Get Started Growing Outdoor Plants in Pots & Containers — Box and Sprout Skip to content
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Get Started Growing Outdoor Plants in Pots & Containers

Perfect for Windowsills, Balconies, Small City Gardens, Patios and the like.

Getting Started

How to use this guide

This guide is a launch pad. Read through it for an overview on container gardening, or jump into any of the links provided to get a more detailed understanding of that section.

Step 1 - The plan

Step 2 - Choose your container

Step 3 - Select your plants

Step 4 - Pick the right soil

Step 5 - Take care of your new garden


Welcome & introduction

Have you ever looked at your garden, balcony, terrace, patio or windowsill and dreamt about transforming it? Making use of plants to really make it a space that you're proud of?

No matter what size gardening space you have, container gardening is one of the best ways to create instant impact with beautiful plant displays that can really change the feel of your space.

small garden ideas

But as busy people ourselves, we know how overwhelming it can feel to get started on it. There's just so much choice and so much confusing information out there.

That's why we've pulled together this handy guide, to help you get started creating your dream garden with container plants.

1. The Plan

First and foremost, don't take it all too seriously. If you stress about it, it won't be fun - remember, if you make a change to your space and you're not completely happy with it, you can always change it again very easily.

So have fun with it!

It's creative and it's playful! The process can give you real pleasure, and it doesn't take a complete expert to make a space beautiful - we can all do it!

Do I need a plan?

Good garden design always starts with a plan. But how do you come up with the plan? And do you really need one?

The first things you should ask yourself are: what space do I want to change and how big a change do I want to make?

If you have a small corner that's looking a little sad for itself, or an idea for a big statement plant, you can absolutely just tackle it straight away.

If that's you, skip to the next step.

 Get inspired walking around your space

If you're planning on adding a range of containers or want to feel really confident that your display will work in your space, it always helps to keep your mind on the bigger picture.

Start by walking around your space.

Get a real feel for how much space you're working with. If you're anything like me, at this stage, you might form a plan in your head and feel like you can go for it.

Small garden inspiration image 2

'A statement pot plant here, a trough over there. A cluster of terracotta pots in the corner'.

Super! If that's you and you're confident you can do it, go for it!

Struggling for ideas? Get some inspiration!

But many get stuck at this phase, and struggle for ideas. If that's you, head to our inspiration page for gardening in small spaces. You'll get some real juicy ideas!

small garden inspiration 

Assess the sunlight situation

Anyone who's ever grown plants will know that sunlight is absolutely key. How does the sunlight track across your garden? Where gets the most sunlight and where gets the least?

All the plants on our site tell you how much sun they prefer. If you're unsure about how much sun your space gets, or need a primer on sun and shade for plants, checkout our handy guide understanding sun and shade in your space.

Shade and sun in garden

How much time do you want to spend looking after you container garden?

Before you get much further, it's a good thing now to think about what type of space do you want to create.

Do you want something low maintenance? Or are you happy to spend a fair bit of time taking care of your plants?

If you want something low maintenance, check-out our range of low maintenance plants.

Planning something more complicated? Advanced gardeners only!

If you're not, skip to the next section

If you've got something a bit more complex in mind, it does really help to sketch things out. It's what actual garden designers do and can help you get a feel for the display you want to create.

Let's say you want to create a container cluster of 10-15 pots, with different plants in each pot. Not sure what I'm talking about? Head back over to our inspiration page.

Worried about space? Measure it out.

If you're working in a small space, it can help to measure the space. To save time, only focus on the area that you're wanting to change!

A rough sketch can really help

Sketch a floorplan layout from above, with the key lines and objects - but keep it simple!

On a piece of paper is perfect, nothing too fancy needed.

Then, as you're browsing pots and plant options and you find things you like - either from the range at Box & Sprout, or elsewhere - you can sketch them into your plan. Draw a circle for the pot and a bigger circle for the canopy of the plant.

Start to layer your container garden with the bigger plants and pots at the back. Then move to smaller plants further forwards.

2. Choose Your Container

Choosing your container is all about you. What styles do you like? What materials suit you? What colours do you think work in your space?

