Top tips from Sarah Raven on getting the most from your containers and pots

Sarah Raven container pots

All photographs © Jonathan Buckley  

Whether you’ve got a large garden, courtyard, or small terrace, pots and containers are accessible to everyone and add magnificent diversity, colour, and texture to every outside space.  

Top tips for getting the most from containers and pots 

  • Choose the biggest container you can find. The larger the container, the more exciting combinations you can try.  
  • All pots need drainage holes at the bottom, or they will quickly become waterlogged.   
  • Before purchasing new plants for your pots and containers, always make sure varieties are suitable for this purpose.     
  • The soil you use is important as pots are a condensed environment. Over the summer, use a liquid seaweed fertiliser feed every two weeks. When repotting, remember to enrich the soil with fresh compost. If you have something permanent like a shrub or a perennial in a pot, take the top layer off, and add a fresh layer of compost.    

Sarah’s secret for the perfect pot combination 

Sarah’s full proof recipe will add depth and drama to pots, containers, and troughs in any garden or terrace. 

  • Thriller – First, choose a thriller, something dominant that you love for serious wow factor. 
  • Filler – Next, choose a filler which backs up your thriller and follows a similar colour palette. 
  • Pillar – Choose a pillar plant to add height and scale to your pots and containers. 
  • Spiller – Sarah will sometimes add a spiller to drape over the edge of the pot, especially if it is a pot for a table or somewhere raised. 


In the video below Sarah recommends her favourite dahlias for pots –  to create long-lasting colour.


Display inspiration  

Sarah loves to give pots a stage, using tables or stands to elevate the container and enhance visibility.  

Sarah Raven container pots

Collection of pots in the Dutch Yard. Including Dahlia ‘Schipper’s Bronze’, ‘City of Alkmaar’, ‘Dahlegria Tricolore’, Cosmos atrosanguineus – Chocolate cosmos – and Ipomoea lobata syn. Mina lobata – Spanish Flag. Petunias, Fuchsia, Pennisetum ‘Vertigo’ and Eucomis

Alternatively, why not showcase your potted plant collection on a plant theatre? Making the most of graduating shelves is particularly useful if you’re short on space but want to create impact. Group plants by colour or variety or mix and match your favourites. A tiered wedding cake look is another striking way to showcase beautiful potted displays. Placing the biggest pot in the middle on a raised platform, with smaller pots around the edge, this ‘more is more’ approach is a tried and tested success for instant wow.  

 Introduce herbs  

Herbs are incredibly easy to care for, love being pot-bound, and kept on the dry side too. Great in small pots by doorways and windows for unbeatable fragrance, let them flower and the pollinators will flock, especially with varieties like oregano or garlic chives. Mint and rosemary are other excellent choices. Suitable for cutting, use these varieties as foliage in floral arrangements, or to elevate home cooked meals.  

Herbs in pots

Sarah shares her top tips to planting a fabulous edibles container in the video below


A new partnership

We are delighted to be partnering with gardening expert, Sarah Raven in 2023. They will be helping to encourage individuals who are passionate about their gardens, to open in aid of the National Garden Scheme and to raise funds for vital nursing and health charities. You can read more about the partnership here.

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