Choosing Container Plants – The most important thing to consider when growing any plant in a container is the direction of the sun. In the northern hemisphere, if a patio faces south, it is sheltered, and the general climate is hot enough, heat-loving plants can be grown. If it faces north then you should concentrate on those plants that will flourish in a degree of shade.
It is important to plan purchasing and planting carefully. Make a list of the plants that you plan to grow then check whether there is a specialist nursery near you. If there is you can purchase the plants you require in person, but you may have to order them to be sent by mail. Nurseries are well used to sending plants through the post and it is seldom that plants arrive in anything other than good condition.
It is best to buy from a specialist, rather than from a general garden center or supermarket where the choice may be limited and, usually, no specialist advice or help is available.
Plants should be planted at the right time of the year and this applies particularly to trees and shrubs. Generally these are always best planted in the fall when the growth is dying down but there remains enough warmth and moisture in the soil to let the root system establish itself. Also, for roses and fruit trees you are better to purchase bare-root plants than trees and shrubs that have been container-grown.
This may sound a strange piece of advice especially if they are to continue in a container garden, but plants raised in containers often have a restricted root system and bare-root plants planted at the right time of the year do better. No reputable supplier would send out bare-root plants at the wrong time of the year.
If you cannot plant any trees or shrubs as soon as they arrive, dig a small trench in one container, lay the plants in it at an angle of 45° and cover them firmly with soil until you have time to complete the planting properly. They are unlikely to come to too much harm if they are not left for too long. If a frost threatens, protect the plants by covering them with garden fleece or some sacking.
Buying plants in person
If you plan to buy the plants yourself at a garden center there are a number of things to look out for. Check all the leaves for signs of pests or disease, and make sure that the plant does not suffer from leaf drop. Avoid plants that have moss growing on the top of the container, as this indicates that they have been there for too long. Check to see that there are not too many roots growing out of the holes at the foot of the container for the same reason.
Finally look to see that the plant is healthy and that it has a good shape with equally spaced branches. Remember you may want to turn containers round so that each plant gets an equal share of the light over the year.