11 Easy Tips For Planting Flower Pots That Will Flourish

planting flowers

While I can’t seem to stop experimenting when it comes to the perennials in my flower beds, I’m much more consistent when it comes to my flower pots! I always reserve my pots for planting annuals, because they only last one season anyway, and it’s nice not to worry about them over the winter.

I’ve been planting and maintaining flower pots more or less the same way for over 20 years now. So while I may not have a breadth of knowledge when it comes to potted plants generally, I do have a depth of both knowledge and experience when it comes to growing flowers, and more specifically, petunias! :-)

(Speaking of petunias, and in case you’re interested in planting some this year, I thought I’d mention that I grew Supertunias for the first time last year. To say they thrived would be an understatement, because by midsummer, I had so many petunias that they were actually spilling over the edges and down the sides of my massive planters. Super, indeed!)

Now that planting season is upon us, I thought that I’d share my best tips and tricks for planting flower pots with you in today’s post. Whether you’re new to the game or just want to refresh your memory before getting your hands dirty, these tips will help you plant beautiful, healthy flower pots that you can enjoy all season long! :-)

11 Tips For Planting Flower Pots That Will Thrive

planting flowers

1. Choose Large Pots

While it’s easy to assume that larger pots require more care, it’s actually easier to grow plants in large containers than smaller ones. This is because large containers hold more soil, and the more soil there is in the container, the more moisture it will hold on to.

Small pots, on the other hand, have less soil, making them much more susceptible to drying out during hot weather. (This is particularly true for small hanging baskets, which may need to be watered upwards of twice per day to keep them from drying out.)

planting flowers

2. Don’t Forget About Drainage

When shopping for pots, look for ones with drainage holes at the bottom. Drainage holes allow excess water to escape out of the bottom of the pot, helping to prevent issues that can arise from overwatering (like withering leaves, wilting, and even root rot.)

For small or medium sized pots, the ideal size for drainage holes is about 1/2” in diameter, while larger pots should have holes that are about 1” in diameter. (And despite what you might read online, filling the bottom of a pot with stones, gravel, or other materials is not an adequate substitute for drainage holes!)

planting flowers

3. Fill Pots With Soil Only

And speaking of putting stuff in the bottom of your pots (a popular “plant hack” I often come across online), I would advise against it. Some people will fill the bottom portion of their larger pots with packing peanuts, empty containers, and other junk material because it makes the pots less heavy, but it also offsets the benefit of using a large pot in the first place!

The less soil you have in your pot, the more prone it will be to drying out. If you still want to be able to move your pots around once they’re planted, you’re better off investing in a few rolling plant stands rather than filling your pots with anything other than soil and plants!

planting flowers

4. Use The Right Type Of Soil

But which type of soil should you use? Look for soil that is specifically recommended for use in pots or containers, such as potting soil, raised bed soil, etc. These light and airy soils contain moss and other organic materials that help to retain moisture and deliver a steady supply of oxygen to potted plant’s roots.

planting flowers

5. Make A List Before You Shop

As tempting as it can be to simply run off to your local nursery or garden supply center and start shopping, it’s better to have a plan before you go! Having a list of plants to look for, supplies, and equipment will help you avoid “plant panic” once you’re actually roaming the nursery aisles.

At the very least, you’ll want to decide how many pots you’ll be planting and where you want to put them. That way you’ll have an idea of what plants to look for based on size and how much sun they’ll get throughout the day.

planting flowers

6. Group Plants With Similar Needs Together

While I like to stick with one type of flower in one or two colors in my plant, that’s just my personal preference! You can definitely mix and match plant types in your pots—as long as they have similar needs, that is!

Ideally, all the plants sharing the same pot should have similar water and sunlight requirements. If you’re not sure if two plants will play nicely together in one pot, ask a salesperson at the nursery or garden center and they should be able to help you out!

planting flowers

7. Read The Plant Tags

Another good source of information about a plant’s needs? Its plant tag! Be sure to read the tags that come with your plants to learn important details like how big it will get, how much light and water it needs, how long it will grow, and its growing “habit.”

Habits refer to a plant’s expected shape and growing behaviors, which is especially important to know if you’re mixing and matching different plants in the same pot. For instance, you could put a plant with an upright habit in the center of your pot where it can grow tall, then add plants with a mounding habit to fill in the space around the taller plant.

