become quite unsteady as it climbs so place a few heavy stones in the base of the pot to aid drainage and provide some weight.
  2. Fill it with nutrient-rich soil.  The soil needs to contain plenty of nutrition in order for flowers (and fruit) to develop. Give it good drainage and make sure the soil contains some grit. In the wild, passionflowers benefit from the nutrients released by rotting leaves in autumn.  If you make your own leaf mould, add a top layer to the soil in the pot.
  3. Support your passionflower.  As a vigorous climber, support is essential. Wire, trellis, and bamboo will all be suitable but make sure you set this up before the plant begins to grow in late spring.  As the stems grow and flowers appear, the plant will attach itself to anything close by using its tendrils.
  4. Deadhead regularly.  Passionflower blooms regularly, although total removal of flowers will prevent fruit from forming so if you enjoy harvesting, allow a few to turn into fruit first.
  5. Water carefully. Passionflower grows under the tree canopy in the wild so it is used to downpours which soak the plant and then drain away. Water the plant thoroughly, allowing the excess to soak away, and ensure that there is good drainage. Water again when the soil is dry. If you water too often, the roots will rot so check the soil and if it feels dry, give it some water. Drooping leaves are another sign that the plant needs water. Remember not to water often when the fruit has formed because the plant goes dormant for a few months in the cool period. Just water it if it looks very droopy during the winter.
  6. Feed when fruiting. Feeding isn’t usually required if you’ve changed the soil in spring but when the plant is fruiting, a comfrey feed will help to produce plumper fruits. Add a few comfrey leaves to a bucket of water and leave to soak for a few days, then water the passionflower with the mixture every week in late summer.
climbing passionflower

Image credit: @buckinghammarkets

How to prune a passionflower plant in a pot

Late autumn or early winter is the time to prune, particularly if you’re moving the pot into a more sheltered space indoors during the winter. Some gardeners prefer to prune in spring but I think it makes more sense to do it before you move it indoors, for ease of management.

What’s the growing season for passionflower?

As soon as the frost is gone, you can place your passionfruit pot outdoors. This plant is a sun lover so make sure to trim back any tall shrubs near it to allow it to find the sun. From May onwards, the pruned shoots will start to produce vines, which will climb really quickly. Fantastic next to a garden shed in full sun, it will cover the whole shed with foliage, buds, and flowers within a month.

passionflower climbing

The passionflower is a vigorous climber. Image credit: @raderbeans

By June you should have flower buds and you will soon notice new exotic flowers every few days. Remove the dead flowers and keep watering in hot, dry weather and when the soil dries out. As fruit starts forming, you can add a top dressing of compost or a feed but if you provided fresh soil in spring, this isn’t essential.

Which varieties of passionflower can I grow in the UK?

There are over 400 species of passionflower worldwide. Most of them grow wild in rainforest conditions in Latin America, with milder, damper climates so any passionflower you choose for the UK should be able to cope with some colder spells. Another alternative is to move a potted passionflower indoors for the winter and move it back outdoors in the spring when the danger of frost has passed.

  1. Constance Elliott (Passiflora caerulea) is a favourite in many British gardens for its astonishing floral blooms. I love its tasty fruit but many gardeners find it very tart. Try it before you plant! This variety is reasonably hardy but if you get snow and really cold temperatures, it is wise to take some cuttings and bring the plant indoors over winter.
  2. Amethyst or Lavender Lady is a variety that produces a purple bloom, similar to the colour of lavender.
  3. Victoria (Passiflora violacea) offers pink blooms which contrast beautifully with the foliage. It’s quite a delicate variety, so make sure you give it extra protection during winter.
  4. Different colour fruiting passionflower (Passiflora edulis) comes from Paraguay and it also grows in Argentina and Brazil. Its fruit is usually yellow but some seeds can produce interesting purple fruit and the flowers are really fluffy and exotic. This variety is not hardy so you will need to bring this pot indoors as soon as temperatures drop.
  5. Inspiration offers deep blue, almost purple flowers. If you have space for two varieties, this is a good choice for contrast.
  6. Raspberry Strudel is an American variety that flowers in shades of red and pink.
red passionflower on a door

A beautiful red passionflower frames a door. Image credit: @tomzwords

Any problems with passionflower?

How did the passionflower get its name?

This unusual flower was used by Spanish missionaries to explain the significance of the passion of Jesus at Easter when he was crucified on the cross. The crown of thorns is said to be the corona of the plant, while the filaments were used to demonstrate the crown of thorns that Jesus was forced to wear.

The five petals and the sepals represented the ten faithful apostles. St Peter, who denied him, and Judas, who betrayed him, were not included. Finally, the tendrils which grip onto any support possible are believed to be the whips used to beat the Messiah during his torture.

blooming passionflower

Image credit: @he_gardens_at_cg

Tina’s Tips

  1. Deadhead blooms regularly throughout the growing season to encourage more flowering. Leave some on there if you want fruit. Remove any fruit at the end of the season, because if they drop they can germinate and you will have many passionflower plants next spring.
  2. Top up with nutritious compost every year, as the soil in a pot gets depleted in one season
  3. Do not water the plant so much in winter, allow it to rest and only water if the soil becomes very dry.
  4. Prune potted passionflower every year so it doesn’t become leggy. It will not disappoint you the following spring and will grow just as tall again.

Can I eat passion fruit? 

edible passionflower

Image credit: @eeb.greenhouse

Is passion fruit poisonous?  Passion fruit is edible and the delicious, exotic fruits appear in early autumn. The fruit that forms on passionflower plants is oval-shaped to start and its green colour gradually turns to apricot, and finally bright orange when ripe. If you squeeze the fruit and it is soft, then pop one open to try.

The edible part is not the soft “fruit” but the seeds, which are black when you pop open the fruit. These seeds are encased in a ball of yellow or orange pulp, which is sweet and tangy. You can eat them on their own, add them to cereal or fruit salads or serve with ice cream. Passion fruit is a favourite flavour for ice cream and desserts and you will know why when you try it.

How to grow passionflower in a pot-min

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How to Stop Ants Nesting in Plant Pots (& Get Rid of It Safely)

With the exception of Antarctica, ants have colonised every landmass on earth. There are more than 30 species of ant in the UK alone.

Ants are eusocial insects, related to bees and wasps. This means that they live in a highly organised society, cooperatively taking care of their young, overlapping generations within a colony of adults and dividing labour into reproductive and non-reproductive groups.

Ants are resourceful little insects and they’re partial to a flowerpot home. Ants’ nests can contain hundreds, sometimes thousands of ants, mainly consisting of worker females and one or two queen ants. You can often spot the nests from the small piles of excavated earth that the ants leave on the ground.

Do ants harm plants in pots?

ant on a flower

Image credit: @_.mothernature

Ants can be beneficial to gardens and are an important part of the garden ecosystem. Tunnelling ants turn over as much soil as earthworms, helping to aerate the ground. They also help to control pests by feeding on their eggs and young and can unintentionally improve pollination by scurrying from flower to flower in search of nectar.

Although ants aren’t directly destructive insects, if they nest in plant pots, they can disturb the plant’s roots, leading to plant damage. They also like to ‘farm’ aphids to feed on the honeydew that aphids excrete and will protect them from predators to do so.

There’s no doubt that ants are impressive, and extremely tough, having been around since the mid-cretaceous period. Considering that they survived where the T-rex didn’t, eradicating them from your garden may not be the simplest task!

Why are ants nesting in my plant pot?

ant nest in plant pot

Image credit: @zippety_do_dah

There are several reasons for ants setting up home in a plant pot. A pot provides warmth and shelter, but it can also be a great source of food if the plant is the victim of an aphid invasion.

Ants don’t like moist soil, so if your plant is in a sunny spot and infrequently watered, it will make a perfect base for a colony of ants. Old compost can also become so dry that it doesn’t retain any water, it simply flows through the pot and out of the bottom.

How to stop ants nesting in plant pots

Plant pots are attractive potential homes for ants and luckily, there are a number of ways that you can stop them from setting up a forever home in one of yours.

The most effective way to stop ants in their tracks is to use traps or bait.

If you prefer a more natural deterrent, try sprinkling coffee grounds, spices like cinnamon and pepper, or citrus rind on the soil around your plants. If ants have already invaded your pots, read on to discover how to effectively remove them.

6 Ways to remove an ants’ nest from a flower pot

There are a few tricks to removing ants from your plants, let’s look at the most effective:

1. Apply a soap solution

soap solution for ants

Image credit: @the_wholesome_mumma

Spraying on a soap solution is a great way to evict your tiny tenants without the use of harmful pesticides. Add a teaspoon of washing up liquid to a pint of warm water and spray liberally on and around the plant in the evening. You can add peppermint oil for extra effectiveness as it’s a natural insect repellant. In the morning you can spray the plant with fresh water to remove any soap residue. You may need to apply the solution a few times.

You can also pour an insecticidal solution onto the plant, letting it soak right through.

2. Remove aphids

ants and aphids

Ants and aphids have a symbiotic relationship. Image credit: @

As ants are attracted to plants with aphid infestations, it makes sense to get rid of aphids first. Try spraying affected plants with an insecticidal soap solution.

You can also try attracting aphid-eating bugs like ladybirds, hoverflies and lacewings to your garden by planting irresistible borage, dill, marigolds, mint, rosemary and thyme.

3. Add diatomaceous earth

diatomaceous earth for ants

Image credit: @louisespetconnection

Diatomaceous earth is a natural substance that’s non-toxic to people, pets and birds but toxic to ants, earwigs, slugs and beetles. It consists of tiny algae skeletons that have fossilized over millions of years and it’s rich in silica.

You can sprinkle the powder on the surface of affected pots or mix one cup of diatomaceous earth with 4 pints of water and spray it over the plants. It will coat the plant’s leaves and soil with a powdery residue that sticks to the ant’s feet.

4. Replace the soil

replacing ants' nest soil

Image credit: @urbangardenerto

Another effective and easy way to remove an ants’ nest from your plant pot is to remove the plant and replace the soil. Carefully remove the plant from the pot and remove as much soil as you can, using water to remove the final traces. It’s a good idea to move the plant away from its intended location while you do this as there will be ants everywhere!

Remove all remaining soil from the pot and give it a wash before adding fresh soil. You can also mix potting soil with diatomaceous earth at a ratio of 20:80 earth to soil to prevent further infestation. Replace the plant and water with an insecticidal soap solution.

5. Battle them with baking soda 

Did you know that bicarbonate of soda, also known as baking soda, can be an effective ant killer?  Baking soda reacts with the acid in the ants’ tiny stomachs and this chemical reaction will prove fatal. It is, however, a fairly slow-acting treatment and you won’t’ see noticeable results for days, possibly even weeks.  Ants will actively avoid baking soda and it can be used as an effective deterrent.

You may have heard that some ants don’t like sugar, preferring protein instead. So-called grease ants or protein ants aren’t found in the UK and, in fact, most ants aren’t especially fussy eaters and will be attracted to the sugar in traps.

To make a baking soda trap, you’ll need to disguise the bicarb by mixing it with something sweet.

To make a solution: mix 3 teaspoons of sugar to 3 teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda.  Add the bicarb-sugar mix to small lids or containers which you can place in the affected plant pots. The ants will feed on the powder and take pieces down to feed the colony. It might take a few days to work on all the ants in the colony and it’s not the most effective method for removing ants but, if you have an ant problem, and a tub of baking soda handy, it’s worth a try!

6. Use natural repellants

natural ant repellants

Image credit: @bradley_oils

Ants love honeydew but they can’t stand citrus, peppermint, coffee or cinnamon. Try applying any of these around the base of the plant to keep ants at bay. You can also mix your own anti-ant solution.

Concoct an orange solution by boiling the rinds of 6 oranges in water for 15 minutes, When cooled, blend the water and rinds and pour the solution over the plant.

Pouring boiling water into the plant will kill any ants you can see but it’s unlikely to reach all the ants and most will just scurry out of the way, it can also damage your plant so isn’t an advisable solution.


It may be tempting to blast ants with a pesticide spray but these are so harmful to the environment, we don’t advocate their use. They’re also often unsuitable for use on or near plants and aren’t especially effective.

Introducing natural enemies, using pesticide-free solutions and re-potting your plant if the ants’ nest is an issue should be the first line of defence.

Don’t forget, these tiny insects have survived extreme climate change, can carry 3 times their body weight and can communicate with each other through clever chemical release. Maybe it’s time to see these brilli-ant creatures in a new light.

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How To Water Your Garden In Spring

Watering your garden in spring is not as straightforward as it seems, especially if you live in an area with unpredictable rainfall during this time of year. To understand how much water your garden needs, there are a few things you should be aware of.

Here’s what you need to know:

how often to water garden in spring

Credit: Pxhere

How to water your garden in spring

If you’ve lived in your home for a while, you probably know what the weather will be like in spring. If you live in an area with high rainfall, it may not be necessary to water your garden at all. On the other hand, if there’s next to no rain in spring, you’ll need to make sure your garden is properly watered.

So now you might be wondering how to water your garden appropriately. You might also be wondering how to measure the amount of water given. Let’s take a look.

water sprinkle

By Nevit Dilmen (talk) – Own work, via Wiki, CC BY-SA 3.0

The rules of watering

Some experts suggest deep infrequent watering as opposed to shallow frequent watering. Generally, the rule of thumb states that you should water your garden with at least 1-2.5 inches of water every week. Usually, this relates to around 1 to 2.5 hours of watering in one spot.

How long you water your garden for will largely depend on the type of soil you have. Gardens with clay soil will need less water than gardens with sandy soil. You’ll need to keep this in mind before you work out a watering regime.

Gardens with sandy soil will need more frequent watering than those with clay soil, as sand won’t hold on to moisture for as long as clay. On the other hand, gardens with clay soil are much more prone to overwatering than those with well-draining sandy soil. You might need to amend the soil in your garden if you want healthier plant growth.

Mixing compost into sandy soil will help with water retention which in turn will give your plants a chance to absorb some moisture before it all drains away. Compost can also help to loosen up clay soil which helps to improve drainage, but a better amendment would be to work some sand into the soil instead.

If you have a lot of succulents in your garden, you don’t need to water very often. On the other hand, if you have plants that can’t handle drying out, you’ll need to make sure you keep them slightly moist.

Once you know what soil is in your garden, what the weather will be like and how much water specific plants in your garden need, you can work out how frequently you will need to water.

water house

Credit: Maxpixel

Watering your garden

There are many ways to water your garden. If you don’t want to worry about missing a watering or don’t fancy wielding a hose for hours on end, take a look at the options below:

Automatic sprinklers

Sprinklers that run on a timer are an excellent way to water your garden. You’ll need to install a system of pipes throughout your garden and a timer on the tap so you can choose when the sprinklers should go on and off. Make sure to set the timer just right so you don’t overwater your garden.

Old school manual sprinklers

These are usually sprinkler heads that are attached to a hose pipe. You will need to manually turn on the sprinkler and move it to the desired area in your garden. Make sure to not leave it in the same place for too long. 15-20 minutes in one spot is ideal.

Manual permanent sprinklers

These are a cross between the automatic sprinkler system and the old school manual system. Like the automatic system, these sprinklers are permanently installed with pipes running throughout your garden. Unlike the automatic system, you’ll need to turn these sprinklers on by hand. This system does have the potential to be upgraded into an automatic system in the future. All you need to do is install the timer.

