There are several reasons for
growing plants in containers or pots,
some obvious and some not so obvious.
Analyzing the reasons for growing plants
in pots as opposed to growing in soil
allows us to study the process and realize
all its benefits. Some of these benefits
are also available to growers using polybags,
but the majority are not. An overall view
will show that growing ornamentals in
pots is often a practical and economical
choice despite the container costs.
The main benefits can be divided into:
- ABILITY TO CONTROL GROWTH
- MOBILITY OF PLANTS
- AESTHETICS CONSIDERATIONS
CONTROL: One of the most important reasons,
though not the most obvious, to containerize
a plant is to get greater control on growing
it. This control comes in many forms:
- Control over media: by definition,
growing in the ground means using soil.
While one may have excellent soil, it
often is a limiting factor for growth.
And even the best soil may not be suitable
for growing some specialty crops.
- Irrigation and feeding: though not
much used in India, micro irrigation
to water and feed individual pots is
undoubtedly the way to go and one of
the major benefits of containerization.
Very great savings in water and fertilizer
use are realized. When used in conjunction
with known, standard growing media,
considerable overall control on plant
growth can be achieved. By using the
simple pour though method for collecting
soil solution and testing it for EC
and pH, intelligent decisions regarding
feeding can be made.
- Spacing: the ability to adjust and
change the spacing between plants is
a major advantage. It also allows more
efficient use of space etc by increasing
spacing as plants grow and replacing
dead or dying ones.
- Disease & pests: it is often possible
to control the activities of pests and
diseases when growing in containers,
for several reasons. The relatively
small soil volumes allow adequate drenching
with fungicides or growth regulators,
adequate spacing allows proper spraying
- Root systems: one of the least utilized
advantages is the ability to see and
control root systems: most well designed
containers will allow easy "knocking
out" of the root ball to examine the
roots- an impossible procedure with
plants in the ground. Not only can one
look for root pests and diseases but
also visualize general root growth-
poor root systems always mean poor top
- Environment: containerized plants
are most suitable for growing under
shade or poly houses. They may be easily
benched to reduce the incidence of disease,
weeds and for better observation and
care during the growth cycle.
- Transplanting: for obvious reasons,
containerized plants are the easiest
and best to transplant. Ideally, for
specialized transplant production (plugs)
should be designed to give automatic
air root pruning.
MOBILITY: the most obvious instance
is the ability to easily move a plant at
the time of sale or transplanting, but the
ability to move the plants at will has other
- Space saving: when young plants can
be spaced close, gradually increasing
the distance as the plant grows.
- Uniform growth: typically, plants
tend to be relatively non uniform. Once
the leaves start touching, the large
plants overshadow and quickly overtake
smaller ones. By regularly segregating
by size, more uniform plants are produced.
A batch of seedlings can need to be
sorted several times to get the best,
most uniform product.
AESTHETICS: when growing ornamental
plants the container is part of the appeal,
or at least it should be. Apart from the
basic need for clean containers of adequate
strength, we often miss the opportunity
inherent in the use of containers for plants:
- Marketing and branding opportunity:
by using a special container shape or
color it is possible to develop a brand
image for the plants.
- Value Addition opportunity: by using
new, unusual and superior containers
and some imagination in arranging plants,
it is possible to use relatively low
cost and common plants in innovative
ways to give a product of high perceived
value in market. The price realized
more than offsets the increased container
There are, of course, disadvantages to the
use of pots and containers, most prominently
the cost factor. However, very often all
the above factors will override and compensate
for this cost increase- hence the world
wide movement towards containerization of
ornamental plant production.