For added drama, put plants with a trailing habit at the very edge of your pots where they will drape artfully over the sides as they grow. (Oh, and don’t bother trying to keep track of all those tags—just snap a photo of each one with your phone so you can reference it later.)

planting flowers

8. Tease Twisted Roots

Plant starts at nurseries and garden centers are often root-bound in their containers, meaning that the roots have run out of room inside the container. It’s easy to tell whether a plant is root-bound or not, because the roots will be visibly coiled, twisted, and growing in the shape of the container.

When planting root-bound plants, it’s a good idea to “tease” the roots before putting them in their holes. Just use your fingers to loosen up the tangled roots, which will make it easier for your plant to make itself at home in its new container.

Photo of planting flowers after pecan trees have bloomed, per old wives tale.

9. Don’t Pack The Soil Down

When planting pots, position the largest ones first before moving onto the smaller ones. And when you’re burying the root balls of your plants, you want to firm the soil around the plant without packing it down tightly.

Packing the soil too firmly makes it harder for water, light, and air to get to your plants roots, so try firm the soil around your plants just enough that they’ll stay upright.

planting flowers

10. Water Right After Planting

Just like you would when planting a vegetable garden or flower bed, it’s important to water pots immediately after planting. (Try to water them as gently as possible to avoid doing any damage, preferably using a rainshower-style watering can or hose attachment.)

The goal is to completely soak the soil, so you may have to water newly planted pots a few times over the course of a few minutes until you see water coming out the bottom of the pot. (Oh, and if you’re doing the planting in one spot and then moving them to their final destination, it’ll be a lot easier to move them before watering them!)

planting flowers

11. Elevate Your Pots

Once you’ve planted your pots, consider raising them off the ground by setting them on plant stands, casters, or “feet.” This simple measure can help prevent damage and discoloration to decks, concrete, and other surfaces, while also promoting airflow and drainage to keep your plants happy and healthy.

What are your favorite flowers to grow, or what flowers would you like to try growing?

Read This Next

Jill Nystul Photo

Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee


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  • I miss my garden! Now I’m in a duplex but the ground is hard as a rock. I bought (yrs. ago) 2 corner plants shelves for my deck. I now buy hanging plants from a nursery. One I hang, the others go on the shelves. I have one plant the lady next door gave me but it’s a tropical plant (in New England, no less!). I believe it’s part of the Mandella(sp) family. I’ve been nursing it inside all winter. It looks like there’s 3 plants. I know it’s an upright vine. It needs a trim but there’s also green growth. I’m taking it to the nursery and let them figure it out. They’re the experts on potting but hopefully I can save it. I’m always on the lookout for pots with red, white & blue flowers that can withstand the heat and I drape my star-shaped red, white & blue fairy lights on them all summer. The lights are battery-operated so (just in case) I wrap the battery box in a baggy. It’s been a long winter!!

  • Please please stop using Miracle Gro. It contains chemicals and salts that are harmful to your plants and the earth. Google it. There are many sources that will explain. The salts can actually burn your plants and the chemicals get washed into the earth and kill beneficial worms and other insects. Eventually all these chemicals get washed into waterways and the ocean. Use compost, that is what nature uses.

    • Make your own compost with mostly leaves and some kitchen scraps. Sometimes you can get free or cheap bins from a local government agency. Look up You Bet Your Garden podcast for many tips on composting and gardening. You could start a worm bin which would make compost faster. If you can afford it to start buy organic compost

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  • […] 3. Rosemary Garden via Elle Decor  4.Flower Pots 101 via One Good Thing by Jillee […]

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  • When planting a large pot you can put a smaller terra cotta pot upside down in the bottom. The terra cotta will help keep the soil moist by wicking up the water and you will not use as much soil.

  • In regards to the comment stating add coffee grounds to your flowers to make them grow. That depends upon the flower. Coffee grounds lower the pH of the soil [raising acidity]. For example, petunias will grow in pretty much any pH soil however, they do like a more acidic soil with a pH around 5.4-5.8. Pansies are pretty much the same, liking a pH of around 5.4-5.8. On both plants, a pH above 6.0 will cause smaller blooms and a small plant. To lower soil pH you can use coffee grounds however, if your soil is around 7.0 [neutral] or higher [alkaline], coffee grounds alone won’t lower you pH quite enough. Add some sphangum peat to your planting mix [available at Wallys, Lowes, HD].