Watering by hand

Watering your garden with a watering can is also an option. This can be very labour intensive and isn’t practical for everyone. If you have a very large garden, it’s also better to stick to sprinklers. Watering cans are perfect for container gardening, however.

watering by hand

Credit: Maxpixel


How often should I water seedlings?

Seedlings should be watered every day. The soil the seedlings are in should never be allowed to dry out completely. At this tender age, seedlings need all the moisture they can get while they establish themselves and grow into tougher plants. If neglected, your seedlings will quickly wilt and may even die.

How often should I water my vegetable garden?

Two to three times each week. Deeper, less frequent watering gives the water time to seep deep into the soil whereas shallow daily watering generally only keeps the surface moist before it evaporates. Infrequent watering allows the plants to absorb all the moisture they need and will stay with them for longer than shallow watering.

What should I do about watering when I go away for a holiday?

You don’t need to worry about your garden drying out if you’re only going away for a long weekend. Everything will be fine once you return. If you’re going away for a few weeks, however, you might want to ask a neighbour to spend a few minutes watering your garden every 3 days or so, or you could set up an automatic watering system.

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What to Do in the Garden in February: 12 Gardening Jobs

In February the days are getting longer, bulbs start poking their green shoots out of the ground and even if the weather’s still chilly, we know that spring is on the way.

Wordsworth’s famous ‘host of golden daffodils’ is getting ready to flower. If you’re wondering what to do in the garden in February, here are 12 tasks to get your outdoor patch into shape for spring:

Gardening jobs for February 

1. Prune shrubs

prune shrubs

Image credit: @hedges_and_edges

Prune shrubs like rhododendrons and clematis now.  Prune mahonia, winter jasmine, and forsythia after flowering. You can also prune roses now to encourage a bushier shape. Mulch the roots of all these plants with a good layer of compost too.

2. Cut back any ornamental grasses

This is important because new shoots are emerging and this will be made difficult if old brown stems are still in place. Leave the attractive stems of yellow loosestrife over winter but cut them back now and you will notice new shoots emerging.

3. Prune trees

prune trees

Image credit: @planted.gardens

Fruit trees like apple and pear should be pruned now while still dormant. Pruning any later than February may cause damage to the tree so sharpen the blade and cut branches that are crossed or unwieldy.

Do not cut cherry or apricot until new growth starts because pruning now will allow disease to enter via the cuts. These trees should be cut in summer when they’ve recovered from the colder months.

4. Divide roots

Divide tarragon, mint and lovage roots, which are protected in your greenhouse or indoors. Re-pot them and when all danger of frost is gone, you can place these pots outside.

Mint is frost hardy but the other two won’t survive frost. My indoor tarragon plant is enjoying the spring sunshine and has already started to produce shoots. Dividing now means you have two plants ready by April or May.

5. Plant spring bulbs

planting spring bulbs

Image credit: @mariamurraycreative

Plant spring bulbs if you haven’t done so already. Tulips, daffodils and narcissus will flower this year. Dig holes deep enough for the bulb size and allow some extra depth for roots.

Cover the bulbs with compost and in a few weeks, you’ll be rewarded with an array of bright colours that will return for years to come. Remember where you plant them by placing a row of twigs to remind you because it is easy to forget where they are when summer arrives.

6. Transplant hyacinths

transplant hyacinths

Image credit: @westcoastgardens

Hyacinths that bloomed indoors in winter can be transplanted outside now too. It’s a bit too late to plant snowdrops but you can plant them for next year and you may be lucky and get a late flowering. Grape hyacinths are hardy and can be planted in pots or in the ground now too.

7. Remove leaves

Remove yellow leaves on outdoor vegetables like brassicas and compost them. Purple sprouting broccoli is almost ready and cabbages are still going too. Tidy up and weed around the stems.

8. Get a head start on vegetables and flowers

If you plant seeds in February and ensure warmth using a sunny windowsill or a heated propagator, you can gain extra growth. By the time the frost is a memory, you’ll have young tomato, aubergine and cucumber plants.

9. Other seeds to plant now

Sweet peas, lettuce, salads like rocket and coriander, Brussels sprouts, cabbages and leeks can be sown now. Some herbs like parsley need soil warmth and air temperature to germinate so I usually leave these a little later.

10. Chit potatoes

chit potatoes

Image credit: @gizmosaz2112

This means buying some new tubers to “chit”. Save your egg boxes – these are a perfect size. Place one tuber in each part and place them in a cool place to grow tiny new green shoots. You can also prepare the ground you will plant them in but wait until March before you actually put them in the ground outdoors.

11. Make a plan

While the evenings are long, create a list of plants you want to try growing. It may be flowers, fruit trees or vegetables. You can also plan companion plants like nasturtiums which attract aphids away from other plants.

Draw sketches and take pictures of before so that when your garden is in bloom, you can compare and amaze yourself with the change! With smaller gardeners in the house, you will have plenty of help with tasks like adding food to the compost bin – see more below.

12. Compost

If you don’t have a compost bin, then start one. If you have one New Year’s resolution, make it this one. This is the best way to reduce your carbon footprint with minimal effort. The benefits are rich, useful, free soil to feed your plants which helps your plants and saves you money.

More on this: Is Mulch The Same As Compost?

How do I make compost?

make compost

Image credit: @agardenersheart

Buy a bin or make a space in your garden at least 1x1m but preferably 2x2m if you have space. A corner or a neglected part of the garden is perfect but make sure you have easy access to it, especially in cold and wet weather.

  1. Place some twigs on the ground to mark out the area. Insert wooden stakes in the corners and fix chicken wire to them to make the sides. Wooden pallets work well too.
  2. Next, add a layer of newspaper or cardboard to keep it tidy. Worms love the heat under cardboard and will arrive as soon as it is on the ground.
  3. Add a green layer of fresh waste including outer leaves of cabbages, tomato and potato skins, apple cores and fruit remains.
  4. A brown layer comes next. This is drier and can be composed of waste paper, twigs, lawn cuttings, old leaves etc.
  5. Another green layer goes on top. Keep adding a layer of brown followed by green and if you can, aerate and mix the heap by turning the heap and adding well-rotted material to the top.
  6. DO NOT add meat as this may attract mice and rats.
  7. Leave it for at least 3 months (ideally 6) and you will have a great supply of rich compost, full of worms that every plant will adore.
compost in hand

Image credit: @sheppy105

What is in flower in February?

Heather thrives in acid soils so any that was planted under your conifer hedges should be in full bloom now. Cyclamen enjoy similar conditions. Heather flowers in shades of pink, purple and white and brings warmth to a winter garden.

Mahonia offers yellow flower heads while winter jasmine delights cold gardens with drooping stems decorated with yellow blooms. Yellow forsythia flowers shoot up on new growth and look amazing against the blue sky on sunny days.

mahonia february flower

Image credit: @plantnews

Perennial purple periwinkle has flowered throughout winter in my Kent garden, so perhaps the warmer temperatures are allowing gardeners to be more adventurous. Hebes have been flowering here since November in shades of purple, lilac and pink.

Sarcococca has one of the most enduring, gorgeous scents. Its spikes of powerfully fragranced, delicate white flowers entice pollinators and it works well in a garden where little is in flower, guiding bees to the shrub. It has plump, shiny, black berries, which my gran always told me were edible. They are certainly non-toxic to pets and humans.

Daphne, a shrub native to New Zealand, offers us sprigs of pink blooms right now. There is a new hybrid called Daphne Perfume Prince, which competes with my favourite Sarcococca for scent. Enjoy!

Tina’s Tips

  1. Warm up the soil where you want to plant vegetables and plants now by placing a layer of recycled bubble wrap, cardboard or black gardening landscaping fabric. This doubles up as a weed suppressant so when you remove it, the weeds will have died back or can be dug out easily before you seed new plants. Remove the layer before planting.
  2. Leave hydrangea flower heads for a little longer as according to many gardeners (including me) this provides some protection from frost damage. They are quite decorative and can be cut when the frost has disappeared.
What to do in the garden in february 12 gardening jobs-min

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Winter Pansies Growing Guide: Easy Winter Flowering Plants

Would you like to inject some colour into your dull winter garden? Pansies won’t let you down. These stunning smiling flowers will bring some life back to winter. In this article, we’ll look at everything you need to know to grow and care for pansies.

Winter Pansies Growing Guide

By Colin Smith, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wiki

What are pansies?

Before you run off to buy your favourite winter pansies, it’s important to know a bit more about this plant. This will help you to figure out when to plant pansies, where the best place is to help them grow and how to care for them.

The first thing you’ll need to know is that pansies are short-lived perennials. In some climates, however, they are annuals. Most of the time gardeners treat pansies as annuals regardless of the climate even though they can technically survive for two to three years if cared for properly.

The reason for keeping them as annuals is mostly due to their growth pattern in summer. Pansies tend to become quite leggy in warm temperatures which can look unattractive to some. The best time to have pansies around is from autumn until the end of spring.

These pretty flowering plants will flower even in snow. The flowers have heart-shaped overlapping petals with patterns that appear to be a smiley face. You do, however, get quite a few varieties of pansies with a range of different colours and patterns.

To complement your winter pansies, plant them alongside violas, primroses, trailing lobelia and sweet alyssum.

Winter Pansies viola

Credit: Pxfuel

A quick guide to growing pansies

In-depth growing guide for winter pansies

Pansies aren’t difficult to grow. As long as you water them properly and feed them every now and then, they should be just fine. If you want to know a bit more about pansies than just the basics, keep reading.


If you live in a cool climate, you can plant your pansies in an area with full sun. In warmer climates, it’s best to keep them in an area that gets morning sun and shade throughout the rest of the day. Midday and afternoon sun may be too much for these cold-loving plants.

If kept in containers, you can move them around to the appropriate light conditions. Just keep in mind that these plants are even less tolerant of heat when kept in containers. You’ll need to make sure you pay attention to your pansies to keep them alive and blooming away.


The biggest problem people tend to have with their pansies is underwatering. If your pansies look a bit sickly, try giving them more water. Generally, it’s a good idea to water your pansies every day.

If you’re scared of overwatering, make sure the top inch of soil is dry before you water. Pansies don’t like to dry out completely so make sure to pay special attention to them on hot days.

This is especially important if your pansies are planted in an area with full sun or when kept in containers. These plants may need to be watered more than once a day if the soil tends to dry out quickly. If your plants aren’t getting enough water, you’ll quickly notice them wilting.

Winter Pansies watering

Credit: Pixabay


Pansies are best kept in moist, humus-rich, well-drained soil. These plants despise drying out but won’t do well in standing water. It’s best to find a comfortable in-between. To keep the soil moist, you’ll need to make sure that you use something that retains some water. The humus content should help with this.

To make sure the soil still drains well, you’ll need materials such as bark, perlite and vermiculite. These will help water to drain slowly so the plant can absorb what it needs to survive.

The humus content provides the pansies with a slightly moist, acidic environment to grow in. It will also help to retain some moisture for the pansies to absorb.

It’s also best to monitor the soil temperature before planting pansies. Your pansies will grow best in a soil temperature that’s between 7 and 18°C (45-65°F).

Winter Pansies soil

Credit: Pixabay


Pansies are frost tolerant plants. They do well in temperatures far into the minuses (or teens if you’re working in Fahrenheit). Pansies prefer cold areas, they can be grown in warmer climates as well but will become annuals instead of perennials.

In the UK pansies will mostly be grown as annuals. If you live in an area that gets severe frost, you will need to protect your pansies by using mulch. If you’re only dealing with snow, there’s no need to worry. Snow insulates and protects pansy plants while they continue flowering throughout.

Winter Pansies frost

Credit: Pixabay

Expected size

Pansies come in different sizes, patterns and colours. What you decide to choose for your garden depends on taste and climate. The variety referred to as winter pansies grow about 15-23cm (6-9″) tall and 23-30.5cm (9-12″) wide.

To make sure your plants aren’t overcrowded, make sure your single plants are surrounded by a minimum space of around 25cm (9″) all around.


To keep your pansies blooming, you will need to feed your plants a balanced all-purpose fertiliser. It’s best to choose a solid slow-release fertiliser. This way you can be sure that your plant gets the nutrients it needs even in winter when snow may make fertilising more difficult.

If your plants will be kept in containers, a weekly liquid fertiliser feed will do the trick. Just make sure to water thoroughly before applying liquid fertiliser to prevent burn damage. The only fertiliser that should be avoided is one with high nitrogen content. This fertiliser isn’t necessarily bad for your plants, but it will reduce the number of blooms quite drastically.


The best way to prolong flowering in your pansy plants is to deadhead any faded or dead flowers. This means picking out the flowers in question and snipping them off at the base where it joins the plant.

Once your plant starts to become leggy, most people rip them out and replant it next season. You can, however, continue to care for this short-lived perennial if you like.


Pansies aren’t the easiest plants to grow from seeds. They are quite finicky and should be barely covered by soil to succeed. This makes it very difficult to not wash the seeds away in the first few days before the seedling emerges.

Most gardeners opt to skip the seedling stage. They simply buy their plants ready for transplanting from a nursery. This is definitely the easier way to do it unless you don’t mind quite a bit of disappointment until you get the hang of growing pansies from seeds.

Did you know?

Pansies are more than just a pretty flower in your garden. These beauties are edible too. They are said to have a mild minty flavour and are often used as a garnish in salads and desserts.

edible Winter Pansies

Pansies are edible too. Credit: Pxfuel

When to plant pansies

The best time to plant pansies is in autumn. By doing so, you give them a chance to establish before winter hits. You can also plant pansies in spring, but doing so means you’ll need to help them survive summer.

Pansies aren’t the best heat-tolerant plants. If you live in a climate with very hot summers, these aren’t the flowers for you. Pansies get very leggy when exposed to summer heat. For this reason, they are often planted as annuals during autumn.

Pansy problems

pansy problems

Image credit: Pinterest

Pansies aren’t the hardiest of plants. For this reason, you need to be wary of quite a few problems. Here’s what to look out for:

Mosaic viruses

The signs for mosaic viruses are quite variable. Some signs you can look out for are irregular leaf mottling (yellow, light and dark green patches on the leaves), stunted, curled or puckered leaves with lighter veins than normal, dwarfed plants compared to healthy neighbours, fewer flowers than normal, and dwarfed, deformed or stunted flowers.

Downy mildew

This disease thrives in humid conditions. You can expect to see pale green to yellow spots forming on the leaves that later turn brown. You might also see dark purplish fuzz growing on the underside of the leaves. Most fungicides will help to sort out this problem. Also, try to reduce the humidity.

Powdery mildew

The first sign of this disease is pale yellow spots on both the upper and underside of the leaves. These spots slowly merge into larger blotches. You will then notice a powdery substance appearing on the affected areas. Treat your plant with a fungicide to get rid of this problem.

Crown and root rot

Crown and root rot is often caused by overwatering in poorly drained soil. The soil will force the water to stand around for much longer than necessary. This means the plant’s roots won’t be able to breathe and start to die off.

The earliest symptoms of this problem include wilting despite being in wet soil, yellowing of the leaves, a bad smell around the roots and mould appearing around the base of the plant.

To solve this problem, water on a regular schedule and make sure that the first inch of soil is dry before watering again. Also, repot with well-draining soil to avoid standing water.


Rust appears as pale spots that eventually turn into spore-producing structures called pustules. These structures are usually rust coloured, hence the name. You can use a fungicide to treat this problem.

