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The remarkable resilience of plants

  • The remarkable resilience of plants

Here's a story that's familiar to all of us: you buy a plant in a pot from a garden centre, you take it home, choose a good spot for it, enrich the soil, remove any competing weeds, ensure the plant is well soaked before planting it out, then you plant it carefully at exactly the right depth, firm it in well, and water it.

I must have read that set of instructions a hundred times in various gardening books, over the years: haven't you?

It's never occurred to me that there is one vital step missing. Something so obvious that it doesn't need to be said - you would have thought.

What would that step be? “Remove plant from the plastic pot”.

Yes, folks: look what I found today: a Bay tree, still growing in the plastic pot!

(picture me tearing my hair out, at this point)

It wasn't a small plant either - it had been grown as a “standard” ie one central straight stem with a clear trunk, and a tuft of foliage on top (known in horticultural circles as a “lollipop”), and the whole thing was taller than me.

It must have been an expensive plant when it was young - the clear stem was a good 3' in height - but for some reason whoever planted it thought that it would be more comfortable if it remained in the plastic pot.

So they planted the whole thing.

Amazingly, it does not seem to have slowed this tree down in the slightest: you can see from the photo (with my secateurs for scale) that the trunk is now virtually filling the pot completely! And although I didn't take a photo of the whole plant, I can assure you that it was perfectly healthy, with glossy green leaves all over.

I have to say, I do occasionally find plants still in pots, in other people's gardens - but I've never found one that's taller than I am!

Comments (2)

  1. Grower


    A neighbour and good friends of mine whose garden i've tended for several years had become more hands on this year. In the garden there is a dead three trunk which I suggested we plant a climber up so far so good. He bought what I had suggested to his wife but not being able to plant deep enough close to it decided to cut the bottom out and planted it a third of the way up the very flimsy plastic pot. I did at this point offer other options but the deed was done.
    With this 'success' and at the house in Spain which I planted up from scratch over the last few years (I was ill and unable to go out) he wanted to bulk up some
    planting I was going to tackle bought the plants and planted them out in their bottomless plastic pots (his wife wanted him to text for advice) and when back home was gleefully telling me what he had achieved. I again explained this wasn't a good idea but his reply was that he didn't want to disturb the roots. Oh the joys of gardening - i'll sort it out next year

  2. Grower

    Rachel the Gardener

    Well, by cutting off the bottoms of the pots, he is at least allowing the plants to root straight through into the earth: and most herbaceous plants don't actually spread sideways all that much. It's not something I would do, not least because the presence of the plastic pot "sides" will restrict the plants' access to the soil for water, for microbes, for worms (which aerate the soil) and so on.

    At least it will be easy to pull up the plants when he's not looking, slip off the plastic and replant them into the neat tidy holes!!

    As for the clematis, well, it might struggle on for a couple of years....

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