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I am redoing the landscaping left by the previous owners of my house. When going to nurseries I find that everything comes planted in a pot. When thinking lazily about it, at one time I considered just putting the pots in the ground as is, but as I thought about it, it seems to make more sense.

The problem with my landscaping is that most of the bushes have overgrown their plantings. Keeping the plant in a pot would stunt their growth. Also keeping plants in their pots would make removing them easier in the future if I wanted to, say when we lose our love of grasses or box shrubs. The only down side I see is that I would have to dig a much larger hole to put a retainer in and make sure that it was well drained so the pot could be used.

What are the pros and cons of planting directly in the ground vs burying the pots when placing the plants?

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The most major downside is that any plant in a pot surrounded by soil will push roots out through the bottom and grow through into the ground anyway, in particular with shrubs, trees and the medium to larger perennials. Ground cover plants probably won't do this, but they may well escape over the top and root in the surrounding area. Digging up a pot which has a large root or two protruding into the ground through the bottom is practically impossible without breaking the roots. Planting pots into soil with no drainage to get round this won't work either - the plant will be, at times, waterlogged, and possibly for long periods.

The best thing to do is choose your plants carefully, selecting only those which won't get larger than their designated areas. As in 'right plant, right place'...

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I've planted some herbs in buried pots in my garden to keep them in bounds - mint, lemon balm, horseradish. I've cut the bottoms off of the pots, so the roots could spread downwards, but the plants couldn't spread out. Because I am a bit of a lazy gardener who forgets to deadhead her plants, the mints have still escaped. What I've found is that the mints growing outside of the containers are lush and healthy - those left in the pots get progressively weaker, unless I periodically dig them up and repot them with new soil.

Personally, I'd rather plant in the ground and pull the seedlings.

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The technique is referred to as 'buried pots garden'. If you do a Google search on that term, you will see tons of beautiful ideas and guidance. Pinterest has great examples, as well. I am in the Northeast. I use the technique where I plant annuals. It allows me to quickly pull out my spring Pansies or Rosemary and replace with fall cabbages (for example). Enjoy your garden!

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  • Northeast of where? This site has a worldwide audience, so if you want to provide geographical references, you should be more specific.
    – Niall C.
    Apr 17, 2015 at 13:38
  • This was a good answer, and contributes to the total discussion. Thank you. Jun 30, 2022 at 14:31
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As Bamboo said, pick appropriately sized plants for your landscape. You can find info on the mature height and spread on the label or online.

If you're doing it to easily swap out plants I did see one neat trick once but I forget where.

For annuals or other seasonal plant you may wish to replace regularly... bury an empty container in the ground the same size as the pots of the plants you'll be putting in. Then when it's time to swap you just lift the old potted plant out, put in the new one. No digging.

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Many sites do not recommend putting a barrier under the ground due to the lack of drainage but I have found none mentioning the advantages of reducing water loss.

My garden/property is situated on 200ft of glacial till (gravel and boulders) topped with 1-3 ft of well-draining loam in most places and I am irrigating with drip from a well producing only 1gal/min of hard water. Our area is is northern Washington (cold desert with sage scrub) 1300' zone 5 a little below the pine elevation. A couple years ago I dug out either 50 gal holes or 32" wide x 24" deep x 40' rows filled with peat and this helps but still the beds still require alot of water during the 117F hot dry days of summer.

This last year I was planting a row of honeyberries and like my blueberries dug out 3ft wide x 2ft deep of what was mostly rocks but this time I lined the holes with leftover black plastic up to 6-12 inches below the soil line. This effectively creates an underground water collection/pond. I watered with 2 x 0.5 gal/h drippers 90 minutes or 1.5 gal/day.

The area around the honeyberries stayed continuously wet. I co-planted with eggplant and tomatoes around the small berry plants. The berries and vegetables produced and some moss grew under the plants. Water loss seemed predominately at the surface and some hard water deposits accumulated on the soil surface. In late summer I thought there might be water logging and salt build up from the water and fertilizer so I pushed a steel digging rod through the peat to puncture the plastic in a few places at about 2.5 ft depth around the sides. This provided some drainage and still, the soil stayed wet.

Over winter we had a couple of feet of snow which hopefully helped flush out some salts. I doubled the number of holes with some in the middle at the bottom of the plastic and reduced it to 1 dripper per plant and still, the soil still stays moist around the plants. After fine-tuning the drainage the system seems to work as planned. The berry plants are growing well this spring with less hard water deposit accumucation on the surface.

I haven't seen much of anyone trying this sort of technique to reduce water loss and so far it doesn't seem like a total failure. I'm thinking of re-doing my raspberry/blackberry beds by making a 40ft long underground plastic-lined trough filled with a peat loam mixture.

I guess this simpler/cheaper variation of an in-ground wicking bed.

Any ideas?

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