Grey mould

Grey mould, as the name suggests, usually appears as grey-brown lesions on the leaves of your plant. It can also be seen on the flowers where they will appear as small grey spots. You can treat this problem with a fungicide.

Spot anthracnose

This problem usually appears as tan or brown irregular spots on the leaves. The leaves will also usually appear distorted, cupped or curled. In severe cases, you will experience dropping leaves. Treat your plants by removing any obviously affected leaves. Spray the remaining leaves with a copper-based fungicide.

Slugs, snails, and aphids

Pests are quite common on pansies, we’re not the only ones that think they’re good to eat! To treat pests, spray your pansies with an organic, pest-specific spray and see our guide for naturally keeping slugs and snails away.


Underwatering is a common problem in pansies. Plants that have been underwatered will wilt, develop brown, dry leaf tips and develop fewer flowers than they would normally.

Leggy pansies

Pansies usually become leggy in warm to hot temperatures. To solve this problem, either grow your pansies as annuals and replant every year or trim back the stems by making a cut right above the last leave set closest to the base of the plant. Make sure to fertilise the pansy afterwards to help it recover.

Final thoughts

Now that you know how to care for winter pansies, it’s time to start growing your own. Just remember to use well-draining soil, water regularly and provide your pansies with enough morning light to keep them growing.

growing winter pansies

Image credit: @khatoani


When should I buy winter-flowering pansies?

Pansies usually go on sale in early September in the UK. You can buy and plant them at this time. The latest you should buy them is in mid-October as this allows the plants to establish themselves before winter hits. 

Do pansy flowers bloom in winter?

Yes. Pansies prefer the cold and will start to flower when the temperature drops in autumn. In some areas, they can flower throughout the year. 

Are winter-flowering pansies perennial?

Yes, but most people tend to treat them as annuals. Pansies aren’t the easiest to care for during the summer months and can become quite leggy and unattractive in the heat. 

How do pansies survive winter?

Pansies are very hardy plants that prefer the cold. When snowed on, the snow acts as a protective blanket that insulates the pansies. You can also use mulch to protect your plants in areas with frost. 

What do you do with winter pansies after flowering?

Most people replace the pansies with a plant that will flower in summer. If you prefer, you can deadhead the flowers and keep your plant alive throughout summer.

Happy gardening!

Winter pansies growing guide easy winter flowering plants-min

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10 Best Annuals For Hanging Baskets to Add Color & Density

Have you ever admired a lush hanging basket at the nursery and wished for one of your own?  Let’s face it, hanging baskets are expensive and the price just seems to rise every year.  Fortunately, growing your own annuals in a hanging basket doesn’t have to break the bank. Here’s what you need to know…

hanging baskets filled with flowering annuals

Credit: Shutterstock

How to grow annuals in hanging baskets

If you want to successfully grow annuals in hanging baskets, you’ll first have to consider what kind of annual will work best for your situation.

Some annuals like impatiens (busy Lizzies) prefer shady areas while others like petunias do well in full sun. Let’s take a look at the best annuals to grow in hanging baskets.

Best annuals for hanging baskets:

1. Violas

Violas are usually grown as annuals in hanging baskets. They are distinguished by their 5 petalled flowers that range in colour from blue and purple to yellow and pink. They have quite a lovely scent which makes them perfect for nose-level hanging baskets.

blue viola blooms in a hanging basket

Place your hanging basket at nose level and enjoy viola’s lovely scent; credit: Shutterstock

Violas prefer nutrient-rich, moist soil that drains well in a sunny to a partially shady location. Keep in mind that the sun exposure necessary may vary depending on the variety.

2. Sweet alyssum

This low growing bushy plant works perfectly in a hanging basket and will even work as a butterfly lure. The flowers are either white, pink or purple and have a strong honey scent that will enrich your patio or garden and lure some stunning insects to look at.

alyssum flowers

Sweet alyssums are a butterfly magnet; credit: Shutterstock

This plant does best in full sun but will tolerate partial shade.

3. Primroses

Primroses are very popular flowers to grow in hanging baskets. They can make any dull garden come alive with their beautiful, multi-coloured flowers.

primrose in hanging baskets

Keep an eye on insects if you go for primrose; credit: Shutterstock

Unfortunately, they are quite vulnerable to pests like aphids and red spider mites so make sure to keep a close eye on them. Primroses do really well in partial shade but will tolerate full sun with some extra care.

4. Petunias

Petunias are a favourite around the world when it comes to hanging baskets. They also make excellent additions to a moon garden since they are most fragrant in the evening.

basket filled with vibrant petunias

Petunia is the lion of the hanging basket annuals; credit: Shutterstock

Unfortunately, those with a very humid climate sometimes struggle with petal blight. If you want a basket that looks full and overflows with flowers, then the petunia is a great choice. They even come in a variety of colours from yellow and black to pink and purple.

5. Million bells

Million bells is a cousin of the petunia that’s a bit hardier when it comes to temperature and pests.

hanging basket of million bells flowers

Million bells flowers provide sunshine in a pot; credit: Shutterstock

They come in a variety of colours that range from yellow to blue to bronze. They will stay in bloom for a long time with just some moist soil and a full day of sun to keep them vibrant.

6. Lobelia

Lobelia usually has blue, purple or white flowers with neat, compacted foliage to add to its overall beauty in a hanging basket.

hanging wicker basket with blue Lobelia flowers

Flower field in a basket? Look no further than lobelia; credit: Shutterstock

Lobelia prefers full sun with moist, well-drained soil and thrives in moderate temperatures. If you want to lure some butterflies to your garden, you can’t go wrong with lobelia.

7. Impatiens

Impatiens or busy Lizzies are well-loved for their array of cheery flowers in all colours. They flourish in shady locations with some protection against wind and rain.

10 Best Annuals For Hanging Baskets to Add Color & Density 1

Busy Lizzies add an impressive pop of colour to hanging baskets. Image credit – Shutterstock

If you live in a humid environment, you’ll need to pay attention to avoid overwatering since impatiens are susceptible to grey mould.

8. Tomatoes

It might seem a bit strange since this is not your typical flowering plant, but you can also grow edible plants in hanging baskets.

tomatoes in hanging basket

Form and function – go tomatoes! credit: Shutterstock

Tomatoes make a great hanging basket plant along with some edible herbs. Make sure to hang the basket in an area with full sun and watch your crop grow and spill over the edge.

9. Clematis

Clematis is a very popular hanging basket plant. There are many different varieties with a range of flower colours.

purple large-flowered Clematis blooms in a hanging basket

Lush foliage and pretty flowers make Clematis a popular choice for hanging baskets; credit: Shutterstock

The best variety for a hanging basket is one of the compact varieties. Clematis generally prefers a sunny spot, but some varieties will tolerate partial shade.

10. Begonias

Begonias are an excellent choice if you’re thinking of hanging your basket in a partly shady area. Begonias have stunning colours ranging from red to bronze that will be displayed throughout summer into autumn.

beautiful begonia flowers in hanging baskets

Begonias are very versatile hanging basket annuals; Credit: Shutterstock

Do take care not to overwater them however since they are quite prone to developing root rot. There are a lot of begonia varieties to choose from, so make sure you get one that suits your climate.

When to plant annuals in hanging baskets

Hanging baskets aren’t that different from planting in-ground when it comes to timing. You will still need to avoid frost and protect your plants against very cold nights. Despite all that, however, it is possible to start your hanging baskets slightly earlier.

Hanging baskets can easily be moved around which makes it very easy to bring them indoors. This allows you to plant your hanging baskets slightly earlier than you would in-ground.

If frost is a possibility, you can simply move them to protect them. The soil in the basket will also warm up faster than ground soil does.

How to plant hanging baskets

Before you can plant, you will need a hanging basket. There are loads of different baskets available at nurseries, some already lined with coco coir ready to be planted.

coir hanging basket

Coco coir is usually used to line hanging baskets; credit: Shutterstock

You will also need to line the bottom of your basket to prevent water from just rushing out of the bottom. Lots of nurseries use liners to increase water retention. You can either buy these special liners or make your own by using a plastic bag with a few holes in it.

The next thing you’ll need is potting soil. You can buy potting soil from a nursery. Never use normal garden soil It’s too heavy for your basket and may carry diseases that will negatively affect your plants. It’s best to choose a lightweight potting soil made especially for hanging baskets.

woman holding potting soil over a hanging basket

Soil for hanging baskets has to weigh less than regular soil; credit: Shutterstock

Now to choose your plants. You can be quite creative and create baskets with a mixture of plants or you can use one species to dominate your basket. If you’re choosing a mixture, make sure to choose a plant that grows tall and upright for the middle focal point. You can place trailing or spreading varieties around it to create a nicely filled basket effect.

As an extra, you can also rip holes into the side of your baskets and add plants to them. A plant that does really well growing like this is sweet alyssum. Also, make sure you know how many plants to plant in your preferred basket size.

Here are the general rules for planting in baskets:

This means that if you have a 30cm (12 inch) basket, you can plant 12 plants in it unless you have a strong grower like fuchsias. In that case, you can only plant 5 plants in the same size hanging basket.

How to care for hanging baskets

Caring for hanging baskets is fairly easy. To keep yours looking great, keep the following in mind:

Do some pruning

One of the best ways to keep your baskets looking great is to regularly prune away leggy and dead plant stems, flowers and leaves. Your plants will grow bushier over time and produce more flowers as you trim away the wilted ones.

Water regularly

Hanging baskets tend to dry out much faster because of how they are structured. The coco coir isn’t great at keeping moisture in after all. You will need to take this into account and water your plants regularly to prevent them from drying out and dying as a result.

If you’re unsure if your plants need to be water simply stick your finger about 2.5 cm (1 inch) into the soil and feel for moisture. If it feels dry, water your plant thoroughly.


Hanging baskets also need to be fertilised more regularly than in-ground plants. The regular waterings will quickly flush out any nutrients in the little bit of potting soil you have inside the basket.

To prevent your plants from starving and to increase the number of blooms, fertilise every week with liquid fertiliser or once a month with a solid fertiliser.

Replace dead plants

Once your plants start to die back, there’s no point struggling to keep these annuals alive. Simply take them out and replace them with other plants to keep your baskets looking great.


How many plants can be planted in a hanging basket?

The number of plants will depend on the type of plant as well as the size of your basket. The general rule is one plant for every 2.5 cm (inch) of planting space inside your basket unless you have a vigorous grower. In the case of a vigorous grower like fuchsias, plant 1 plant in every 6 cm of planting space.

planting a hanging basket with young flowers

A good rule of thumb is one plant for every 2.5 cm (inch) of planting space; credit: Shutterstock

Why do my hanging baskets die?

Hanging baskets are a lot more sensitive to lack of water and need more fertilising than when growing the same plants in-ground.

Can you line hanging baskets with plastic?

Hanging baskets can be lined with plastic to reduce the loss of moisture. You will, however, have to make sure to puncture the plastic at the lowest point of the basket to allow drainage. Not doing so may result in your plants drowning and developing root rot.


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How to Choose The Best Trellis for Clematis & Train it Properly

The clematis plant offers gardeners over 200 varieties of colourful, pretty blooms which can climb a trellis, cover an ugly part of your garden and provide a splash of colour from late spring until autumn.

This climbing vine needs sunshine, rich soil and some support as it climbs. Read on to see how you can provide the best trellis for your clematis.

clematis climbing a fence

Credit: Shutterstock

There are 3 different types of clematis, defined by when they flower, which also decides when they need to be pruned.

  1. Group 1: These varieties bloom in spring after the frosts in April, May and early June.
  2. Group 2: Summer flowering types, these bloom repeatedly from July through to August.
  3. Group 3: Later blooming varieties provide flowers in August and September through to the frostier days in the autumn.

How to trellis clematis: 5 ideas to support your clematis flowers

Detailed pruning instructions can be found below but first, let’s look at the best trellis options for clematis in the UK.

1. Natural trellis for your clematis

If you have an ornamental flower bed and a useful tree, your clematis will be delighted to climb most trees, apart from a black walnut tree. This tree tends to inhibit the growth of almost anything.

This fabulous white clematis provides stunning views from all sides, the white contrasting against the crisp mown lawn or reaching for the skies, adding a natural line of ascending blooms to delight the eye.

This planting is so successful because the bloom is in the sunshine while the roots have a lot of cover from surrounding foliage. This is what clematis loves.

Remember to plan your garden design, keeping in mind all the views different angles offer. Here the green lawn contrasts perfectly with the crisp white flowers.

2. Wire fence

A wire fence is ideal for any dwarf clematis, which will grow beautifully along it. This gorgeous purple dwarf clematis grows happily along a wire fence and the height is perfect to display the colourful blooms to perfection.

clematis wire fence

Credit: Shutterstock

3. Trellis

A trellis can be purchased from any good gardening centre or you can build a trellis yourself.

Wooden varieties that you fix to your wall are ideal for clematis, which can be placed in a pot underneath. The best location is a site where the flowers are in solid sunshine most of the day but the roots are cool.

clematis flowers on wooden trellis

Credit: Shutterstock

You can add mulch to help with this. A specially designed support cage such as the GrowBox™ will provide support in the flowering months but once the clematis dies back, it can be conveniently packed away in storage for the winter months.

4. Individual bamboo poles

Bamboo poles or a tepee of stakes made from garden prunings is an excellent trellis for summer-blooming clematis varieties.

clematis growing on bamboo poles

Credit: Shutterstock

Vegetable growers who plant runner beans usually build a trellis support for them. You can surprise visitors to your garden by having two types of flowers appear on your bean patch!

The clematis is probably best growing in its own pot, which can be planted in amongst the beans but free to attach it to the frame for support. This will work well for smaller clematis varieties, which can grow as high as 2-5 feet (61cm-1.5m). You can prune it back when the flowering period finishes.

5. Arbours and sheds

For the really tall types of clematis, an arbour provides good support although you can also use your garden shed or any unsightly areas you would prefer to decorate with flowers! The tallest clematis, like Jack-in-the-beanstalk, can reach a height from 8 to 12 feet (2.4 – 3.6 m).

clematis climbing in garden

Credit: Shutterstock

Caring for your clematis

How often do I need to water my clematis? 

You need to water pot clematis fairly frequently, particularly if the weather is hot and dry. Watering in dry weather is a must. If you have mulched the roots, this will help to retain moisture too. Give it a thorough soaking and wet the whole root ball.

For clematis rooted in the ground, it is fine to water weekly or if the leaves and flowers look as if they are wilting.

What’s the best soil for clematis?

Give your clematis rich soil or it may disappoint you. Add a top layer of mulch in spring to feed the plant throughout the flowering season but also to retain moisture.

Clematis loves sunshine on its flowers but it appreciates cooler roots which the mulch provides. These are hungry plants – think of all the effort they put into climbing. So give them a sunny location with rich soil and they will reward you with abundant blooms.

clematis bloom

Credit: Shutterstock

FAQs – Tina’s Tips

When does clematis flower?

It depends on the variety. There are 3 types of clematis – spring flowering, summer flowering and late flowering. So some clematis will be in bloom in May, while others wait until July and the late bloomers will continue well into the autumn. There are evergreen varieties, woody plants and a range of hybrid varieties.

Remember that the flowers only last brief periods, after which you need to remove the wilting flower. This is called dead-heading. For the dwarf varieties, you can ask your younger gardeners to take this on as a task. Normally they will be delighted to do this!

When do I plant clematis?

It is best to prepare the ground for planting clematis in the autumn if possible, which gives it plenty of time to get settled. However, you can plant in spring and some spring-planted clematis manage to flower that summer so don’t despair!

