We have been seeing an increasing interest in containers both for their own aesthetic value and for the opportunity they create to do some gardening for those of you with space limitations or the time needed to start or manage a larger garden. If you want to plant your container, consider what you want to grow. Would it be a seasonal effort such as for vegetables or annual flowers? Vegetables and many annuals need an open sunny location with good air circulation. Do you have that? The container that you pick needs to not heat up too much in the sun. Fiberglass, rotocast plastic and terracotta fit that bill and are sturdy enough to hold up. Consider the container size both for the scale and space needed for the roots of what you want to grow and for the visual impact in your setting. Check that the container chosen has good drainage holes. You will want to line the bottom with landscape cloth to keep the soil in the container. Plan to elevate your container with something like “pot feet”.
This will improve drainage and keep the container off contact with concrete or other firm surfaces which could overheat your plants. Fiberglass is perhaps the most interesting fairly recent development since it can be found in various shapes, designs, textures and colors and can mimic other materials.
Many are simple designs & neutral colors so the emphasis is on the planting, not the decorative value of the planter. It is light weight, it isn’t porous, and it can be very strong. Fiberglass has been mostly available for commercial uses but there are now more containers being made for residential sites. If you plan for an all-season planting of an evergreen or small deciduous tree you will want a larger container to accommodate the growing roots. We have enjoyed growing boxwoods, chamaecyparis, and tree lilacs in large fiberglass containers at Garden Accents. Terracotta is an established and traditional material for containers and other garden accents. Its quality and cost can vary widely. Impruneta terracotta from Italy is the highest quality and is most assuredly going to stand up to the winter weather in the Northeast. All terracotta is more porous than the fiberglass and will require more frequent watering. Whatever the container it may need daily or at least frequent watering so placement near your water source can be very helpful. If your containers are only for seasonal plantings you may want to move them for winter so weight should be a consideration. Terracotta often has some interesting design and is attractive even if not planted.
Metal containers made of cast iron, aluminum, lead or bronze can be very attractive and are especially desirable if they complement your house or garden style. Lead has long been used in traditional English garden.
Containers of lead are quite heavy and require some insulation like bubble wrap or closed cell foam between the container and the soil to prevent overheating. Terra cotta, glazed ceramics and concrete planters may also benefit from some insulation and the closed cell foam also helps decrease the rate of evaporation. Widely available concrete or cast stone planters are less expensive and can be found in traditional, contemporary, or rustic designs, to name a few.
While many planted containers may best be neutral or pale colors so as not to detract from the planting, containers can also provide interesting design and color to be attractive on their own.
For a decorative container think about where you want to place it, how big does it need to be for the space (people often underestimate the size needed), what style goes with your home and formality (or informality) of your garden.
Some of our beautiful urn shaped containers fit that bill and will be decorative but have little space for a healthy planting so be sure to decide what your real intent is when you choose a container.