    However plants such as geraniums like a pH of 6.0-6.6, so adding coffee grounds to germanium would lower your soil pH and cause problems. If you happen to have sulfur water, thus your pH would be lower, add lime to your planting mix to raise the pH of your soil. [also available at the same].

    The best thing to do is to purchase a pH tester. I prefer the electronic ones so that I can monitor the pH over time over the pill test kit for a one time use.

    Jeanette, the reason the water runs through your soil so fast upon first application of water is there is a lot of air in the pot. You’ve probably noticed that after a week or so your soil and plant seem to have sunk and you need to add more soil to your pot. Before adding your plant, gently tap the pot on the ground to settle the soil a bit. After adding your plant, GENTLY press down on the soil. You may find you will need to remove your plant and add more soil before adding the plant again.

    Regarding arranging plants “close” in a pot. If you are transplanting from trays, you will need to take into consideration the eventual size of the plant. If you plant too close, this reduces air circulation and increases the risk for disease [fungus especially and white mold on the surface of the soil]. While a full pot looks lovely in the beginning, it does not allow for growth over time thus reducing the chance for larger and bigger plants and blooms.

    Living here in the desert, I prefer self-watering containers. If you try to grow in regular pots such as shown here or the classic clay pot, your plants will toast. This allows the plant to take on water as needed and encourages the roots to grow deeper so they don’t toast during those hot summer days due to the soil temperature going above 65-70F.

  • I have to disagree with you. I think the best way to do planters is to use lots of different plants. Start out with a really high, grassy plant in the middle for height and green color. Around that put some medium height flowers in different, bold colors like geraniums or gerber daisies. Around the edge put in shorter flowers as well as some ivy or other hanging plants that can hang down the sides of your pots to add some interest. Arranging the plants close together so you have very full pots also looks the best. Take a look at planters outside stores for ideas on color/plant combos.

    I don’t worry about planting perennials since I like to change up my potted flowers every year. I save my perennials like tulips and daffodils for my flower beds.

    • You’ve described the “Thriller, Filler, Spiller” way of planting a pot. You plant a thriller in the middle (something tall and eye-catching), a filler around it, and a spiller (something vining) at the edge. One thriller (in the middle or in the back) and one spiller (in the front) would be enough. Guarantee you it will be gorgeous.

    • Where I live, the plants outside the store help me with nothing! Generally, they are not well cared for and look awful! However, while I agree with you to a degree, I just think you should go with your heart’s ideas and desires and plant and grow some beautiful nature! Sit back and delight your soul with the beauty of your labor. When God put forth His wildflowers along the roadside, I don’t see much rhyme or reason, but they sure look amazing!

  • I like your choice of flowers for these pots…especially the petunias because they will look gorgeous all summer. I’m not sure about the pansies in the south where I live…I don’t think they do well in the day-after-day heat. Love Regina’s suggestion to use the packing peanuts to cut down on weight and expense of potting soil! Thanks for the post.

  • Don’t you find that the water just runs thru the planting mix, and doesn’t seem to be absorbed? I’ve found that I need to mix in water prior to putting it in the pot. Then keep it moist. Anyone know what I mean, or if I’m doing something wrong?

  • If you have large pots, use packing peanuts to fill about the bottom third of the pot (depending on the height of your pot) before you add the potting soil. It saves on the expense of potting soil and the pot isn’t as heavy if you have to move it around. I’ve been doing this for years. Just be sure you don’t use the biodegradable ones as water will dissolve them! I keep a trash bag in my potting shed that I collect the packing peanuts in all year round so I’ll have plenty when spring comes.

  • I have tryed coffee grinds in my pots to keep cats abay, the cats did’nt mind it one bit. The plants loved it. What did work was tinfolie covering the soil, it looked awful but it only had to be there for a week or so for the cats to loos interest in using my pots as a litter box. Cats hates tinfolie, I dont know what it is they hate abought it but it defently workes.

  • A great tip to make your flowers grow like CRAZY is to add your coffee grinds to them. I did this last year as an attempt to keep the neighbourhood cats out of my flowers and I ended up with the lushest, most beautiful flower bed.

  • Jillee, I am going to follow your lead and plant petunias (and maybe some Cosmos in another pot) today. I have seen Jillee’s flowering pots, and they are truly dazzeling all summer long. Now that I have lots of full sun areas in front and back of my new home, maybe I can do this. Thanks for the instructions, Jillee.

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