Although my advice is definitely to plant them in the ground if you can, clematis is certainly a plant that will not disappoint you simply because it is in a pot.

What can go wrong with my clematis?

  1. Pruning. It is really important to know when to prune. Refer back to the 3 types of clematis described earlier in this article. Know which variety you have. If you prune back your clematis that likes to flower on second-year growth, you will deprive yourself of flowers by pruning in the autumn. So check the label carefully! Read on for pruning instructions.
  2. Clematis wilt shows as black stems and the whole plant seems to collapse.  Sterilise your secateurs and cut all the blackened stems off. Be sure to clean the blade between cuts, to prevent infection of the healthy leaves. Destroy all these stems and do not compost them. Your plant will have some unaffected growth so keep a close eye on it to spot any further symptoms.
  3. Powdery mildew is caused by congestion of stems with air unable to circulate. Tie in the stems to your trellis often and deadhead the blooms. Try to water the roots not the leaves if mildew is a problem.
  4. Pests. Aphids and red spider mites can be a problem. Try to encourage natural predators like ladybirds and you can mist the leaves down with water and a few drops of neem oil. Then wipe the leaves well to remove the pests. Red spider mites cannot survive on damp leaves so wipe them down weekly.
  5. Not enough sunshine, poor soil and lack of water will not allow much energy for flowers either so pray to the weather gods for sunshine, not rain!
clematis flower wilt

Clematis flower wilt. Credit: Shutterstock

How should I prune my clematis?

With great care! Depending on when they flower, the pruning is different for each group.

Group 1: The spring-flowering clematis plants need to be pruned immediately after they finish blooming. For example, because new buds grow on the last season’s growth, early spring blooming varieties should be pruned back as soon as possible following their flowers.

Group 2: This group flower over and over and they can bloom on either new wood or old wood. These are the clematis with large flowers that burst into bloom late in spring.  Prune back to the top buds either in winter or early in the spring.

Group 3: This group of clematis are late bloomers. They only flower on new wood so prune these hard to about 2 feet (60 cm or so) in the winter as a task for a cold day.


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Do Nasturtiums Climb Trellis? How to Train Climbing Nasturtium

Nasturtiums love to climb up a trellis or any natural stem, these plants reach for the sun!

The cheerful blooms of nasturtiums thrive in the poorest of soils, winding themselves in intricate shapes around anything that will allow them to climb.

Nasturtiums are wonderful climbers which will delight your eyes for months. Let’s look at 4 of the best ways to trellis them:

4 ideas for trellising nasturtiums

1. Wooden trellis is ideal for pot nasturtiums

Place it on a wall behind the pot and the plant will curl itself around the trellis with ease.

nasturtiums climbing trellis on the wall

Credit: Islandashley

You can help the plant by curling it onto the trellis if it doesn’t find it to start with. This provides the nasturtium with support and you with brightly coloured flowers to enjoy all summer long.

2. Bamboo poles can work well too

If you plant nasturtiums with French beans, runner beans or any climbing beans, many pests are attracted to the gorgeous flowers. Aphids in particular will flock to nasturtiums by choice, which means they leave your bean flowers and leaves alone. A fantastic combination!

Nasturtiums are often chosen as companion plants because white fly, aphids and other pests adore them. Experienced vegetable gardeners know that the yellow and orange flowers are also really attractive to pollinators so you can help the bees as well.  The trellis for the runner beans transforms into a nasturtium climber. So the aphids devour the nasturtium, leaving the beans to grow well without too many worries.

3. Climb a vine and add colour 

If you have a vine in your garden or under cover, at times the trunks can seem brown and bare in summer so plant nasturtiums! Seeded in soil at the base of a vine, they will climb as vigorously as the grape vines, adding a fantastic dash of colour to any garden, as they grow.

They climb vines and twine around it beautifully adding a decorative look to the vine as it grows. Colours can vary from yellow to lemon yellow to bright orange and their cheerful tubular shapes can be enjoyed until the first frosts.

Nasturtiums climbing vines

Credit: Siena Scarff

Like the vine pictured, they do not need really nutritious soil. In fact, if the soil is too full of nutrients, the nasturtium plant tends to grow expansive foliage rather than blooms. The heart shaped leaves are edible in salads with a spicy tang to taste as are the flowers. Decide if you want to encourage flowers or foliage though and bear this in mind when choosing the soil.

4. Cover up areas with nasturtiums

Use a support system like the edges of your composting area as a trellis, and you can disguise the area beautifully by the climbing stems of nasturtiums. They last the whole summer even until the misty days of November, providing bright colour, pollen and salad leaves in the autumn at a time when very little else is in bloom.

Nasturtiums can cover a compost heap, fence or a garden shed to transform an area into a colourful place to enjoy.

Do Nasturtiums Climb Trellis? How to Train Climbing Nasturtium 4

Nasturtium flowers and leaves are edible and can be added to salads. Credit: Shutterstock

Best conditions for growing nasturtiums

Now read on for advice about the best conditions, soil and how to care for nasturtiums.

Soil: Strangely enough, nasturtiums love poor soil. If the soil is very rich the nasturtium will produce lots of foliage. So if you want colourful flowers, then ensure that the seeds are placed in soil that has not been fertilised or had beans or peas the previous season. This is because these legumes add nitrogen as they grow, which encourages plants to grow. Traditionally cabbages follow beans as they need extra nutrition right through the growing season and even before.

Temperature: These colourful blooms are good from June through to the first frosts.

Fertiliser: There is no need to add extra fertiliser for nasturtiums. In fact, if you do, you will gain a lot of leaves but very few flowers.

Water: These plants can survive a drought. If they are outdoors they hardly need to be watered all summer provided that there has been occasional rain. If you notice the plant drooping, water well or use your leftover grey water like washing up water or what’s left after washing some earthy newly picked potatoes.


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Best Trellis for Cucumbers: 5 Ways to Grow & Train Cucumbers

There are two kinds of cucumbers; one needs a trellis or something to climb. The other does not. Bush cucumbers grow in that shape and these are happy without a trellis. If however, you have a vine cucumber then a trellis or climbing frame of some sort is essential.

Read on to learn which trellis is good for cucumbers, how to train your cucumber on a trellis and what types of trellis might suit your pot or garden.

Do cucumbers need a trellis?

As the cucumber plant grows, its large leaves need support and its little tendrils try to catch on to anything close by, to enable this plant to grow towards the light. Sunshine is the cucumber’s best friend and so it climbs higher and higher to reach it.

Cucumbers are annual plants, which mean you need to grow new plants each year from seed. Gorgeous bright yellow flowers form on the stems of both bush and vine cucumbers, which are then fertilized by bees and pollinators (or you with a paintbrush! see below…) to become cucumbers.

A trellis supports the growing fruit and also allows good ventilation, which helps to avoid some of the common problems that affect cucumbers. Read on to see how your trellis will help you to produce tasty fruit.

Which types of trellis will support my cucumber?

Three types of trellis will support cucumber plants: in a pot, in a greenhouse and in the soil.

1. Growing cucumbers indoors

The cucumber in a pot needs a lot of nourishment so ensure that your trellis is in place before you plant in your cucumber. This is because you might damage the roots if you stick in trellis, canes or supports after planting.

Some of the best trellis for cucumbers include:

tall cucumber vine climbing a pot bamboo trellis

Pot trellis with strings; Credit: Shutterstock

2. Growing cucumbers in a greenhouse

In a greenhouse, your cucumber has found an ideal spot. Providing that you give it enough nutrition through the soil, this plant gets an early start inside so that your plants can be climbing just after the risk of frost has passed.

growing cucumbers in a greenhouse with irrigation

Credit: Shutterstock

Plant your seeds sideways in the soil and water well. I usually add 2 or 3 sticks for them to climb but also to remember where I planted them! They like a sunny location.

Some greenhouses come with tables or supports. If this is the case you can plant your seeds so that they can climb the support available. I like to take out all the tables because cucumbers will fill your entire greenhouse by the end of the summer and just add a bamboo or pruned branch as the first support for my plant.

Watering indoor cucumbers is essential and the best method is to set up an automatic watering system twice a day to do this for you. If you are using a watering can try to avoid getting moisture on the leaves. They don’t like it much. Cucumbers need a lot of water – see more below.

Some greenhouse pests include red spider mites, aphids and mealybugs. Keep reading to learn how to deal with these below.

3. Is your cucumber plant growing outside?

Remember that cucumbers aren’t frost hardy so only plant your cucumber in the ground after all risk of frost has passed. You can speed up the process by sowing your seeds indoors.  Place the pot on a sunny windowsill and transplant them outside after the warm weather arrives.

cucumber plants in seedling peat pot on windowsil

Credit: Shutterstock

Outdoor cucumbers are usually smaller in size than greenhouse cucumbers and they like to sprawl all over the ground, if not supported on a trellis. The benefit of growing cucumbers vertically by trellis is that it allows a lot more air to circulate among the leaves and the developing fruit, so this makes the plant less likely to become diseased or get eaten by slugs and snails.

Choose a sunny location where direct sunlight will nourish the plant for as many hours a day as possible. Cucumbers love the sun!

Prepare the ground well and dig out any perennial weeds such as bindweed or dandelions. Then dig in some well-rotted manure if you have any or add shop-bought or homemade compost. Cucumbers are hungry plants and need a lot of nutrition so give them lots of energy from the beginning.

Next, think about supporting your cucumbers as they grow, Pallets can make great supports for cucumbers but snails and slugs can hide easily inside the planks so inspect these carefully and remove any intruders.

An existing fence is a great alternative to pallets, bamboo or sticks but you may need to add a few nails so that you can tie in the stem, flowers and developing fruit as your plant stretches its way upwards.

How to make cucumbers climb a trellis?

To trellis cucumbers, you need to get some string in place to gently support the stem as soon as the seedling leaves of the plant appear, and when your seedling has at least 6 leaves, then tie them in carefully to the support. Do not tie very tightly because the plant stem will continue to expand and this will feel like a tight belt after a big dinner! Tie it loosely, allowing for growth. Let the stem continue to grow and use the string simply as a guideline for the plant.

If you have several plants in a row, you can tie some string horizontally joining all the plants and then your plants will happily spread sideways, attaching to the closest string they find. This method also uses up any leftover string that comes on parcels or DIY projects.

The string support is really useful when small fruit starts to develop. Now you can add extra string to support the actual cucumber as it grows. Allow the fruit to rest on the string and as it grows, you can tie in another sting if required.

Tina’s TIPS

How do I pollinate a female cucumber flower?

Sometimes the cucumber plant refuses to fruit. If this is the case for your plant, take a good look at the flowers.

Most modern varieties are all-female but the original plants used to have both male and female flowers, and for pollination to occur, the pollen from the male must touch that of the female.

The female flowers seem to have a little rounded fruit already behind the flower whereas the male flower has a longer creamy extension in the centre. You need to paint the male flower with a brush to remove some pollen, and then paint the female with this pollen, and hey presto! A cucumber should result.

Do remember to remove the male flowers after you pollinate or your cucumbers may be bitter and not as tasty as you hoped.

Why do I have so few cucumbers?

As the very first fruits appear, pick them quite small. This will encourage your plants to keep growing. Otherwise, they may try to go to seed really early, putting all their strength in the first 2-3 fruits.


Should I fertilize my cucumber plants?

Definitely! Your plants need regular feeding at least once a week when they are fruiting or you will be disappointed by the size of your crop. You can use:

  1. Tomato feed diluted with water
  2. Home-made feed e.g. nettles, dandelions or comfrey leaves soaked in water for 3-5 days, then added to your watering can is excellent for cucumbers.

How should I water my plants?

Cucumbers need a lot of water but remember not to water the leaves or the fruit directly. The water should go around the base of the plant, not on the leaves.

Rot can occur on cucumber fruit and leaves if they are watered frequently, so in a greenhouse, I advise setting up a watering system aimed at the roots if possible.

Why does my cucumber have grey mould?

Cucumber grey mould botrytis

Cucumber Botrytis; credit: Growingproduce

Botrytis occurs in very humid conditions. Has there been a lot of rain or is your greenhouse door always closed?

Why does my cucumber have curled up, discoloured or mottled leaves? 

This is caused by greenfly and is called the cucumber mosaic virus.

Cucumber mosaic virus on cucumber leaves

Cucumber mosaic virus on cucumber leaves; credit: Shutterstock

Why do my cucumbers taste bitter?

Check if your plant is in a draught or has there been a cold spell? If the temperature changes suddenly the result is often a bitter taste to the fruit.

Another possibility is pollination – remember that male flowers should be removed after your pollinate. Some very odd shaped cucumbers which taste bitter can be the result if you forget to do this!


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How to Grow Basil in Your Garden

Growing herbs is an easy and practical way to start getting your fingers green, particularly if you only have limited space, or are looking for plants that can survive on a sunny windowsill. Learning how to grow basil will not only reward you with a delicious cooking ingredient, but give you the skills you need to move onto other herbs, like mint, chives, dill and coriander.

If you like Italian dishes – especially tomato-based pasta sauces, homemade pizza or delicious pesto – basil is going to be a great choice for your garden.

several varieties of basil growing in a flower bed herb garden

Growing Basil: Getting Started

For the best results, you should plant basil seeds indoors in the first part of the year and let them develop into seedlings before moving them outdoors a few months later. With the right care, basil plants started in February or March will provide you with delicious, aromatic leaves through summer and autumn.

Sow in: February, March, April, May, June, July

Move outside: June, July, August

Harvest in: June, July,  August, September

Planting basil

Start your basil plants off by planting them in 7.5cm pots. Fill the pot with compost (tips on how to make you brown compost here), then sprinkle a few basil seeds on the surface and cover lightly with vermiculite. Water them, and then cover. Using a propagator tray is recommended, but if you don’t have one then you can fasten a sandwich bag around the top with an elastic band, or you can cut a plastic bottle in half and place it over the seeds. Adding a cover – whichever method you choose – will trap heat and moisture, helping your seeds to germinate.

Leave the cover on for a few weeks, until your seedlings are about 3-5cm tall, and have their first “true” leaves (not the little round ones that sprout first). When they look sturdy enough to handle, you can split them out so you have 1-2 per 7.5cm pot.

How to Grow Basil in Your Garden 5

How to grow basil

Frost will damage your basil, so don’t move it outside until the nights are reliably above freezing. Like tomatoes or chilli peppers, you can harden your basil plant off by putting it outside for a couple of hours, and then bringing it back inside – gradually increasing the amount of time each day. This process helps young plants acclimate to the exposure of outdoors, compared to indoor conditions.

When your basil is ready to move into the ground, choose a sunny spot that’s well-sheltered. You can also leave basil to grow in containers, sizing up every time you notice roots poking out of the bottom. If you’re also growing tomatoes, you might want to position the two near each other – basil is considered a companion plant to tomatoes, and is thought to improve their flavour!

Keep your basil plants healthy and productive by pinching the tips off of branches every so often (focusing growth at the centre of the plant), and removing flowers before they can form. It’s also best to water basil in the morning, as it can sulk if it’s roots are cold and wet overnight.

you can grow basil in a pot, making it ideal for balcony gardens

Harvesting basil

You can harvest basil leaves at pretty much any time, but I do have a few tips for keeping your plant healthy! For example, don’t immediately pick off all the biggest leaves – these are essentially your basil’s power plants that are generating all the energy it needs to grow. Instead, take a combination of larger and medium-sized leaves each time.

