Choose the Best Containers for Your Plants

How to choose the best container for the job, whether it's terra-cotta or glazed.
Clay Pot Planter on Stone Walkway

Clay Pot Planter on Stone Walkway

The sheer number and variety of shapes, sizes and styles of terra-cotta pots available these days is truly staggering, if not a little bewildering to gardeners who aren't sure which pot or pots to buy. Master gardener Paul James gives a primer on pots:

If you grow a lot of annuals in containers and you're on a budget, it's hard to beat the standard terra-cotta pot. They're functional, lightweight and inexpensive. They're great for growing plants that won't need to be overwintered, especially herbs.

But these pots have two basic flaws: they'll crack if left outdoors in areas of the country where temperatures drop below freezing, especially if you leave soil in them, and they break easily. Thicker walled pots which are sometimes called double-wall are far more rugged and a good deal more expensive. They're also fairly heavy when filled with potting mix and a plant. In fact, large pots can be extremely heavy.

Paul James uses more double-wall pots than any other kind, especially for perennials that overwinter outdoors. However, Paul uses more of these pots than any other, especially for perennials that he overwinters outdoors. They will occasionally crack, but they can endure several years and several alternate periods of freezing and thawing without cracking.

So-called double-fired pots will stand up to the most severe winters without cracking. Yes, they're expensive, but they'll last for decades and that makes them a good value.

Glazed clay pots are becoming more and more popular, and they're ideal for plants that require nearly constant moisture because they aren't as porous as unglazed pots. For example, parsley in a terra-cot pot needs to be watered every day, whereas parsley growing in a glazed pot needs to be watered only once every three or four days. Glazed pots are also excellent for miniature water gardens.

The latest trend in clay pots these days is the faux terra cotta. Many "clay" pots are actually made of plastic. You have to touch it to realize that it isn't clay. This one is even more realistic because the finish has that dusty clay look that up until now you could only get with genuine terra cotta. It also has a planting shelf, so rather than fill the entire pot with potting mix, you need to fill only the upper third of the pot. That saves you money on mix, and it lightens the load considerably.

Next Up

Kitchen-Inspired Container Gardening for Small Spaces

You don’t have to have a green thumb to have a green patio. All you need are the right tools, info and a little creativity.  Sponsor content courtesy of Fiskars

How to Plant Hanging Baskets

Use baskets to display spots of color around your home and garden.

How to Plant a Cactus Container Garden

Yee-haw! Turn a container into a desert landscape by filling it with prickly cacti and other succulent plants.

Plant a Pot of Wallflowers

Wallflowers are biennial plants, which means they live for two years, producing leaves in the first and flowers in the second. Buy them with bare roots and plant in fall, ready to bloom the following spring.

How to Grow an Organic Container Garden

Tips for nurturing healthy plants and flowers the organic way.

A Modern Container Garden for the Patio

In this contemporary display, the slim vase-shaped container balances the tall spiky cabbage palm and drooping ferny foliage, while pineapple-like flowers lend an exotic touch.

Container Gardening in the Spring

This elegant spring show builds up from the alternating white and blue hyacinths to the blue grape hyacinths (Muscari ), hidden in their grasslike leaves, and up to the beautiful Fuji cherry (Prunus incisa 'Kojo-no-mai').

How to Plant in Gardening Containers

To ensure that plants in gardening containers grow and perform as well as possible, you need to plant them properly.

How to Grow Flowering Vines in Containers

Many compact climbers, such as jasmine and some clematis, are well suited to living in pots. All they need is a good-sized container, suitable support and regular watering and feeding.

Plant a Hanging Basket for Summer

Floating globes of flowers and foliage add a lush look to patios and balconies throughout the summer.

1,000+ Photos

Browse beautiful photos of our favorite outdoor spaces: decks, patios, porches and more.

On TV

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.