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  • Julia Watson

Potting Up


'Teddy Bear' sunflower

By that I mean planting things in pots. Some plants take to pots easily, and if you’re in a small space, or need a thoughtful gift, try any of these. A pot of hyacinth about to bloom would be a beautiful Valentine’s Day gift; a small rosemary plant in a container would be a welcome hostess gift. And if you don’t have a big garden, you can still grow small things like this on a balcony or patio.


I think most plants grow better in the ground than in a container, but I’ll add that it’s worth trying to pot up anything when you don’t have enough garden space. Some things will fail, but failure is part of gardening (there, I’ve said it! All gardeners have failures, so if you’re a beginner, take heart, you’ll have successes too). The short list below gives you a few ideas based on things that have worked for me, but use your imagination and let me know about your experiences!


Rosemary Rosemary is best in a pot, in my opinion. It can take over a garden space if you let it, so best to keep it confined. I’ve had one in a pot for fifteen years and I use it regularly for cooking. Rosemary needs sun and not too much water.

Mint Everything I said about rosemary goes double for mint. It’s useful in the kitchen, but if you let it loose in the yard, you’ll be sorry. Unlike rosemary, it’s best in partial shade with lots of water.

Daffodil It’s February now, which is too late to start, but if you’re reading this in fall, you have time to get organized. Buy bulbs at your local nursery and plant them in any pots you like, using good potting soil. You can keep them outside until they send up buds in late winter.

Paperwhites Buy bulbs and plant them the same way as daffodils.

Hyacinth These are attractive flowers, and potted hyacinth would be a good gift. Not for me, though, because I detest their fragrance. Garden scents are very personal – someday I’ll write a post about that. But in the spirit of fairness, I’m telling you that many people adore hyacinth, and that might include someone you love.

Teddy Bear sunflower I tried this last year, and since it was a big success, I recommend it for anyone with small children. All sunflowers grow quickly from seed, so kids can see progress within a month. About two months after planting, buds will form and soon after you’ll have fuzzy yellow flowers on stems that are just the right height for kids. Bees will visit, so be aware. I hope you’ll teach kids to honor bees and not be terrified. One of my grandchildren was fearless and wanted to pick them up. Even after being stung the first time he tried it!

Lemon verbena I put a very small plant in a pot years ago, it grew into a woody shrub that’s still thriving. I snip off leaves all summer, making a fragrant herb tea or simply adding them to ice water for a refreshing drink. The plant dies back in winter, then in spring I prune it back a little, feed it a little, and off it goes.

Kumquat This is a love it or hate it fruit. My daughter-in-law hates them, but others in my family love them. I have a ‘Nagami’ kumquat – a very small tree that lives happily in a large ceramic pot. Evergreen and attractive, it bears a new crop of fruit about three times a year.


Daffodils potted up for spring bloom

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