When you’re only taking one or two leaves, use the opportunity to pinch off the top of the plant and the ends of any leggy stems. As I mentioned before, it helps your plant focus its growth closer to the middle.

basil plants that have been allowed to flower into purple spires

Common Problems With Basil

If you follow the above tips about pinching off excess growth, harvesting carefully and watering your basil in the morning, you should find it relatively easy to grow a happy, healthy basil plant. However, there are two main pests that you should familiarise yourself with when you’re learning how to grow basil.

  1. Aphids are a pretty common problem when you’re growing edible crops, and basil is no exception. We’ve got a guide to getting rid of aphids that you can check out, but the most important thing to be aware of is that they multiply quickly. If you notice even one of these tiny bugs (they can be white, green, yellow or grey), squish it quickly and rinse any other suspicious bugs off of your plant as soon as possible.
    a cluster of aphids eating a leaf
  2. Slugs and snails like to chomp on basil – look out for slime trails when you go to water your plants first thing in the morning. There are natural ways you can deter slugs and snails… be careful about using pesticides on any plant you intend to eat.
    a brown snail on the edge of a plant pot

Learning how to grow basil is a fun gateway into taking care of more herbs and edible plants. Take a look at our beginner vegetable-growing guides, tips for growing herbs indoors and more kitchen garden ideas.


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How to Grow Chilli Peppers in Your Garden

Welcome, spice fiends! If you like a little bit of kick in your kitchen, learning how to grow chilli peppers is going to be a very satisfying experience. There are lots of chilli pepper varieties, some of which will give your tongue a tantalising tingle, and others that will have you running for a glass of milk.

When you start growing your own chillies, you’ll quickly realise there is a far greater range of colour, shape and size than what you can typically find on the supermarket shelves. Generally speaking, you need higher growing temperatures to reach those higher scoville (spiciness) ratings. However, even in the UK, it’s possible to grow chillies that will bring a little pizzazz to your plate. Let’s take a look at how to grow chilli peppers in your garden.

Growing Chillies: Where to Begin?

a guide to show you how to grow chilli peppers in your garden

As warmth really is essential for achieving that chilli pepper sizzle, it’s best to start your chillies off indoors (under a propagator if you can), and harden them off in a greenhouse or outside in time for summer.

Another factor to consider is that, to get the right balance of root/shoot growth, it’s recommended that you repot chilli peppers several times before they’re mature. This can be a bit of a pain, honestly, but it will lead to better gains. To be fair though, I have found myself short on pots every now and then, and having two plants in the same pot isn’t the end of the world.

Sow in: February, March, April

Move outdoors in: June

Harvest in: July, August, September, October

Sowing chilli peppers

lots of small chilli pepper seedlings growing in potting trays

If you do choose to start your chilli peppers off indoors, you can sow your seeds as early as February, to give your seedlings the best start. Use potting compost in small pots, planting 3-5 seeds per pot (there’s a chance that not all of them will geminate).

You’ll see shoots appear quite quickly, especially if you use a lid or heated propagation station (a sunny kitchen windowsill works perfectly fine though, in my experience). Once you do, you can take off the cover (but keep them warm), and separate them out into larger individual pots once they’re 2-3cm tall.

How to grow chilli peppers

separated pots

Keep an eye out for roots poking out the bottom of the pot, and repot into a 13cm diameter pot when they appear. If your plant starts to lean over or become top heavy (which they might do in the bigger pot, when they start growing over 20cm high, or as they begin to fruit), you can add a slender stake to keep them upright. 

The next step of hot to grow chilli peppers is pinching out. When your plant reaches about 30cm tall, it’s recommended that you pinch (or snip with sharp scissors) the top of the plant off, so it focuses its energy into producing fruit. When it flowers, you can pinch off the ends of branches past the flowering section, too.

When the weather starts staying warm (towards the end of May), you should repot your chilli peppers one last time, into 22cm pots. As I mentioned before, I don’t always do this with every plant – it just depends on what pots I have available – and for the most part, they’re all fine (just some of them are smaller). At this stage, you could also plant them straight into the ground.

Either way, before you move your chillies outside, you should harden them off. Hardening off lets your plant become accustomed to outdoor conditions, and basically involves moving your plants outside for a couple of hours a day, gradually increasing the length of time over the course of two weeks. So, eventually, your plants spend all day and night outside. As chilli plants can stay relatively small, I personally tend to bring mine inside every night, and leave bigger plants (like tomatoes) in my limited garden area outside.

Keep your chilli pepper plants well watered and, when your flowers start to appear, mix in some general fertiliser. I tend to use the same stuff as I do for tomatoes.

Harvesting chilli peppers

large chilli pepper plants growing in planters

The longer you leave your chillies on the plant, the better they generally taste (especially if you’re going to be preserving them. However, the sooner you snip them off, the quicker your chilli pepper plant will start growing more. So, it’s a bit of a delicate balance. You don’t have to wait until the chillies are completely red, though.

Common Problems when Growing Chillies

three tacos filled with peppers, onion, lettuce and fresh chillies

Chilli peppers were my first foray into learning how to grow vegetables at home. So, the first couple of batches were also my first introduction to some of the most irritating bugs I’ve ever come across! Here are the most common problems you’ll encounter when you’re learning how to grow chilli peppers.

  1. Whitefly are tiny white bugs that suck all the sap from your plants, making them limp and struggle to produce fruit. Plus, they excrete a sticky, ‘honeydew’ substance that can cause black sooty mould to grow. An all-round pain, but you might be able to control them with biological control and/or sticky traps.
  2. Aphids – yep, my personal nemesis. I never had a problem with aphids until a babysat a friend’s tomato plant, which must have had aphids hidden away on it somewhere. They basically do the same damage as whitefly, and should be handled in a similar way. In theory, you can wash aphids off (and keep them at bay) with a gentle dish soap/detergent, pinch off carrier leaves, and squish lone rangers. However, I couldn’t stop them from multiplying, so I quarantined my affected plants in order to save my healthy ones. Read more tips on getting rid of aphids.
  3. Grey mould is a fuzzy fungus that will develop and spread if your plants are too moist. I haven’t seen it on chilli peppers before personally, but it can appear on other soft fruit, like strawberries, too. If you notice grey mould on leaves, stems, or debris on the soil, remove it asap and move the plant to somewhere less humid.

I’m hugely biased towards chilli peppers, as they were my starter crop, and I loved adding them to different dishes for a bit of spice. They’re a really easy crop to grow, and learning how to grow chilli peppers is a fun way to introduce children to the process of cultivating and cooking your own food. Take a look at our guides to growing tomatoes, green beans and cucumbers for a whole range!


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Companion Planting: Which Vegetables Can Be Grown Together?

As you begin your journey of growing vegetables at home, you might come across the term “companion planting”. It’s a really useful strategy, particularly when you want to grow lots of different vegetables and only have a limited space to do so. Today we’ll be looking into basic companion planting, and which vegetables can be grown together so that they thrive in your garden.

companion planting involves understanding which vegetables can be grown together, like tomatoes and French marigolds

What is Companion Planting?

First things first: let’s get an understanding of what companion planting actually isAt its simplest level, companion planting is where you grow specific plants close to each other so one – or both – grow better.

In some cases, there’s some science behind the benefits of companion gardening. For example, a study has shown that onion flies (a major onion pest) lay fewer eggs when there are marigolds nearby. Other pairings are less researched, but have been passed down anecdotally through generations of gardeners.

How can companion planting help your garden?

Companion planting offers a variety of benefits across your garden, with different pairings helping each other in different ways. Depending on what you’re growing, you might be able to find companion plants that:

The end result? Knowing which vegetables can be grown together can give you healthier growth, better yields, tastier crops and a lower maintenance garden! Plus, it never hurts to have some more variety in your kitchen garden or foodscape.

Which Vegetables Can Be Grown Together?

Time for the good stuff! Now, this won’t be an exhaustive list of which vegetables can be grown together – mostly because everyone’s gardening experience is different, and every gardener will have anecdotal evidence of which companion planting pairings work, and which don’t. Today, I’m going to focus on common crops, and plants that we’ve already talked about in landscaping tips or our growing guides.

General companion planting tips to get started

If you can’t keep track (or don’t want to) of exactly which vegetables can be grown together, don’t worry, here are a few rules of thumb that are a bit easier to remember and will give you a good chance of success.

Although not every companion plant combination has been rigorously researched, these are some of the more common examples that routinely work for gardeners that want to make their gardening a little bit easier. Have you tried any of these companion planting pairs already? Tell us your experience with which vegetables can be grown together!


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How to Grow Carrots in Your Garden 

Learning how to grow carrots is the perfect way to start your own kitchen garden. Versatile, delicious and packed with nutrients, carrots are a winner at the dinner table. Although in the UK we’re accustomed to long carrots with a bright orange shade, growing your own carrots is a great time to explore the plethora of shapes and sizes of carrot varieties.

Carrots are very easy to grow, and are the perfect starter crop for beginners or planting with children. In this post, we’ll cover the basics of how to grow carrots – and in just a few weeks you can enjoy having these crunchy treats on your plate.

Growing Carrots: Where to Begin?

Growing carrots in the UK is fairly straightforward, and their long season means that you can start sowing certain varieties as early as February, and continue harvesting them as late as October. The trick is to plant them in small, staggered batches so you can enjoy a regular harvest throughout summer and autumn. 

When it comes to how to grow carrots, the most important factor is your soil quality. It needs to be fertile and well-draining, but should also be clear of debris. Shallow or rocky soil can lead to your carrots becoming stunted or forked – if you’re concerned, try growing your carrots in containers and/or choosing a short-rooted variety. You can also learn how to improve your garden soil.

five large garden planters with carrots growing inside

Plant in: February, March, April, May, June, July

Harvest in: May, June, July, August, September, October

Sowing carrots

Most carrots are sown April-July but, just like potatoes, crops fall into categories of “earlies” and “maincrop” – check the seed packets. If you choose an “early” variety, planting can begin in late February as long as you give your seeds the protection of a cloche, fleece cover or similar (or start them indoors).

Carrot seeds only need to be sown about 1cm deep, about 5-7cm apart from each other and leaving 15-30cm between rows. As your seedlings appear, you can thin them out to create the necessary space.

how to grow carrots in your garden outside

How to grow carrots


You won’t have to worry about watering carrots so much – just give the soil a good soak in long dry spells and hot weather. The bigger concern is weeds, which easily grow between rows and will smother your carrots beneath the surface. Make sure to pull up any interfering growth regularly, and read our tips for keeping weeds out of flower beds.

Be warned that crushing the carrot stems will release a scent that attracts carrot fly – a major carrot pest. You can grow your carrots under a plastic tunnel or mesh to help reduce this worry. Carrots are also a great candidate for companion gardening, as the fragrance of other plants can confuse and deter common pests.

Harvesting carrots

Check on your carrots somewhere between 12-16 weeks, when they should be at their fullest flavour. They will continue to grow if they’re left in the soil longer, but you’ll start to lose their sweetness and taste.

Common Problems When Growing Carrots

a cluster of aphids eating a leaf

There are a couple of pests that you’ll need to tackle as you learn how to grow carrots. Fortunately, there are relatively straightforward ways to prevent the problem and minimise damage.

  1. Carrot fly is the biggest threat to carrots, and it’s much easier to prevent an infestation than to try and eradicate one. Carrot fly larvae develop underground tunnelling into carrot roots, causing them to rot. Make sure you keep you carrots well-spaced, and avoid crushing their leaves, as mentioned before. Cover your growing plants with a horticultural fleece, or surround your crop with a plastic barrier to keep out low-flying female carrot fly.
  2. Aphids are the other main pest when it comes to carrots. Aphids suck the sap out of any host plants, and leave a sticky residue behind. This results in limp foliage, and encourages sooty black mould to grow, slowly killing your crops. Small numbers of aphids can be manually pulled off (and squashed), and larger numbers can be controlled by encouraging predator insects into your garden, or using other forms of biological control. Read more tips for getting rid of aphids.

rows of leafy carrot tips poking out of vegetable patch soil

Learning how to grow carrots is a great way to start your own kitchen garden, and familiarise yourself with the cultivation process. Thanks to their versatility, carrots are a fairly low-stakes crop to grow as you figure out what quantity of home-grown food your household needs, and how to manage ongoing batches of plants. They’re also easy to foist onto friends and neighbours if you overdo it!

Good luck, and happy growing!


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How to Grow Cucumbers in Your Garden

Once you’ve tasted a home-grown cucumber, there’s no going back. These sun-loving crops can be a little tricky to grow outdoors, but will thrive in warm temperatures and greenhouse conditions. When you’ve got the hang of how to grow cucumbers, you’ll be glad to have your own crop of these crunchy delights to add freshness and juiciness to a whole host of recipes.

a glass dish filled with slices of fresh cucumber

Growing cucumbers: Where to begin?

Cucumbers can be grown from seeds or, for a slightly better chance of success, from young plants bought at garden centre nurseries. Cucumbers are generally a warm-weather crop, so growing them in a greenhouse is recommended, although we will also cover how to grow cucumbers outdoors in the UK too.

Cucumber varieties grow in one of two ways: vine cucumbers, which have long tendrils that will creep across the ground (unless you train them to grow up a trellis), and bush cucumbers, which will take up less space. It’s also worth noting that cucumbers are typically grown as either ‘slicing’ cucumbers (the kind you’d use in a salad), or ‘pickling’ types that, as the name suggests, generally taste better once they’ve been pickled.

Plant in: March, April, May, June

Move outdoors in: May, June

Harvest in: July, August, September, October

Sowing cucumbers

a potting tray with lots of tiny, healthy cucumber seedlings growing in individual sections

Cucumbers grow best in a medium-weight soil, with plenty of compost or well-rotted manure mixed in. With artificial heat, you can plant your cucumbers from mid-March, but if you can only grow them outdoors, it’s better to wait until May or June.

Even if you’re looking for how to grow cucumbers outdoors, it’s a good idea to start your cucumbers off in potting trays for about 4 weeks, so you can keep them at a consistent temperature for them to germinate. You can also grow 2-3 seeds in a larger (15cm) pot.

Your seeds should be planted ‘sideways’, roughly 1-2cm deep into the soil. Keep your seed trays at 21°C, whether that’s on a sunny kitchen windowsill (with a glass or plastic cover), under a grow-lamp or inside a heated greenhouse.

Your seedlings will be ready to move again (either to a larger pot or outdoors) once they’re about 8cm tall. Move them to a sunny and sheltered position, and space each seedling about 30cm apart. Add a layer of mulch or rich compost to the top of the soil to help them retain moisture.

How to grow cucumbers in a greenhouse

a raised greenhouse planter with flowering cucumber plants growing inside a greenhouse

Growing cucumbers in a greenhouse is an ideal way to control the temperature and protect fragile cucumbers from cold snaps and bad weather. Your young cucumbers will suffer if the temperature drops below 12-15°C, so don’t move any to an unheated greenhouse until at least late May.

When your seedlings are ready for more growing room, plant them individually into 23cm pots, filled with a nutrient-rich compost. You can also grow them in raised greenhouse beds, keeping each plant about 30cm apart. As they grow, you’ll want to train vine cucumbers up a bamboo pole or frame – gently tie longer shoots to the pole with string to get them started.

