The type, size and shape of a pot determines not only the look of your container garden but also its cost and care. Here, get tips on how to select the best planters for your patio and garden.
Almost any vessel can be used as a planter, as long as it has holes for drainage and will last one growing season, but take time to decide what type would best suit your design — and your plants.
Three simple terra-cotta pots make an elegant group when filled with architectural palms.
When choosing a pot, remember that large containers hold more soil and water, and therefore dry out more slowly than small planters. So, if you can tend to your pots only a couple of times a week, avoid small terra-cotta pots that will need watering up to twice a day in summer. Also think about the shape of the pot. If you plant a shrub in an urn-like container with a slim neck, as the roots spread within the pot, the plant effectively becomes locked in. When the shrub needs repotting, you will almost certainly have to break the pot.
These spiky succulents in galvanized metal containers of different sizes are real showstoppers.
To create a pleasing display using a selection of pots, consider each for its size, shape and the material it is made from. An easy rule of thumb is to opt for pots made from the same material. You can then either choose a number of identical planters for an elegant, modern display, or group a collection of pots of different shapes and sizes to create an informal but harmonious arrangement.
Vintage herb display
A rustic set of metal pots of various sizes and shapes suits cottage garden designs.
From bright plastics to traditional clay and wood, containers come in a vast choice of colors and materials. Some may obviously suit your garden style and budget, but also be aware that the material a pot is made from affects its durability, and the maintenance it requires.
Versatile and relatively inexpensive, terra-cotta pots come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, and even colors, if you choose glazed containers. Terra cotta is porous and allows air to pass through to plant roots, but this is also a disadvantage, since it absorbs water from the soil, drying it out. It is also prone to frost damage, unless fired to very high temperatures, which makes it much more expensive.
Although frost-proof, porous and a good insulator for plant roots, wood decays and must be painted or treated with a preservative to prolong its life. Baskets offer a similarly natural look, but are less durable, lasting just a few years before deteriorating.
This is a popular choice of material because it's so versatile. Metal containers come in a wide array of shapes and styles; choose from rustic utilitarian planters for a cottage-style garden, or try modern galvanized or powder-coated metal containers in an urban, minimalist scheme. Beware that thin metal containers afford plant roots little insulation, making them prone to overheating and frost damage. Steel containers also corrode and can leave rusty stains on light-colored paving. Even galvanized and powder-coated metal containers will rust if their surfaces are damaged.
Strong, frost-proof, insulating and extremely durable, stone and concrete pots make perfect partners for plants. Both materials are less porous than terra cotta, so will not dry out potting compost too quickly, but they are extremely heavy. While this makes them very stable, and suitable for growing tall, top-heavy plants like trees, they cannot be moved easily once planted up. While concrete pots tend to be inexpensive, you will pay a high price for stone. If you want the look of stone for a lower price, buy containers made from synthetic stone compounds.
Plastics, polymers, fiberglass and resins all fall under the umbrella of synthetics. These man-made materials are used to produce pots large and small, plain and decorative, and they come in the widest range of colors, from natural shades to vibrant neon pinks and blues. Synthetic pots are frost-proof and not easily broken, so they are ideal if you have children or pets who may knock them over.
Excerpted from How to Grow Practically Everything
© 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited