Planting out plants in place
Planting out is when plants are moved from small pots into the garden. Our guide offers on advice on why and how to do it.

Helpful information

Timing: Once conditions are right outside and the plant is big enough

Where to do it: Outdoors

Garden space: Large garden, small garden, balcony

  • Planting out can be quite a physical activity, building strength through digging
  • Caring for plants engages our nurturing instincts, with optimism for the future
  • The opportunity to be outside, surrounded by nature. Take regular breaks and simply appreciate what’s around

Easy read guide

Planting out is also available as an easy read PDF guide. Find our easy read guides here.

Planting out plants in pots
Plants in pots ready for planting out in the garden

Planting out means transplanting (moving) a plant into the garden, so it can continue growing.

There are a few different reasons why you may want to plant out:

1. When growing plants from seed

Some plants can be grown by first sowing seeds into trays or pots indoors. This is a good way to get growing earlier - particularly for plants like sweet peas, tomatoes and sunflowers.

Once the weather is warm enough and the plants big enough, they can be planted out in the garden.

2. When returning overwintered plants

Some people lift and store plants including geraniums during winter. This is because they won't survive in the cold.

These can be planted out in the garden again once the weather is warm enough.

3. When purchasing small / plug plants

Many food and flowering plants can be purchased as small plants from garden centres and shops. These small plants can be planted out in the garden.

When to plant out

When to plant out depends on the individual plant. Some food and flower plants will not survive in frosts, or will be damaged by them. You will generally need to wait until May to plant these out in the garden. Some plants cope better with cold weather and can be planted out earlier.

When you buy small plants from garden centres, you can often plant them out straight away.

Double check the advice on seed packets or plant labels to make sure.

Where to plant out

You could plant out into the ground in beds and borders. When doing this, you may need to prepare your beds and borders first. This is particularly important if the soil is very poor quality or full of weeds.

Make it easier

You might find it easier to plant out into raised beds, or large containers. You can work at these more easily from a seated position.

You can plant in beds and borders from a seated position. You will need good access to your beds and borders, so make sure they are not too wide. Using long-handled and telescopic tools will allow you to reach.

Planting out vs direct seed sowing

Some seeds have more than one option for how to sow them. You may be able to sow them indoors / under cover then plant out OR sow them directly into the ground. The seed packet should let you know where and when you can sow your seeds.

Some people may find it easier to sow seeds directly in the ground. It involves less time compared to sowing in trays or pots first. Or, you may find nurturing a seedling then planting it out more satisfying.

You could try both methods and see what works best!

To be able to participate in nature, to help a plant grow … is just so nourishing, don't you think?

Chris Underhill, Thrive Founder

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Essential items

  • Plants
  • Trowel
  • Plant labels
  • Watering can

Tools to make it easier

  • Kneeler seat with handles
  • Long-handled trowel
  • Arm support cuff
  • Bulb planter

Our guide to planting out will help you do it with ease.

Step 1: Gather everything you need

Gather all the items you need and bring to your planting location.

Make it easier

If you will be kneeling to do this activity, you may find a kneeler seat with handles comfortable. This provides protection for your knees.

Step 2: Put all pots in position on top of the soil

Planting out in position on the soil
Plants positioned on the soil

Keep the plants in their pots at this stage. Place each pot in the spot where you plan to plant it.

Check you have left enough space around each plant for it to grow.

Step 3: Make a planting mark with a pot

Planting out pot mark on soil
A mark is made on the soil using a plant pot

You are now ready to plant out. Do this one plant at a time.

Begin by pressing the plant pot lightly into the soil below it. This will leave a mark so you know where to dig. Move the plant in its pot to the side.

Step 4: Dig a planting hole

Planting out digging trowel
A hole is dug using a trowel

Use a trowel to dig a hole where you made a mark.

The hole needs to be wide and deep enough to put the plant in. You can check this by placing the plant in the hole while still in its pot.

Make it easier

If you garden from a seated position or in a wheelchair, you could use a long-handled trowel with arm support cuff.

For small plants, you may be able to use a bulb planter to remove the soil and add the plant. Some people may find this easier than a trowel.

Step 5: Place the plant in the planting hole

Planting out removing plant from pot
A plant is gently removed from its pot before planting

Once you are happy that the hole is big enough, gently remove the plant from its pot. Place it in the hole you have just made in the soil.

Step 6: Firm the plant in

Planting out firming plant in place
A plant is firmed in place in the soil

Gently press the soil around the plant to help firm in the roots. Add extra compost to fill in any gaps between the plant and the side of the hole.

Step 7: Repeat until fully planted out

Follow steps 3 to 6 for all plants.

Make it easier

If you are planting across a large area, you don’t need to do it all at once. Take regular breaks to avoid strain. Your plants can always sit in their pots and wait for another day.

Step 7: Add plant labels

Pop a plant label in the ground to help identify what you are growing.

Make it easier

An easy way to add a plant label is just to place the plant packet on a stick in the ground. You may want to tape the packet to the stick so it doesn’t blow off in the wind.

If you have any sight loss, some gardening companies produce extra-large labels. A range of large clear print, coloured, tactile and braille labels are available from the RNIB.

Step 8: Water your plants

A person waters newly added plants
A person waters newly added plants

Gently water your newly added plants.

Make it easier

Read our guide to watering plants outdoors for tips and tools for easier watering.

Keep watering your plants as they grows. One good way to check if they need water is to poke your finger into the soil around them. If the soil feels moist, you probably don’t need to water.

Now, you can enjoy the sight, flowers, or even food produce from your plants as they mature.

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