Planter Varieties Discussed

An admiring eye is not enough to come to a conclusion regarding the selection of a specific variety of any given item . Always consider your most favoured options and then draw up a list of Pros and Cons to follow what your heart decides, with what your brain confirms is right.  For all who never assumed a flower pot could be a source of debate and deep consideration, keep reading…

Plastic Pots 1Plastic Planters

Pros

  • Affordable and widely available.
  • Heat and cool quickly; plant roots and microorganisms are not damaged as easily in direct sun or high heat locations.
  • Usually have more drainage holes than other types of pots.
  • Easy to drill additional holes if needed.
  • Lightweight; suitable for balconies and decks.
  • Available in a variety of shapes, colours and sizes; can be spray painted if desired.
  • Keep the moisture in but do not store any reserve within themselves, unlike ceramics and terracotta.
  • Safer alternative to the standard breakable clay pot.

Cons

  • There are  health issues associated with some plastics. Try to use the least toxic ones (#2 HDPE, #4 LDPE, and #5 PP) and avoid #3 PVC, #6 PS, and #7 polycarbonate.
  • The Environmental groups recommend discarding scratched or worn plastic containers to avoid leaching of chemicals
  • As with most plastics, they only last a few seasons. Sunlight gradually degrades plastics and they become fragile. If using them, look for the thicker ones for durability. (To make them last longer, select thicker pots and keep them covered when not in use.)
  • Not all are recyclable; please consider the environmental impact when discarded.
  • Black Plastic Pots: Heat up quickly and provide little insulation. Avoid using in full sun but OK to use in shady positions

Foam Pots 1 Foam (Polystyrene) Planters

Pros

  • Great insulation
  • Affordable
  • Can be painted or decorated
  • Good drainage and you can easily create more holes if required.
  • Lightweight
  • Easy to clean
  • Do well in hot climates and with direct sun.

Cons

  • Not particularly attractive
  • If they start to degrade or become damaged, do not use them.

Clay Pots 1Terracotta (Clay, Ceramic) Planters

Pros

  • More visually appealing and allow for more options in colour, size and pattern.
  • Glazed ceramic pots are usually heavier but do tend to be more waterproof.
  • Bottom heavy (weight is distributed to the bottom); suitable for windy sites.

Cons

  • Drainage is inadequate for most species of plants.
  • You would have to drill more drainage holes (without breaking the pot)
  • Lightweight pots are more breakable and chip easily. Not child friendly.
  • Retain heat for long periods of time, potting soil can become very hot killing off microorganisms and burning plant roots.
  • Tend to crack when soil freezes and expands in cold weather zones.
  • Porous thereby drawing moisture from the soil and drying out more rapidly.  Plants will require more frequent watering (higher maintenance).
  • Due to weight and fragility, repotting can become a hassle.
  • Absorb mineral salts and may produce a white crusty build-up on the outside.

Stone Pots 1Concrete Planters

Pros

  • Available I much larger sizes so are suitable for large shrubs and trees.
  • Provides good insulation with severe changes in weather and temperature.
  • Very heavy.

Cons

  • Concrete is porous so may need sealing and should be properly cured to avoid impacting the soil alkalinity.
  • Unfortunately high in lime which is toxic to many plants

Stone Planters

Pros

  • Are attractive in with loads of character and very ornamental.
  • Provides good insulation.
  • Considering the energy required to produce, these containers and their long life, they are one of the more environmentally friendly choices.
  • Genuine stone ages beautifully

Cons

  • heavy and expensive

Self Water Pots 1Self Watering Planters

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Contain a hidden reservoir that you fill with water and a wick or delivery system to filter it up to the plant.
  • Useful for busy people or forgetful gardeners
  • Useful for smaller plants that may have to be watered more than once a day.
  • Helpful in situations where space is limited, hard to reach places, hanging baskets with higher maintenance needs or groups of plants where some pots are at the back and hard to water.
  • Help reduce the frequency of plant waterings but will not eliminate them!

Cons

  • Unsuitable for large plants; roots will work their way into the water reservoir at the bottom, leading to water logging and diseases.
  • Can be more expensive for the initial outlay but benefits may outweigh this cost.
  • Made of plastic so consider the environmental impact of this choice.

Wooden Pots 1Wooden Planters

Pros

  • Usually light-mid weight depending on the dimensions type of wood.
  • Full of character and available in a wide variety of types of wood. .
  • Can be painted or made with pressure-treated woods, for a longer useful life.
  • Can be bought both ready made or as DIY kits.
  • Insulate plant roots from the sun and too much heat.
  • Relatively durable and unlikely to break, they stand up to the cold well.
  • Rot resistant wood like redwood and cedar don’t require painting.

Cons

  • For food safety if growing edibles, check the chemical treatments used on the planter.
  • The wood used may not be from a sustainable resource.  Look for companies creating products from sustainable timber plantations or bamboo.
  • The wood can split, and the metal bands or nails can go rusty and weaken the structure.
  • Wood is a natural resource and therefore has the risk of pest infestation.
  • The planter bottom may rot if they get too moist so they need to be elevated and have adequate drainage.
  • To avoid rotting wood, put another pot inside a wooden planter (use as a cache pot) and use only for external decoration or line with heavy duty black plastic with drainage holes.  If using black plastic, avoid planting edibles due to possible chemical leaching.
  • They require maintenance with a preservative treatment every year or so.  Treat wooden planters with a non-toxic stain, paint or a waterproofing agent.  Oil can also help preserve the wood and keep it from drying out.
  • Untreated wooden planters will lose their visual appeal and eventually rot in time.

Metal Pots 1Metal Planters

Pros

  • Very decorative.
  • Very durable – will not chip, crack or break.
  • Most metal containers will age gracefully with an aged patina or beautiful colour, although depending on the type of metal, some will rust.
  • Usually lightweight, but depending on the type of metal, cast iron for example, may become problematic.

Cons

  • Provide no insulation and heat up quickly which causes the soil to dry out and increase the possibility of root damage. Use some form of insulation such as a plastic pot liner.
  • Avoid old-fashioned toxic lead planters if you have small children or you want to grow vegetables.
  • Metal is non-porous so drainage is not available unless you drill holes into the bottom, yourself.

The above outlines some of the more common options, there are certainly many more. Our goal with this post was to show you that even with things as basic as flower pots, you must always consider more than just aesthetics to know if it is right for you, your garden and the planet as a whole.

Message from Timbers

We encourage everyone to use some of our tips and let us know how it worked for you. If you need more detail or suggestions, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Alternatively, if you lack the time to do the work yourself, drop us a line or give us a call and we’ll give you a hand with the project of your choice at a fair price as always!

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