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Which? finds the best way to keep your pots flowering all summer

Use a Best Buy controlled-release food for plants that flower for months

We all want our bedding plants to flower non-stop all summer, but they can’t do that unless you feed them well. Which? Gardening tested 10 widely available controlled-release plant foods to see which ones gave us great flowers all summer long. Find out which are the best fertilisers for pots

Best plant food

Use the slider to see the difference between a Best Buy controlled-release fertiliser and a Don’t Buy. The plant on the left flowered wonderfully for five months. But the plant on the right started running out of feed by mid-summer, and had pale leaves and far fewer flowers. 

How to feed your plants

Controlled-release food slowly feeds your plants over several months. It’s also sometimes sold as slow-release fertiliser, so look out for that, too. As soon as the weather is warm enough and the compost is moist, the balls of fertiliser start to break down, giving just the right amount of feed to keep your plants healthy and flowering well.

Mix the controlled-release fertiliser into the compost before you plant your pots. Don’t worry if you’ve already planted them, you can sprinkle the correct dose onto the surface of the compost and gently work it into the top layer. For everything you need to know, look at our guide to controlled-release fertilisers.

When we compared controlled-release fertiliser with liquid feed, we found that both do a great job, but that controlled-release fertilisers are much less fuss. You don’t have to remember to feed your pots every week and you are saved the task of mixing watering cans full of liquid feed. 

Best compost for patio pots

Which? Gardening tests composts every year and we have some great Best Buy composts for patio pots. Some are very good value, too.

If you haven’t got around to planting up your patio pots, there’s still time to do it. The shops are still full of bedding plants, and you can pick up some bargains at supermarkets including Aldi, Lidl, Morrisons and Tesco. Bedding geraniums (pelargoniums) are a great option, as they’re cheap and will flower for months on end. Keep an eye out for ‘Trixi’ plug plants, which have three plants in a single plug. We found that all three plants flower prolifically and look gorgeous. Petunias and surfinias also give great value for money.

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