Maintaining your container garden

January 22, 2008 5:37:57 PM PST
Holly Hayes, a gardening expert from the San Jose Mercury News, gives us tips on how to make a container garden work.

Are you looking to brighten up your front porch or create a garden in a small space? Leigh Glaser found out how from San Jose Mercury News gardening expert, Holly Hayes.

For more information go to:

Check out Holly Hayes' blog at:

Contact Holly Hayes at or (408) 920-5374

Materials Used:

  • Four-quart bag of organic Unigro Cactus Mix, about $2.50 at garden centers (mixed about 50-50 with standard lightweight potting mix).
  • 11-inch terra cotta pot, $10.99 at Orchard Supply
  • Plants for the little succulent dish garden: Crassula "Golden Pagoda''; Gasteria "Cow's Tongue''; Haworthia obtusa, "Windowpane Plant''; Sempervivum, "Hen and Chicks.''

    When and how to up-pot:

    • When the plant looks crowded in its container, gently tip it out to confirm that it is root-bound -- that is, the roots are circling the inside of the container.

    • Select a new container that is just slightly larger than the one you're replacing. Introducing a plant to a too-big container may cause it to go into shock. For this segment, we up-potted a succulent, Haworthia obtusa, from an 8-inch round terra cotta pot into an 11-inch round terra cotta pot.

    • Make sure your new container is clean. If you're recycling a previously-used pot, scrub it out with water mixed with a little bleach (9 parts water, 1 part bleach). Rinse.

    • Put a small piece of mesh screen over the drainage hole. This prevents the soil from washing out and keeps pesky insects like earwigs from crawling inside the pot.

    • For this succulent plant, I used a 50-50 mix of regular lightweight potting mix and cactus mix. Scoop some of this mix into the new pot.

    • Carefully tip the plant out of its current container and gently tease apart the tangled roots. With seriously pot-bound plants, you may need to use a utility knife to cut through the mangled mess. Set in new pot and gently fill in with the 50-50 mix. Tamp soil lightly around the plant. Water gently to help soil settle; add additional soil as needed.

    Planting the little succulent dish garden:

  • Shop for unusual specimens with an eye toward contrasting foliage and varying heights. Or, if you already have succulents in your garden, twist off "pups'' from existing plants and plant those.
  • I like an odd number of plants in one of these gardens. Just personal preference.
  • Use a 50-50 mix of regular lightweight potting soil and cactus mix. Succulents like excellent drainage and most varieties just need water when the soil is dry.