Connection with gardens, even small ones, even potted plants, can become windows to the inner life. The simple act of stopping and looking at the beauty around us can be prayer.                              -Patricia R. Barrett

We have a number of potted plants in and around our home. In the front yard, a lei plant (plumaria) sits outside the front entrance. Two rosemary plants pose like sentinels, each ensconced in large glazed pottery. Another very large glazed urn outside the kitchen window holds irises and crinums.

The back yard is filled with potted plants. Some are in nicely aged terra cotta, others in glazed urns and still others in black plastic nursery pots. The plants in nursery pots are those I have started from seed, cuttings or tubers. They include ginger (the kind you eat), milkweed (for the monarchs), mint, night-blooming jasmine, angel trumpets, and more, and are waiting until I can get them into the ground or in permanent pots. Many seeds I’ve collected will go into pots in the fall.

But you don’t need a yard to have container plants                                                                         Our inside plants include a small herb garden, some African violets my wife cares for and various other plants that need more tender care – all sitting on the kitchen windowsill. We’ve got pothos (you know that ivy thing that you see in just about every doctor’s office) in many rooms in our home.

Pothos, by the way, is the Greek word for “longing,” which was considered a divine power. In mythology, Pothos (the god of longing), his brothers Eros (love) and Himeros (desire) were the sons of Zephyr, the westerly wind.

Pothos (the plant, not the god) has a great reputation for scrubbing the air. Along with the peace lily, spider plant (also called airplane plant), and several other indoor plants,  , it can remove formaldehyde, benzene, trichloroethylene, toluene, xylene, ammonia, and carbon monoxide from the air.

What to use for pots                                                                                                                                   I get ill when I have to use euphemisms all the time. “Plant container” is a high sounding word for “pot,” which comes from  the Old English word “pott,” which means, unbelievably, “pot.” There are a lot of different types. Clay (terracotta), hypertufa, metal, molded plastic, glazed or unglazed pottery, stone, and simple recycled materials (old shoes, washtubs, wheel barrels, wagons, carts and toys are possible receptacles.   Imagination can work wonders. For pros and cons of different container types, see here.

Put the soil in the coconut                                                                                                                 Soil in planters tends to dry out and compact very fast, even indoors. Never, never, never use regular topsoil or even soil from the yard for your potted plants. Instead, mix a batch of good soil yourself. Mix  a third compost, a third perlite, and a third coconut coir into a wheelbarrow or tub. I used to recommend peat instead of coir, but peat moss is not a renewable resource. Coir, made from coconut fiber, is. Add some solid, slow-release organic fertilizer perhaps about a quart for a cubic foot of mixture.

Clean pots make good neighbors                                                                                                           Wash your pots, especially if they’ve been used before. Plant diseases, insect eggs and pathogens may exist in the pots. Use soap, warm water and a scrub brush. Rinse and let them dry – except for terra cotta. Terra cotta needs to be soaked throughout before planting anything it.

Ready to plant?                                                                                                                                           Fill the pot halfway with your new mixture. You may want to add a tablespoon of organic fertilizer to the top of the soil at this time. If you’re using a nursery-bought plant, remove it from its nursery pot. With a sharp knife, slice through the root ball from the top to bottom on four sides of the plant. This stimulates the roots to grow.

Put the plant into the pot, and fill in the spaces around it with your prepared mixture, until the soil reaches the base of the plant. Now, add more in, because when you water it, the moisture will compress to soil down.

Place your plant in a sunny window, water it well, and let it do its work.

Watering                                                                                                                                                 Your plant is going to need water. There are two ways to check that: a moisture meter, or the finger meter. Stick the moisture meter (available at any garden store) into the soil around the plant, and wait for the meter to register. I use the finger meter, which works like this: stick your finger into the soil. If it comes out dry, it’s time to water your plant. If not, it doesn’t need water yet.

Add a teaspoon of fertilizer about once a month. Scratch it into the surface of the potting soil, and water.


If you have any questions about potting plants, please address them to the address on this website.




  1. Gail Sones -

    This is very useful information; thanks for sharing. I’m glad you described Pothos and hope other gardeners will try growing it, as in my experience it is an easy-to-grow and lovely plant. There are numerous varieties to add interest to indoor plantings.

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