Two of the most classic materials are terracotta and ceramic, which are slightly more premium but also (we think) super stylish!

heritage pots

Stuck choosing a material for your container?

We've gone in deep on container materials. Follow this link to learn more.

Make sure your pot has drainage

The most important thing for outdoor plants is that your pot has drainage holes to avoid soggy roots!

When plants are watered or experience heavy rainfall the excess moisture needs somewhere to go, otherwise the water pools at the bottom of the pot. Drainage holes therefore protect sensitive roots from fungus, rotting and bacteria.

Indoor pots are purely decorative and don't have drainage holes as the plants remain in their plastic nursery pots (which have adequate drainage!).

Some indoors plants require minimal watering - like succulents - so they can survive in pots without drainage holes.

TOP TIP! If you can find some little pebbles, or have some broken pieces of pots lying around, line the bottom of your container with them for extra drainage.

Container Size

When it comes to choosing the right sized container, for single or multiple plants, our rule is that the pot should be at least 20% larger than the pot you purchased!

3. Select Your Plants

Now for the most important question!

What would you like to grow?

Picking your plants might just be the most exciting step! You can have a lot of fun creating your container displays, using flowers, evergreen shrubs, trees, edibles, tropicals, succulents, climbing plants, hanging plants - there really are a lot of plants to choose from.

Keep an eye out for:

  • Picking the right plants for the right environment
  • Do you want one plant per pot, or multiple?
  • Textures & colours of the foliage and flowers
  • Shapes of the plant

Stuck for ideas still?

Check our 'Guide to Choosing Plants'

4. Pick the Right Soil

Most plants are already potted in soil when they're sold, but when moving them into their forever pot, you will need some additional potting mix.

Now this can all get a bit complicated, with custom potting mixes based on how much nutrients and drainage your plants need.

But in general, you can't go too far wrong with a good peat-free multi-purpose compost.


You might be tempted to use some garden soil....don't! Garden soil lacks the nutrients that your plants need to thrive.

Some plants like more acidic soils...these will need a compost-type called 'ericaceous'.

These plants will be clearly marked as ericaceous, or acid-loving when sold!

If you feel you need a specific soil, ask your garden centre or retailer for advice.

How to Pot the Plants Yourself

1. Take the plant from its nursery pot by squeezing the pot to loosen the soil, then tip the pot sideways & pull at the base of the stems while cupping the soil to dislodge the plant and root system
2. Pour the soil up to the bottom of your largest plant
3. Plant the root ball firmly in the soil
4. Then continue filling the soil around it, up to the bottom of your next largest plant
5. Plant the next root ball and continue the process until all your plants are firmly secured
6. The base of the stem of all your plants should be level with each other - all 2 inches below the rim of the pot
7. Fill in the gaps with more soil

5. Take Care Of Your New Garden

As soon as your plants are happily in place, give them a generous drink of water to get them settled.

It is best to keep the soil moist (this can be done by putting your thumb in the top level of soil and seeing if it feels dry), but make sure to follow the specific growing instructions for each plant in your garden!

TOP TIP! An alternative method of watering is to place your plant pots into a shallow tray of water, allowing them to hydrate through the drainage holes!

watering plants

Maintaining Your Garden

As the weeks pass, be mindful to keep watering and tending to your container garden. As well as this, keep an eye out for how much warmth, sun exposure, wind and rain each plant is getting in their location – growing conditions are crucial for your container garden’s success!

TOP TIP! Deadheading your flowers can help prevent diseases – this means consistently removing any fading or dying flower-heads from your plants to encourage blooming!

You're Good To Go

Container gardening is a super fun process and a great way to start growing things in a relatively low risk way.

There are simply endless possibilities of plants to grow in unique and inspiring combinations.

For beginners, it can be the best first step to learning how to grow and care for plants. Almost anywhere can become a place to grow plants, so it's up to you to get creative!

We understand that gardening can seem daunting at first, so simply follow our 5 steps and we have no doubt you'll be a natural in no time!


tree in pot


Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this, why not check out some of our other guides that help with planning your outdoor space.


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