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Potting on question

I've read in some articles and seen on tv it be said that when potting on plants you should only pot on to a slightly bigger pot and not jump up to a much bigger pot size. For example in this article (in the first paragraph)..

I've never heard an explanation for this though. Why not just pot up a plant into a much bigger pot and then not have to do it again for quite some time? I appreciate that repotting a pot plant can give it a fresh lease of life but I don't see any point in not just going to a much bigger pot as well.




  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 35,156

    Because the root system can't always cope with too much wet soil round it. 

    Some plants are more forgiving than others, but as a general rule, it's best not to over pot plants, especially when they're very small. Wait till the roots are filling the pot the plant's in ( usually when they start poking out the holes in the bottom it's ready to move)  then shift it into a slightly bigger size. Repeat as necessary  image

    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

  • Kitty 2Kitty 2 ManchesterPosts: 5,150

    I do a lot of potting on in the spring with young seedlings and small plants prior to planting out in their final planting position. Using a pot only a little bigger saves on space and compost in this instance.

    As Fairy states above, some plants dislike too much space in a big pot and will just sit there with minimum root growth. Waiting until they've exhausted the nutrients in the pot a little makes them hungry to branch out when they're potted on.

  • PosyPosy Isle of Wight.Posts: 2,133

    I don't understand this one, either. If you plant them out into the garden they obviously have loads of space and they grow on quite happily!

  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 35,156

    Yes - some plants might Posy - but a small, young plant shoved into a border at the wrong time of year, will sit and sulk - or even just rot - and will be vulnerable to attacks from pests, particularly slugs and snails. A plant that's allowed to mature gradually tends to shrug that off more easily.

    In nature, a seedling/plant which grows from  something seeding around, will mature slowly according to it's conditions and the time of year, which isn't the same as one we would raise in a more cossetted environment .

    You have to choose carefully which plants you can put out early on, and the soil conditions and temperatures are a major factor.  image

    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

  • PosyPosy Isle of Wight.Posts: 2,133

    This is all true, but you will often hear the same advice given for much more mature plants and also for tender plants that we keep in the home. I always follow it but I don't understand it fully! 

  • GorseGorse Posts: 2

    Thanks for the responses, it's interesting. I guess I have been of the same mindset that if you plant the majority of plants out into the ground they have plenty of space to grow and thrive so why would putting them in a much bigger pot, with plenty of space, be a problem for them.

    One thing I did wonder, as to why this might be a problem, is if a pot plant potted up in a much bigger pot, then spreads its roots, as if it were in the ground, only to then find it self restricted by the pot, would this then stunt and stress the above part of the plant?

  • The easiest answer to that is simply that you would pot on to a larger pot.

    You also need to differentiate between which plants are destined to be Pot Plants for most of their life and which plants you intend to plant in the garden at some future point. Open ground is natural whilst a pot needs to be "managed".  As Fairy says, a plant which has seeded naturally will grow at it's own pace - placing a small plant in the open ground is not usually as successful as growing it on gradually before you plant out. 

    Potting on regularly is more time consuming but if you gain better results, it would seem worthwhile. 

    It is obviously up to the individual gardener but IME, there is a logical reason for potting onimage

  • hogweedhogweed Central ScotlandPosts: 3,992

    Think for example  of how many hundreds of thousand seeds there are in one poppy head or a foxglove stalk which has millions and the number of them that grow from that in the open ground - a miniscule fraction - and then you will start to realise how fraught Mother Nature makes  life for a seed. 

    'Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement' - Helen Keller
  • PosyPosy Isle of Wight.Posts: 2,133

    Another interesting one is that when you take cuttings, they usually root better if you put them round the edge of the pot rather than in the middle. now why is that?

  • Altho I don't think that applies to all cuttings, I've often wondered about that.  One imagines that placing round the edge forces the plant to root into the centre where there is more compost ?  Sideways rather than down ?  Is that better ? Someone will have an answer I'm sure.

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