March 3, 2009 by Rick

What is it? Bury an empty pot in a spot in the garden to function as a sleeve then drop in plants growing in the same size pot leaving them in their original container.


Add an efficent drip system to water your Pot-in-Pot garden.

Apply your preferred mulch for weed control or pull your plants out, spray weeds with roundup and replace the pots into pots.


Use this time-tested method:

  1. where you have difficulty digging because tree roots or rocks
  2. where tree or shrub roots would encroach into rich organic flower beds
  3. where nematodes (microscopic root eating pest worms) are a problem on certain plants
  4. where you need to save cost of incorporating organic matter to build a rich flower bed
  5. where you can pull out the pots, spray Roundup on the weeds and replace pots once the Roundup dries
  6. where you garden with pots in beds using woven groundcover fabric with holes cut just for Pot-in-Pot
  7. where all you have is sand in your garden
  8. where all you have is coral rock in your garden
  9. where you need to save time in changing out annuals
  10. where you need to change annuals with poinsettias, hardy mums, lilies
  11. where you need to save money on water by focusing the water in the container
  12. where you need to keep fertilizer contained and available for the plant with less leaching and waste 
  13. where you need the ability to rotate the best bloomers to the front of the bed
  14. where you need the ability to experiment with color in the design
  15. where you want to plant before the last frost free date and have the option to lift and protect frost tender plants
  16. where you want to experiment with a plants suitability to your light levels
  17. where you might need to rotate the containers to face the sun when it comes from 1 direction
  18. as a place to hold you recently purchased plants until you have time to plant
  19. where you always have a place for your annuals without doing any bed preparation
  20. where you can change your landscape in the dead of night while your neighbors sleep

The Pot-in-Pot method works especially well with our Florida Friendly Plants because of the components in our potting soil. In addition to the microbes in our organic compost rich soil we add Bacillus subtilis (Companion) to protect the root system in a more natural way that augments the absorption of nautral and salt based fertilizer. We add kelp and humic acid nutrients (Essential) to feed the microbes. This combination of components lowers the amount of fertilizer and water needed for optimal growth. It also protects the roots from fungal and bacterial disease better than any chemical control since it aggressively attacks disease and acts as a cure to infection. Then it continues to grow and colonize the entire root system. And it comes free with every plant we grow. Wow! We also incorporate a corn starch based polymer (Zeba) which reduces water and fertilizer use by an additional 30%. We have confirmed this claim with the same results in our own production. Zeba is the only expandable poloymer that we have found to work well and be cost effective. Zeba expands into the soil pore spaces when it receives water and fertilizer solutions and then slowly supplies it to the roots without letting it out of the container or away from the plant in the garden.


In our soil the microbes continue to grow encasing new root tips as they develop in a symbiotic relationship. The corn starch polymer, Zeba stays active in the soil for years absorbing and releasing water and nutrients. The low use of salt based fertilizer keeps the natural systems functioning at their peak with less fertilizer. In fact if you over fertilize with salt based water soluble fertilizer, cheap 6-6-6 blends or excess time release prills you kill the precious microbes we are giving you. Never exceed the labeled rates on fertilizer or sprays (organic or synthetic) as the results are usually detrimental to natural systems in your containers, flower beds and possibly the environment beyond your borders.

Our Florida Friendly gallon annuals and perennials usually perform well when planted in the ground but often perform as well or better using this Pot-in-Pot method. It is worth a try and inexpensive to do it. You may have good luck doing this with nematode sensitive perennials like Pentas and African Bush Daisies especially if you do not have the time or desire to build a rich organic flower bed needed to support the good microbes that kill the bad root eating nematodes. Next time you are at The Home Depot compare the rich organic soil in our Florida Friendly Plants containers to other nursery plants you have seen using ultralight, sterile, quick to dry potting soils and you will notice a difference.


The closest potting soil to ours that you can buy at any Home Depot is Miracle Grow Moisture Control Potting Soil. It has a moisture holding polymer and some control release fertilizer but lacks active compost. You can make it better by adding some leaf mold or compost from your garden or cow manure or better yet some worm castings but you can still grow great plants as long as you don’t under or over fertilize (read the label) and maintain moisture in the soil. 

 Try growing vegetables with the Pot-in-Pot method. You can lift the pot of lettuce and harvest it in the house and return it to the in ground pot after you have plucked just enough lettuce for your salad without waste.