As your plants start to reach the top of your greenhouse, it’s time to start pruning them back. Pinch off the tip of the main stem to stop the plant getting taller, and to encourage growth elsewhere. Where you see female flowers (the ones with small fruit behind them), move two leaves closer to the end of the vine, and pinch off the tips – again, to focus plant growth on the fruit. Finally, any vines without flowers can also be pinched off when they grow beyond 60cm.

Water your cucumbers little and often, keeping their soil moist but not waterlogged. If you can, raise the humidity when it starts to get warm (watering a warm greenhouse floor is one trick to doing this). Every two weeks, mix in some liquid fertiliser to keep your crops topped up with balanced nutrients.

How to grow cucumbers outdoors

how to grow cucumbers outdoors, a person transplanting cucumber seedlings to garden soil

If you can’t start your cucumbers off indoors, wait until May or June to plant your seeds outside, and cover them with a cloche, fleece, or clear plastic cover to help them retain heat. Planting your cucumbers in beds is the best way to give them enough room to grow (although, just like in a greenhouse, you can train them up a trellis). 

Find an area with maximum sunshine and shelter, and prepare the soil by adding a 7cm layer of compost to the surface, and mixing it at least 30cm deep. Then, sow and grow as you would indoors, planting seeds every 30cm, encouraging them up a trellis (if you want to), and pinching the ends to focus growth in the centre of your cucumber plants.

Make sure to keep your plants watered, especially when your cucumbers begin to flower and then fruit. Don’t water the flowers though – just the base of the plant. Wet flowers can become rotten and upset the whole plant and its yield.

Harvesting cucumbers

growing cucumbers climbing up a metal trellis for support

With the right conditions and care, your cucumber plants should start to mature from about 50 days of growth. If you’re growing a pickling variety, they’ll be ready to pick when they’re between 5-10cm long, and slicing cucumbers are ready once they reach 15-20cm long.

To harvest, either break individual cucumbers off with your hands, or use sharp garden scissors to cut them from the vine. Like many other vegetables, your cucumber plant will continue to produce more cucumbers as you pick them off, so the more frequently you harvest, the more cucumbers you will ultimately grow.

Common problems when growing cucumbers

a close-up of whitefly on a cucumber leaf, a common pest for cucumber plants

Compared to some of the other vegetables we’ve talked about (like tomatoes and green beans), learning how to grow cucumbers can be a bit tricky. One way to ensure you have a successful harvest is to keep an eye out for some of the more common problems with cucumbers.

  1. Cucumber mosaic virus is probably the best-known challenge of growing cucumbers, and causes a distinctive patterning on leaves (which gives it its name). You’ll also notice stunted, deformed vine growth and that your plant struggling to flower. Any fruit that appears will also be stunted, with pitted skin and a hard, inedible texture. Cucumber mosaic virus is spread by aphids, so take precautions that minimise pest insects and be careful to destroy infected plants.
  2. Whitefly is another pest-based problem, where little white flies (again, the clue is in the name) suck the sap from your cucumber plants. This will weaken the vines, and also leave a sticky residue on your plants that in turn causes a sooty mould to grow. Take steps to limit bugs near your cucumbers, like growing them under a mesh outdoors or using sticky traps in your greenhouse.
  3. Powdery mildew is a dusty white mould that will grow across the leaves of your cucumber plant, slowly causing them to shrivel. When the problem is extensive, the overall health of your plant will be affected. If you notice the signs of powdery mildew, make sure you’re keeping the soil around the base of your cucumber plants moist and are allowing cool air to circulate around your plant too.

Learning how to grow cucumbers can be a steeper learning curve than growing herbs or tomatoes, but they’re a really rewarding crop if you can provide the right conditions. Brimming with vitamins and minerals, they’re not only amazing in salads and dips (I’m looking at you, tzatziki), they’re great for garnishing cocktails and even using in home-made beauty treatments.

Don’t forget to check out our other growing guides, helping you to get started with herbs, shade veggies, potatoes, tomatoes and all kinds of other delicious foods. Happy growing!


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How to Grow Green Beans in Your Garden 

Green beans, also known as string beans or French beans, are super easy to grow in the UK. Learn how to grow green beans in your own garden, and within just a few weeks you’ll be enjoying your harvest in salads, stir-frys and as a side to delicious hearty meals. Let’s look at what green beans will need to thrive in your garden.

Growing green beans: Where to begin?

Along with providing nutrient-rich soil, the most important thing to remember when learning how to grow green beans is that they really don’t handle the cold. Make sure to keep them safe from frost, and don’t start planting them until the temperatures have started to climb for spring.

Plant in: April, May, June, July

Move outdoors in: June, July

Harvest in: July, August, September

Sowing green beans

a small green bean seedling growing out of a potting tray

Like many other crops, there are two growing varieties of green beans; dwarf (or bush) beans, and climbing (or pole) green beans. Dwarf types grow quickly but will only sprout beans for a few weeks, while climbing beans are a little slower but provide yields through to September.

Both varieties need lots of sunshine and very fertile soil that drains well. When you’re preparing soil, mix in rich compost and well-rotted manure to slowly release nutrients into the soil and create drainage throughout your vegetable patch or pots. You can learn how to generally improve your garden soil condition for better crops all-round.

You can start growing green beans indoors around the start of May, by planting single beans in individual pots. Gently push them about 5cm into the soil, position them on a sunny windowsill and cover them with a clear plastic propagator lid so they can retain plenty of heat. Water them regularly.

Hardening off green beans

green beans and other vegetables in containers outside, next to a cold-frame unit

When you’ve grown seedlings indoors, they will need to be hardened off before they can stay completely outside – and green beans are no exception! Green beans are ready to start being hardened off when they’re about 8cm tall.

You can harden green beans off by moving them outside for a few hours each day, gradually increasing the duration from a couple of hours, to all day, to overnight over about 2 weeks. This will help them acclimatise to the wind, colder temperatures and increased moisture loss. After two weeks (and, again, once you’re sure there won’t be another frost), you can plant them into the soil or move the pots outside permanently.

Planting green beans outdoors

Green beans can generally tolerate being planted outdoors from late spring – towards the end of May. If the temperatures are still low at night, give your seedlings a cloche cover to keep warm, or place pots in a greenhouse or cold-frame.

Sow your green beans in a sunny spot, and use a garden fork to mix in lots of garden compost to prepare the soil. 

Growing green beans

learn how to grow green beans up a trellis or bamboo wigwam for the best crop yield

Dwarf green beans beans, or bush green beans, reach about 45cm in height. Best practice is to grow them in close clusters (about 15cm apart), so that they can use each other for support. Keep dwarf green beans well-watered, and don’t let the soil dry out. Additional compost or a layer of mulch will help with water retention.

Climbing green beans will need a physical support as they grow. There are a few ways you can provide this with bamboo canes, but the two most common are creating double rows of canes, or building tripods or wigwams.

For double rows, buy 1.8m/6ft bamboo canes and push them into the ground at 15cm intervals, with about 45cm between the two rows. Angle them inwards at the top, connect your rows with a horizontal cane, and tie them together with twine.

Tripods can be more space-efficient in certain setups, and are better for container gardening. Using the same length bamboo canes (1.8m/6ft), space 3-5 in a ring about 15cm away from each other and tie at the top. This video about making wigwams for vegetables shows you the steps.

For both formations, plant one beanstalk at the base of each bamboo cane – you might need to gently tie the shoots to the poles to help them initially cling.

Harvesting green beans

a close up of green bean vegetables in a container garden, ripe and ready to harvest

Green bean pods are ready to harvest when they’re about 10cm long, before the beans are visible through the skin of the pod. One way to test their ripeness is whether they snap in half easily.

If you pick of fresh green beans as soon as they’re ready, both bush and climbing green bean varieties will continue produce more beans for several weeks (and even longer for climbing green beans).

Common problems when growing green beans

raised flower beds for growing vegetables in containers, with a trellis and pots nearby

Learning how to grow green beans comes with recognising the signs of problems with your crops. More accurately, you’ll need to know how to deal with the garden pests that are attracted to green bean seedlings and fruits, as these will be the root of most of your challenges!

  1. Slugs (and sometimes snails) are going to want to feast on your seedlings when you first plant them into the soil, destroying the tips and stunting growth. Planting them indoors and moving them outside once they’re tall enough is a good way to limit damage. Read our tips for keeping slugs and snails out of your garden for advice about dealing with them.
  2. Aphids can also affect green beans, but they’re usually more attracted to other crops, so shouldn’t pose too much of a problem. If you do notice aphids, you can pinch off host stems or leaves, or squish individual bugs when you spot them.
  3. Birds can sometimes cause a problem when you’re growing green beans, especially pigeons. The best way to stop birds from getting at your green beans is to cover them with a mesh.

Now you know how to grow green beans, don’t forget to check out our other posts on growing crops in your garden. There’s nothing more satisfying than cultivating enough veggies to keep your table stocked throughout the year – so get planting!


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Common Garden Insects in the UK: Good and Bad Bugs

Maintaining a healthy garden is all about finding balance between human control and nature. A huge part of this is knowing which organisms (particularly insects) are beneficial to your plants, and which are harmful – basically, which are good and bad bugs for your garden.

Your crops, flowers, hedges and trees – even your lawn, if you have one – all play a part in your garden ecosystem. They interconnect with the insects you attract which, in turn, affect the larger critters you might find (like birds and hedgehogs). Trying to keep your garden too tidy, or using harsh chemicals to keep it in check can have a long-term negative impact on your plant health and overall enjoyment.

Let’s take a look at some common garden insects here in the UK and how your garden maintenance can interact with them. And also, how to balance the good and bad bugs in your little slice of nature.

Which insects are good for your garden?

Okay, so it’s obviously not quite as simple as labelling insects as being good or bad bugs. Depending on what you’re growing and who is enjoying your garden (children, pets etc), you’ll want to weigh up these generalisations a little more carefully. However, the minibeasts in this section are generally considered to be a positive influence on your garden balance.

1. Bumblebees

a bumblebee enjoying lavender flowers

Of course, these fuzzy little guys are going to be at the top of the list. Pollinators are great  for boosting plant production – whether that’s for flowers or crops – and pollinating is what bees do best!

There are over 250 bee species in the UK, and 24 of them are types of bumblebees. You can usually pick these out of a line up thanks to their aforementioned fluff, and also because they seem to be endearingly bad at flying in a straight line.

Bumblebees are typically ‘social’ bees, meaning they live together in colonies. However, the majority of bees in the UK are solitary bees, and appreciate an insect hotel to stay in. You can also welcome bees by planting lots of high-pollen flowers in summer.

2. Ladybirds

A ladybird insect on white cow parsley

Ladybirds are another insect that deserves its good reputation. Not only are the wonderful characters in storybooks and spectacularly dressed, ladybirds prey on aphids and other irritating bugs.

Although they look unique, there are actually over 40 species of this bug, which are actually just a type of beetle. You can, of course, identify them thanks to their bright wing cases (ranging from yellow to orange to red in colour) with dark, round spots. Although, about 20 varieties of ladybird don’t have this distinctive shell.

Why are ladybirds so great? They love to munch on aphids (my personal arch nemesis) and scale insects, limiting their populations. Some varieties of ladybird feed on the mildew fungus, helping you out in other ways. The UK Ladybird Survey has more info on these delightful critters.

3. Hoverflies

a tiny hoverfly on a large flower with a yellow centre and white petals

Next up: Hoverflies. These guys wear the same black and yellow stripes that we associate with bees or wasps, so they can seem like bad news to the untrained eye. However, hoverflies are much smaller than the typical wasp, don’t make that distinctive “buzz”, and fly in a totally pattern – so double-check before swatting! When you know what you’re looking at, hoverflies are actually pretty fun to watch as they dart around.

Adult hoverflies live off of nectar, and are great pollinators. The reason hoverflies are on this list of good and bad bugs? Their larvae have an absolutely unstoppable appetite for aphids, thrips and caterpillars – all incredibly common garden pests. So the more the merrier!

Invite hoverflies into your garden by growing large, open flowers, like calendulas, Michaelmas daisies and dahlias. As hoverflies don’t have long tongues (like bees or butterflies), they look for nectar in flatter flowers, rather than deeper ones.

4. Dragonflies

close up of a bright blue dragonfly perched on some grass

Dragonflies are beautiful, but they’re good for more than just scenery. They’re predatory insects, and feed on lots of the flying pests that might plague your garden, like mosquitos and gnats. You can use plants that repel mosquitoes, or set up a small, shallow pond to attract dragonflies.

If you see dragonflies in your garden, it’s a good sign. The presence of dragonflies is usually an indicator of a healthy natural environment, and clean, unpolluted water nearby. Read our tips to attract more dragonflies to your garden.

5. Earwigs

earwigs are both good and bad bugs for your garden

Earwigs are far from my favourite creature, but it turns out they’re pretty good for your garden. They typically live in dark, damp places, like compost heaps, which is probably why they give me the heebie jeebies!

The GOOD thing about earwigs is that their diet includes smaller insects that can destroy your plants, like aphids (among other things). So, if your earwig numbers are relatively low, leave them to hoover up other garden annoyances.

6. Butterflies

a tortoiseshell butterfly with open wings resting on a buddleja flower

Butterflies are excellent pollinators, and a delight to watch fluttering around your flowers. Plus, they’re an important part of the food chain, attracting predators like birds and even bats.

It’s worth remembering that caterpillars can be a pest in high numbers, chomping through the leaves of just about anything. However, one or two won’t pose much of a threat to your shrubs and veggies.

There are all kinds of plants you can grow to attract butterflies, like buddleja, lavender and jasmine. Basically, any varieties that are rich in nectar.

Which bugs are the biggest garden pests?

Again, categorically deciding what are good and bad bugs doesn’t really work. The most irritating pests will depend on where you live and what plants you’re trying to grow. Of course, there are some common offenders – here are my top five.

1. Earwigs

a stumpery made from decaying tree logs

Yes, I know these guys appeared on the “good bugs” list too. While they’re great for controlling an aphid population, earwigs can be a bit of a nightmare if you’re growing clematis, chrysanthemum or dahlia. As I mentioned before, you’ll find earwigs clustered in dark, damp crevices – which is why you’re looking at a picture of a stumpery, instead of another picture of one of my least-favourite critters!

Anyway, earwigs are a prime example of how to keep balance in your garden; in the grand scheme of things, it might be worth keeping some around. If they’re becoming a problem, use earwig traps.

2. Aphids

a cluster of aphids eating a leaf

For me, aphids are hands-down the most annoying pest. I’ll never forget the year I babysat a friend’s tomato plant that I eventually discovered was carrying aphids. I realised because they migrated to all three of my beloved chilli plants, which just couldn’t handle the attack. No matter how many times I washed the aphids away, they always came back – and in greater numbers.

What’s wrong with aphids? They slurp up the sap from your plants, stealing the precious fluids and nutrients that help them grow. As a result, you’ll see limp leaves, shrivelled stems and stunted growth.

As they’re only a couple of millimetres long, you might not spot a lone aphid. However, they tend to appear in groups, and will cluster around the yummiest parts of your plants – new stems or buds. There are a few varieties of aphid, so they could be green, white, brown, red or black.

What is the best way to get rid of aphids? As soon as you notice them, the best thing to do is spray your plant with water or – even better – water with a little bit of dish soap mixed in. You can also use diatomaceous earth to dry them out without harming your plants. Repeat this process a few times to catch newly-hatched aphids.

