The Q&A Archives: How to Prepare Large outdoor clay pots for Plants

Question: We have 4 very large clay pots planted with petunias that apparently the landscaper did not prepare properly. They have packing peanuts underneath a non-porous cloth with some garden soil overtop. A large amount of rain will not drain out and has turned the soil rancid. All the petunias died. How should a very large outdoor pot be prepared?

Answer: If the clay pots have absolutely no drainage, they're better used as decorative pots rather than planting pots. Instead of planting directly in them, build up the inside with empty milk cartons or packing peanuts and plant your plants in smaller containers, then sink the containers into the pots. Cover the planting container rims with decorative bark or moss to disguise them. Your plants will be happier and will live much longer! If the clay pots do have drainage holes in the bottom, you can plant directly in them. Start with a few inches of river rock on the bottom which will help anchor the pots so they won't be top heavy. Then fill with potting soil (not garden soil) and plant your petunias, or whatever you choose to plant. The potting soil will drain quickly through the river rocks and your plants will be happy.

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