Containers aren't just for summer flowers; displays for fall and winter often last longer and help brighten up the cold, dark months when viewed from the warmth of your kitchen or living room.
Make sure that the pot you buy can withstand low winter temperatures — frostproof clay pots tend to be more expensive but should come with a guarantee and last for many years. To make sure the plants live through the cold, be sure to select species that are hardy to at least two zones colder than yours.
When to Start: Early fall
At Its Best: All year round
Time to Complete: 1-1/2 hours
Place a layer of soil-based potting mix to the container. Set the plants, still in their original pots, on the potting mix and check that they will sit about 2 inches below the rim when planted. Keep them in the container, and start to fill in around them with potting mix.
Pack damp potting mix around all the pots up to their rims — only one is shown here, but the method works equally well with a few plants. Carefully slide out the plants in their pots, to leave spaces for planting.
Water all the plants well before tipping them out of their plastic pots. If the roots are congested, gently tease them out. Carefully replace them in their positions in the container, and then firm more compost into any remaining gaps.
Add a layer of gravel, slate chips, or other decorative mulch over the soil. Water the container well and set it on "feet" to allow the winter rains to drain through easily. Place it where you can see it easily from the house, and continue to water it during the fall and winter if the soil under the mulch feels dry.
The container will need watering frequently in the spring and summer. Each year in early spring, remove the mulch and top few inches of potting mix and replace it with fresh compost mixed with some all-purpose granular fertilizer. Water immediately after this, and then renew the mulch. When the plants become congested, plant them out in the garden or move to larger containers.
Excerpted from How to Grow Practically Everything
© Dorling Kindersley Limited 2010