3. Vine weevils

a little black vine weevil sitting on a leaf with the edges chewed

Vine weevils are a kind of beetle that are down to chomp on just about anything. Adult vine weevils will go for plant leaves, while their grubs at the base of the plant make short work of roots. Container plants are particularly vulnerable, especially on 

Weevils are roughly 9mm long and are black, sometimes with dusty yellow markings. Look for notches chomped out the edges of plant leaves. The grubs are about a centimetre long and are completely white except for a brown spot at the tip, and will hang around among the plant roots.

Keep vine weevils under control by encouraging birds. Check your plants with a torch at night to find and pick-off adult bugs.

4. Slugs and snails

a brown snail on the edge of a plant pot

As a kid I used to love snails – they’re so weird! Even now, if I see one crawling across a path on a rainy day, I will occasionally pick it up and move it to the side (but I’m a lover, not a fighter, what can I say). However, it took me exactly one visit to my step-mum’s glorious allotment to completely understand why veggie growers might abhor these slimy so-and-sos.

What’s the problem with snails? They will devour the leaves, stems and flowers of anything they find delicious – mostly seedlings and veggies, but also some ornamental flowers too. Snails and slugs usually come out at night, leaving silvery trails of slime wherever they’ve been… but chances are, you’ll notice the massive holes in your plants first.

Slugs and snails are simply too widespread to ever hope you can get rid of them. Instead, work on redirecting them and, at the same time, protecting your most prized plants. Use beer traps or fruit traps to tempt them, and surround anything vulnerable with a gritty mulch. Finally, encourage predators like hedgehogs, frogs and toads into your garden. More tips to keep snails out of your garden.

5. Caterpillars

several caterpillars on the underside of a cabbage leaf, eating holes

Caterpillars are another grub that I find amazing. As garden pests go, they’re actually kind of… cute? Or, at least, they’re cute when you have one or two – caterpillar colonies can quickly strip the leaves off the bushiest plant, leaving it totally destroyed. Plus, they’re not picky eaters, so nothing is safe.

Butterflies are great, so the best way to deal with caterpillars is to pick them off manually and relocate them.

So, the key thing to remember is that all creatures contribute to the balance of your garden in their own way. A diverse garden is a healthy garden!


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The Best Garden Ideas for Wildlife in the UK

Having a garden is like having your own little slice of nature. Personally, I don’t think there’s anything more rewarding than spotting some wild critter frolicking around in your outdoor space – watching wildlife is better than TV! If you’re inclined to agree, hopefully you’ll enjoy some of the simple garden ideas for wildlife I’ll be looking at today.

When you’re trying to attract more birds, bugs and beasts to your garden, the main thing is to give them plenty of places to hide and forage. In this post, you’ll get some garden ideas for wildlife shelters, feeding set ups and other features that can draw them in.

What animals can you see in the UK?

a plump grey squirrel sits atop a grey garden fence

The local wildlife will vary depending on where you live. At the moment, in Brighton, I’m most likely to see squirrels and seagulls (which are universally hated across the city). However, I’m lucky to also overlook a quiet green space that is home to fox cubs each spring. Generally, animals living in built-up areas will have much more limited travel between spaces. Even if you know there are urban foxes and grey squirrels in your city, attracting them will always be hard.

At the other end of the scale, my dad is often sending me pictures of deer, pheasants, badgers, wild rabbits, partridges, canada geese and any number of smaller bird types, all from his rural kitchen window. Where there is lots of open, undisturbed space, you’ll have a much better chance of spotting unusual native animals.

Basically, keep your expectations about the kinds of wildlife that might visit your home low, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised, rather than disappointed. If you’re trying to manage kids’ expectations, try talking to your neighbours about the creatures they’ve spotted to get a better idea. Don’t forget you can also help the National Biodiversity Network monitor national species by contributing to their wildlife watchlist.

How to get more birds in your garden

Birds are the most likely critters to travel between gardens, so if you start enticing them to yours, they’ll probably come. Feeding birds, and giving them somewhere comfortable to nest, is hugely beneficial to your local bird populations. Learn how to attract more birds to your garden.

Hedges and trees are natural nesting spots for birds, but you can add birdhouses to encourage more (especially if you’re concerned about predators climbing into the trees).

Make sure you’re providing lots of different food sources in various kinds of feeders. Fat balls are fun, plastic domes can keep squirrels out, and bird feeder tables accommodate larger feathered friends.

When you start adding more garden ideas for wildlife, it’s a good idea to track the animals that are visiting your garden already – especially birds. That way, you can check in every now and then to see how much progress you’re making with new varieties visiting each season.

Welcoming ground-critters

garden ideas for wildlife can encourage foxes

It’s a bit harder to attract mammals to your garden, as they usually have quite specific habitat requirements that can be hard to replicate in a garden environment – but don’t let that stop you from trying!

One of the best garden ideas for wildlife you can try is to minimise the amount of bare, open space – like short lawns and empty paving. If you have lots of connected flower beds and planters, animals will be more comfortable snooping around.

a crowded, cottage style flower bed

You should also try and grow a range of plants that flower and bloom throughout the year. Not only will this provide consistent coverage for shy critters, but it also gives pollinating insects a great time – more on that later!

Lastly, be prepared to do less garden pruning. Most creatures don’t like being disturbed, so leave your hedges to grow until winter, and hold back on the lawn-mowing. If you really can’t bear to have an untidy garden, how about leaving one section to grow a wild meadow, while keeping the rest short?

Ways to help hedgehogs

An animal that really needs our help right now is the hedgehog. Their numbers have been seriously declining in the UK, not helped by urban developments steadily destroying a hedgehog’s natural habitat. Adding specific wildlife friendly garden ideas aimed at hedgehogs can make a big difference!

There are a few ways to help hedgehogs. First, cut a hole in each fence at the edge of your garden to create a “hedgehog highway”. Ask your neighbours if they’ll get involved – the more linked gardens the better! These cute critters travel about 2km every night, so access is important! Next, build them a home where they can make a nest to hibernate and look after their babies. The wildlife trusts have this useful guide to making a simple hedgehog house.

Inviting insect environments

a large insect hotel with various compartments and a green roof

Image by Sabine Fenner

Insects often go underappreciated in gardens – everyone wants to see fat little squirrels and sparrows, but few people are keen for anything that creeps or crawls. In reality, a diverse collection of minibeasts is a free, natural way to keep your garden looking happy and healthy.

Let nature take the wheel, and you’ll gradually find that plant-friendly bugs help reduce more pesky plant eaters, and also attract more birds and mammals looking for a snack. So, what bug-friendly garden ideas can you install?

Build a bug hotel

Insect hotels are boxes that are designed to provide food and shelter for insects, like caterpillars, solitary bees and woodlice. You can buy them in lots of different, whimsical styles, or make your own as a fun, eco-friendly garden project.

Natural insect habitats

a stumpery made from decaying tree logs

A simple pile of logs, or a layer of sticks and leaves beneath a hedge, can create a home for lots of insect species. You could also create a “stumpery” by embedding logs vertically in the soil of a shady flower bed. Add foliage like moss, ivy or clumps of earth to create humidity, and try not to disturb it too much while gardening.

Creating a butterfly-friendly garden

a butterfly with open wings sitting on a buddleia flower

If you have visions of creating a fairy-tale paradise with endless butterflies, there are a few ways to specifically encourage them. Those with cottage style gardens will likely have the most success, and butterflies tend to prefer patches that are warm and sheltered. Read more tips for attracting butterflies.

Focus on growing flowers with lots of nectar, like buddleia, verbena and hebe (which bees also love). Pink sedum is another good one – look out for this if you’re planning a green roof. Pinch off dead blooms as soon as you see them to encourage more flowering, and make sure your plants are well-watered and fertilised with mulch.

garden ideas for wildlife like planting verbena, a favourite of butterflies

If you’re really keen, combine nectar-rich plants with varieties that provide food and shelter for caterpillars. For example, holly blue butterflies lay their eggs on holly and ivy, and their caterpillars eat the ivy flowers. A wildflower meadow is good for gatekeeper butterflies and Essex skippers, while a nettle patch will attract peacock and red admiral varieties.

For the best chance of seeing these beautiful insects, position rocks in sunny areas where they will often sit and open their wings. You can also create a butterfly feeder to supplement your flowers.

Become a bee buddy

Bees – honeybees, bumblebees and solitary bees – are essential pollinators that depend on our gardens for shelter and sustenance. Having at least two bee-friendly plants flowering at any given time is a great way to help out bee populations, especially as different bee species are active in different seasons. 

a bumblebee enjoying lavender flowers

Some of the best plants for bees include: bellflowers (campanula), bluebells, crocus, dandelions, dicentra (bleeding hearts), buddleia, hollyhocks, honeysuckle, ivy, lavender, nasturtiums, sweet peas, poppies. Even if you have a small garden, many of these flowers will grow in planters or hanging baskets. Check out Beekind for more pollinator-promoting plant advice.

Pass on the pesticides

Pesticides and chemicals will harm bugs and impact the delicate natural ecosystem of your flower beds. Instead of relying on them, grow a wide variety of companion plants that will work harmoniously to keep pests at bay. For example, greenfly hate marigolds and tomatoes, while garlic will keep aphids away.

Wildlife friendly garden design

What other ways are there to generally make your garden a more enticing environment for British wildlife? The main thing I would recommend is to consider all of the garden features you want for your family, and then think about creative ways to make them more creature-friendly.

You might want a lawn, for instance, but instead of a homogeneous patch of turf, let clover and trefoil grow through to encourage bees and hoverflies. Instead of manicured borders, set aside a “wild” patch that gets a bit thicker with self-seeders and undergrowth for birds and hedgehogs to forage.

Cottage gardens

a stone path between two bushy cottage garden flower beds

Cottage gardens have a wild and unruly vibe, and are packed full of flowers and grasses that are ideal for just about every kind of garden critter there is. If you’ve ever fancied adding some cottage garden ideas, now is the perfect time!

Grow a garden glade

In summer, British woodlands come alive with bluebells, foxgloves and snowdrops, sheltering beneath the trees. You can recreate this to a certain extent with careful planting, and waiting until the end of summer to mow and re-fertilise.

Dig a pond

a koi pond in a Japanese style garden

Ponds are great for biodiversity, and they’re a really pleasant garden feature. Shallow or deep, natural-looking or modern – frogs, dragonflies and newts will care to a greater or lesser extent, so create your pond and see what happens


Composting is an environmentally-conscious way to reduce your household waste and create fertiliser for your garden. An open compost heap provides a home for hibernating animals, and food for all kinds of insects. Just be cautious about disturbing the heap if there could be animals inside! Read more about composting.

Growing a meadow

garden ideas for wildlife include planting lots of high-pollen native flowers

As we’ve mentioned a couple of times already, growing a miniature meadow is great for biodiversity, and they’re also pretty (and low-maintenance) garden features. Look for a flower mix packed with self-seeders, and once your meadow is established it will come back year after year.

Bet on hedges

Again, we’ve mentioned hedges a couple of times already, but they really are one of the top garden ideas for wildlife. Using hedges in place of borders or fences creates food and shelter that can be used for so many species, from tiny bugs to nesting birds. Hedges also let animals pass through your gardens, while providing greenery and privacy for your home.

Why choose a wildlife-friendly garden?

Okay, so just off the top of my head, here are a few reasons why planning garden ideas for wildlife food and habitats can be a win-win.

  1. Your garden will be healthier. Yes, I know I’ve said this so many times already, but once you start seeing the difference, you’ll appreciate it. Hedgehogs eat slugs. Earthworms eat fallen leaves. Foxes eat daddy-long-legs and their larvae. Yep, you might see more scurrying insects, but the good will outweigh the bad.
  2. You’ll witness some of the more spectacular insects, birds and animals the UK has to offer. Look, I’m not knocking sparrows or pigeons… but would you turn down the chance to watch finches, bats or even pheasants, if you could?
  3. Kids will understand and appreciate nature from a young age. I have a vivid memory, from when I was about nine, of being at my dad’s house and tiptoeing downstairs in the wee hours to watch a mother rabbit and her babies nibble at the daffodils in the front garden. It was a magical experience, and taught me about how good being kind to nature can feel.
  4. It’s just nice knowing that you’re not the only one appreciating your garden! If you’re someone that takes pride in their garden (and if you’re on this blog, I’m guessing you are), then it’s really rewarding to see how other creatures enjoy being in your space.

Build slowly, be patient.

Even if you could grow an authentic patch of nature overnight, it would still take time for new animals to find it. It really takes time for most of these garden ideas for wildlife to become established, so plan carefully, build slowly, and watch with patience.

Once your new features start looking like a natural part of your garden, it’s time to pay closer attention to who’s visiting. The best times to take a peek outside will be in the evenings or early mornings, especially in spring.

We have an incredible range of common species across the UK, and encouraging insects, birds and animals into your garden is an easy way to learn more about them. Watching wildlife and appreciating nature is amazing for children, and enjoyable for just about anyone, of any age. Check out for more useful resources, and happy nature watching!


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18 Ground Cover Plants for Suppressing Weeds in UK Gardens

Are you totally over seeing bare dirt in your flower beds? Ground cover plants are what you need – shrubs or perennials that spread to create a lush, green carpet over the soil. The best ground cover plants are hardy, spread quickly, provide dense cover and limit weed growth.

Before you invest in this kind of foliage, check that the plants you choose are going to thrive in the temperate British climate. You’ll also have to do some initial weed control and plenty of watering through the first couple of seasons while they become established.

What Are the Best Ground Cover Plants?

If you’re ready to add some extra greenery to your garden, here are the best ground cover plants for UK gardens.

a flower bed or yellow orange and red nasturtiums

1. Garden nasturtiums

Although it’s native to South America, Nasturtiums took off in the UK thanks to their stunning colours, edible properties and just how easy they are to grow.

Even better, they act as natural pest control, keeping caterpillars and aphids away from more valuable flowers and crops, and they attract pollinators.

Plant them in kitchen gardens or among insect hotels and leave the chemical pesticides on the shelf.

2. Asarabacca

Asarabacca, sometimes called foalfoot, offers dense, evergreen foliage, with small, rounded leaves that have a rich green colour, sometimes with creamy veins and silver mottling.

In late spring, you might notice purple bell-shaped flowers blooming, although they’re typically hidden beneath the leaves.

Asarabacca is perfect for creating a glade-like effect in wildlife gardens – it’s known to attract butterflies, too.

a cluster of pretty blue periwinkle flowers for flower bed ground cover

3. Periwinkle

Periwinkle is a fast-growing evergreen that becomes established very quickly. It’s perfect for awkward, difficult-to-fill spots, and is a cost-effective way to get thick coverage, fast.

The drawback is that, for the exact same reasons, periwinkle can be difficult to get rid of if you ever change your gardening scheme.

a rockery garden with a red sedum plant

4. Sedum

This succulent-type plant is super easy to care for, with its fleshy leaves retaining water that can keep it hydrated in drier months.

It keeps close to the ground, but the fantastic yellows, pinks and browns of sedum adds show-stopping contrast to any flower bed.

In the UK, sedum will need to be in a full-sun position, which is why it’s not only among the best ground cover plants, it’s also fantastic for living roof cover.

best ground cover plants for texture include grasses like ribbon grass, also known as Phalaris arundinacea var. ‘Feesey’ or reed canary grass

5. Ribbon grass

Ribbon grass, sometimes called ‘Feesey’, is a variety of Phalaris arundinacea, or reed canary grass, which grows in tall, perennial clumps.

It’s incredibly common in the UK, often growing around lakes and streams, but also flourishing in poor-quality soil like brownfield sites.

Ribbon grass is great for adding visual variety to a garden, especially with its pink-tinged leaves, but it can grow invasively, so plant with caution.

pink trailing petunias cascading over each other

6. Petunia (trailing varieties)

Trailing petunias, like the “Charlie’s Angels Champagne” variety, give excellent ground cover alongside fantastic, trumpet-shaped flowers in stunning shades of purple in summer and autumn. them in a spot that’s sunny but sheltered from the wind, and keep their soil moist. Petunias are also a favourite for hanging basket displays.

a large Himalayan juniper, a good ground cover plant for bushy texture

7. Himalayan juniper

We’re used to seeing juniper in its classic shade of green, but this variety has an icy-blue tinge, earning it the nickname ‘blue carpet’.

A juniper shrub really won’t need much maintenance at all, and provides dense coverage roughly 1-2m across.

8. Lavender

Most people are familiar with lavender, and it really is such a versatile plant!

Its silvery-green leaves and stems grow in thick clumps, blooming with fragranced purple flowers that come back each year.

Lavender looks wonderful outside traditional homes and formal, French-style gardens, but also works well in more modern, low-maintenance spaces.

best ground cover plants include Irish moss, which has delicate white flowers

9. Irish moss

Despite its name, Irish moss is actually part of the carnation family, but it grows in bushy carpets that are perfect for Japanese-inspired rock gardens and creeping between the paving stones of grass-free spaces.

In spring, it blooms with delicate white flowers that look stunning at the edge of a path or flower bed.

a cluster of cranesbill, also known as Johnson's Blue geraniums

10. Cranesbill

Johnson’s Blue geraniums are especially hardy, and will grow both upwards and outwards to fill a space.

The small flowers and leaves are perfect for adding texture and busyness between statement plants like shrubs and roses. Look for varieties in pink or purple as well as blue.

a close up of camomile flowers, which have big yellow centres and little white petals

11. Camomile

The cheerful, daisy-like flowers of chamomile make any garden feel more welcoming. It’s incredibly low-maintenance too, and is a great candidate for grass-lawn alternatives. It fares well in sandy soil too, so it’s perfect for beach-themed gardens if you’re by the sea.

a tall, spiky clump of grass in an interesting dark green, blue-black colour

12. Mondo grass

Although it’s more common in the US, Mondo grass makes for fantastic ground cover if you can get hold of some in the UK. It comes in several varieties, including variegated leaves and glossy green-black. Plant it alongside other grasses, in borders, or even in clusters of planters.

18 Ground Cover Plants for Suppressing Weeds in UK Gardens 6

13. Wickwar flame/Scots heather

Wickwar flame, or Caluna vulgaris, is one of those plants that looks striking in every season. It bursts into yellow foliage in summer, which slowly turns into oranges and reds and winter approaches, interrupted briefly by tiny pink flowers in autumn.

Although heathers are usually associated with coarse highland landscapes, the spicy shades of Wickwar flame are perfect for making a garden look more tropical and exotic, like a tiki-style garden in the UK.

Francee hostas, which have large leaves with white edges, overlapping each other

14. ‘Francee’ hostas

Hostas are known for being highly effective ground covers, and come in countless varieties. ‘Francee’ has white-edged leaves that cascade over each other for some stunning flower bed action. Plus, it’s one of the more readily available hosta varieties.

a thick patch of sweet alyssum, which has lots of tiny delicate flowers in pink and purple

15. Sweet Alyssum

Sweet alyssum is one of my favourite ground cover plants, growing in dense clouds of tiny white and purple flowers that give off a honey-like perfume.

What you lose from sweet alyssum being an annual, you more than recoup from its hardiness and tolerance for heat and drought. Frost will kill it off but, as a self-sower, you can reasonably expect it to return each year.

groundcover roses grow in shrubs close to the ground

16. Groundcover roses

No garden is truly complete without roses, and there is always a variety to suit what you’re looking for.

For example, groundcover roses which extend outwards, rather than upwards, providing you with a stunning blanket of blooms. Although these varieties typically have very little fragrance, their pretty blends of white, pink, red and yellow make petals up for it.

a close up of Lily of the Valley, which has white bell-shaped flowers hanging off a tall green stem

17. Lily of the Valley

Considering how delicate its picture-perfect bells appear, Lily of the Valley is as hardy as any of the other plants on this list.

Like the best ground cover plants are prone to do, Lily of the Valley can spread quickly, so make use of confined spaces and sturdy garden edging to minimise your maintenance.

Also be aware that Lily of the Valley is toxic to cats and dogs, so avoid it if you’re looking for dog-friendly garden ideas.

blue bugleweed flowers reaching upwards out of a flower bed

18. Bugleweed

Sometimes known as ‘carpet’ bugleweed, you know you’re on the right track when floor coverage is in the name.

Bugleweed (Ajuga reptans) has green-brown foliage that will add depth and dimension to your flower beds, while at the same time making it difficult for weeds to creep through.

In summer, tiny towers of purple or white flowers appear, giving you a stunning layer of chocolatey, coppery and violet tones.

Choosing the Best Ground Cover Plants for Your Garden

All of these ground cover plants will serve you well. To choose the best match, consider both the style of your garden and the climate conditions your plants will be faced with. Soil composition, sunlight, wind exposure and space to grow will play a big part in the longevity of your plants, and whether they struggle to survive, or vigorously thrive (even threatening your other plants).

Don’t forget to check out our related posts about low-maintenance gardens, grass-free gardens and beach inspired spaces. Happy planting!


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19 DIY Bug Hotel Ideas for a Healthy Garden Eco-System

There are so many wonderful ways you can bring sustainability and eco-friendliness into your garden; we’ve already talked about growing your own kitchen garden, and planting living walls and green roofs. Another fun project to help the eco-system is to build an insect house! We’ve got a whole bunch of cute, practical and artistic bug hotel ideas to suit gardens of every size and style.

Did you know that the average garden can accommodate more than 2,000 different insect species? Although there are a fair few pests, having the right bugs in your garden is such a benefit. Encouraging friendly species like bees, ladybirds, and beetles not only helps to pollinate your flowers, but can actually help you control the numbers of pesky plant-eaters.

So, if you fancy an easy and creative garden project this weekend, try building some insect accommodation. Here are the best insect mansion and bug hotel ideas that I’ve found!

a large insect hotel with various compartments and a green roof

Image by Sabine Fenner

A huge bug habitat with a living garden roof: could this be any more sustainable?

5 Simple reasons to build a bug hotel

If you’re reading this article, I’m guessing you’re already interested in building an insect lodge and have a good idea of all the benefits they can bring… but in case you need convincing, here’s a recap:

  1. You can support garden biodiversity and the balance of your local environment.
  2. Your guests will act as a completely organic form of pest control for your plants.
  3. You’ll be saving the bees, specifically – they’re an incredibly precious part of our ecosystem.
  4. It’s a great opportunity for your children to learn about DIY, insects and environmental awareness.
  5. You can finally use up all of those awkward leftover garden materials!
a tall, rustic insect hotel made from branches and garden debris

Image by Kevinsphotos

Could you make an entire bug hotel out of salvaged materials?

Bug hotel ideas: The basics

First off, choose a site for your bug hotel. The best real estate will be close to the plants you want to pollinate and protect. Bugs can be pesky neighbours, so build your bugtropolis away from the house to prevent creepy-crawlies from trying to move in with you.

Different bugs are attracted to different types of accommodation. If you’re angling for a particular type of insect, check whether they prefer cool shady spots, or a little bit of sunshine. Nestling your bug hotel against a hedge or between shrubs is a good way to get a mixture of conditions and encourage a variety of insects to move in.

Finally, remember that large bug hotels can get pretty heavy, so lay down a solid surface (like paving slabs) to support their weight and stop them from sinking into mud!

a small wooden bug hotel attached to a tree

Build your bug box out of untreated materials to keep your insect visitors safe and happy.

What are the best materials for building a bug hotel?

The main thing when picking your insect mansion construction materials is to keep it natural, so you don’t harm your guests. Choose untreated and unbleached wood, stone or bricks – reusing old bits of furniture and scrap materials is fine, as long as it’s not painted or varnished. Man-made coatings are often toxic to bugs and can cause all sorts of damage.

When it’s time to start building, you’ll want two sets of materials: base materials, to build the main structure, and filler materials, to “furnish” the rooms. You can be as creative as you like – it’s a great way to use leftover material scraps from other garden projects!

Base materials for bug hotels

a close up of hollowed out sticks and bamboo canes arranged together for a bug hotel

Lots of insects look for little tunnels to build a nest and hibernate from the cold, including bees.

Filler materials for bug hotels

a huge garden insect habitat made from old pallets and garden materials

Image by Josef Pichler

This incredible insect resort uses just about every material imaginable – incorporate whatever bits and pieces you find in your garden!

Building your bug hotel

Decide where you want to position your bug hotel, and how big you want it to be. Will it be freestanding on the ground, attached to a post, or fixed to a wall? You might want to build several insect houses to accommodate bugs in various parts of your garden.

Start by screwing together the frame – you can buy wood from almost any decent hardware store if you don’t have spare materials in your garden. Next, add internal segments, thinking about what materials you have to fill them with as you go. You could try building different “floors” for different types of insects. 

When it comes to adding filler materials, they should be fairly tightly packed, but with enough room for insects to burrow. You might want to add chicken wire or mesh to the front of certain sections to stop loose bits falling out.

Finally, add a roof. Tiles or planks will be fine – you want to stop your insect habitat from getting completely soaked, but it doesn’t have to be completely watertight.

simple garden bug hotel ideas

Bug boxes don’t have to be very big! This little insect hotel would be more than enough if you nestled it deeper in a hedge or tall flower bed.

How to attract the right insects to your bug hotel

Beneficial biodiversity in your garden starts with your plants. By choosing the right plants and flowers to surround your bug hotel, you’ll be more likely to attract the most helpful insects.

The longer your blooming season, the more likely you are to attract pollinators like hoverflies and lacewings. Look for plants the flower early in the year, with an assortment of heights so both flying and non-flying critters can reach.

Here are some bug hotel ideas for trying to attract specific kinds of insects!

Befriending the bees

Did you know that most garden bees are actually ground-dwellers? Most will burrow under the soil to hibernate, so you’ll want to leave some space at ground-level for them during the winter.

There are also solitary bee species, which prefer to nest in tunnels and hollow stems. Small groups of loner bees will sometimes hole up together, so incorporate lots of bamboo stems and a little water dish.

a small, narrow bee house made usgin short canes of bamboo

Image by PollyDot

Save the bees! Even the smallest bee hotel can help the environment by housing essential little pollinators.

Luring in ladybirds

You’ll definitely want to make some room for ladybirds – they love munching on aphids, one of the most common plant pests. Ladybirds tend to hibernate in larger groups, and often cluster in-between twigs and dry leaves. Put the bug box near whichever plants are suffering with aphids or – if your aphid population is under control – plant things that will attract more aphids (like nasturtiums).

Boarding for beetles

Sticks, dead plant stems and compost clumps are a paradise to most beetle species. If you’ve got a compost heap, grab some of the soil and include it in a bug hotel room (and if you haven’t got a compost heap, take a look at our compost ideas to get started).

Lots of beetles prefer flowers with flat blooms, so try planting fennel, yarrow and species of daisy nearby.

a large garden insect house, with objects arranged to resemble a smiley face

Image by Sue Rickhuss

Look how many things are tucked into this insect mansion design! If you’ve got the space, you won’t have to worry about leftover garden debris ever again. The smiley face at the top is a nice touch, too.

More bug hotel ideas and inspiration

For the most part, you’ll want to leave your bug box undisturbed, but there’s no harm is adding a little latch so you can clean it out every couple of years – and have a nose inside! The red door on this little insect hotel is very cute, but make sure you’re using organic dyes if you decide to colour your own bug house.

a small wooden bee box with the middle section stained red

Image by Thomas B.

Um, can the person that designed this build a human version for me? I love the aesthetic of this, and the variety of insect “rooms” will attract a diverse range of critters throughout the seasons. Feel free to add cute little details like the “hotel” sign to your own bug box – the insects won’t mind!

This rustic style of DIY bug hotel is an absolute winner if you’ve got the space. Making the most of dry materials that you could find in the garden, the chunky objects are pleasing for human eyes and super cost for bug buddies. Chicken wire keeps everything secure, and a covered roof offers just enough protection.

Short on space? You can turn any awkward nooks in your garden into wildlife accommodation. This picture shows how, with just a little bit of resourcefulness, you can build a bug hotel for free without using any tools.

If you thought all insect hotels look more or less the same, think again. This amazing bug house was custom-built as an eco-friendly art installation. Reckon you’re up to the task of creating your own? 

What if you don’t have much outside space? There are plenty of bug hotel ideas for small gardens, like this wall-mounted critter cottage. You could mount a similar style to any wall that’s close to plants, and still find lots of insects checking in.

Is it just me, or is this chunky insect mansion really satisfying to look at? I reckon you could pack a few more materials into the various crevices, but I love the variety of rooms. Plus, this would be a great way to reuse leftover building materials in your garden.

This has got to take the trophy for the most extravagant design! Less of an insect hotel and more of a bug universe, this eco-sculpture by @damholgard demonstrates how sustainability can intersect with art, if you want it to! Building one of these yourself might be a little ambitious, but you can definitely be inspired by the sheer variety of materials that have gone into this masterpiece.

Tips for looking after your bug hotel

On the whole, insect hotels are best left alone – nature will usually take care of everything it needs. However, it’s always worth keeping an eye on your hotel and its guests and taking care of the following:

Avoid pesticides

Bug boxes are an excellent way to manage pest insects, but the process takes time. While you’re waiting to welcome your visitors, hold off on using pesticides or you’ll risk fumigating their home before they’re even moved in. Look for botanical pesticides as an alternative, but use them sparingly.

an unusual, keyhole shaped insect hotel

Image by planet_fox

I love the unusual shape of this little bug hotel!

Nurture the right plants

Research the feeding habits of your preferred beasties, and plant accordingly. Ladybugs, for example, enjoy coriander, dill, dandelion, and fennel, while hoverflies enjoy yarrow and bergamot. Other plant families that attract a good number of beneficial insects are the carrot, aster, legume, mustard, and verbena families.

Another thing to note is where your insect tenants like to hide. Thyme and oregano are an excellent hiding spot for most beetles, who prefer to tunnel underground, whereas flying insects such as wasps are more attracted to taller flowers like daisies.

DIY bug hotel ideas made from reusing old pallets

Image by Mika Baumeister

Eco-friendly and attractive: Recycle old pallets into a gorgeous DIY insect house

Provide a water source

Though you’ll want to keep your insect hotel dry, it’s good to have a water source ready for your visiting guests. You could install a drip irrigation system, or simply include a natural watering hole or simple water dish.

Build ground-level hiding places

Nocturnal insects prefer to stay away from heat and sunlight, so try and offer them more than just foliage to stay cool. Mulching a section of your garden floor can keep the soil hydrated, and give beneficial bugs an opportunity to munch on underground pests.

For even more shade, build stepping stones out of any flat surface. Push them into loose, shallow soil so insects can burrow without getting crushed or suffocated. You might also use hollow coconut shells or cave-like hides that you can build or purchase at a garden centre.

a shed-sized insect hotel in the middle of long grass in a field

Image by Manfred Antranias Zimmer

Bug hotels can be mostly left to their own devices, just check in every now and then.


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