Flower Pots: Your Guide to Picking the Right Planter for You

Planting in containers is an excellent solution if you don’t have the space for a garden, if you live in an apartment, have poor soil, or just aren’t quite ready to invest the time into landscaping your yard.  Planters and pots allow you to reap the joy of gardening without the chore of weeding and digging.  Adding a pot or two (or more) to your porch, deck, patio or even indoors is an easy way to add visual interest and introduce you to the joys of gardening.

Types of plant containers

There are many different potting containers available.  Each type has a different purpose for your potting needs.

Nursery pots

These are the pots you’ll find at gardening centers and nurseries when purchasing plants.  They are typically made of thin, black plastic and are great for transplanting.  They heat up quickly in the sun and are not insulated.  They can be used in shady spots, but are typically not used for long term planting.

Trays and Flats

Planter trays and flats are rectangular boxes with trays having raised sides.  They are usually made of black plastic and are usually solid.  They can sometimes be grated to offer drainage.  Trays and flats are typically used to hold small pots or inserts that are used to start plants from seeds.  Inserts can also be purchased that are made from cells, usually about 3 inches deep, to hold individual seedlings.  The inserts are usually perforated along the cells to make transplanting each seedling easy.

Plastic plant pots

Plastic pots are usually light in color and are meant to be used as a long-term planter.  They are lightweight, and typically more affordable than other planter types.  They usually have more drainage holes than ceramic pots and can easily be altered if more drainage holes are needed.  The light colored plastic does not hold heat well so when used in sunny locations they won’t heat up too much and damage the plant roots.   Sunlight, however, can degrade plastic pots and once broken they aren’t really usable.  Some plastic pots may not last for more than a few seasons.

Growing bags and pouches

Grow bags are what it sounds like, a bag in which you grow plants.  They are light weight which makes them easy to move when full.  They fold down nicely when empty so they hardly take up any space when not in use and makes transplanting easy.  The bags generally have drainage holes and come in many sizes so you can use them for a variety of plants.  They are made of UV resistant plastic so they are more durable in the sun.  They are not as sturdy and solid as planters and can lean a bit if the soil is not well distributed.  Grow bags are a great option for renters and people with not much space to store pots during the non-growing season.

Biodegradable pots

Biodegradable pots are made from some sort of environmentally-friendly fiber such as peat moss, paper, or wood pulp.  These pots are designed to break down when planted so they make transplanting a breeze.  They are typically smaller in sized and are used to start plants from seeds.  When the seedlings are big enough the entire pot is planted in the ground.  This is a great way to cut down on the waste you get when transplanting seedlings from plastic inserts or pots.  The downside is the pots are not reusable.  It is easy, however, to make your own biodegradable pots from toilet paper tubes or even newspaper.

Decorative Ceramic pots and planters

Decorative pots and planters are typically made from terracotta, clay, stone or sometimes concrete.  They offer a lot of variety in terms of size and color and are generally more visually appealing than plastic pots.  They are heavier and can be more difficult to move especially the very large pots.  They are also more breakable and can be prone to cracking when the soil freezes and expands.  Be sure the soil is not packed to tightly.  These type of pots typically do not drain as well as plastic pots and more drainage holes may be required depending on the plant.  The clay and terracotta, especially the unglazed ones, tend to absorb moisture from the soil which may require more watering depending on the plant.  Some plants prefer dryer soil and love terracotta and clay.  Glazed pots hold moisture a little better.   These materials also hold absorb and retain heat from the sun which may damage the plant roots, depending on the plant.  None of the materials can be damaged by the sun and pots outside will last a long time.

Hanging baskets and planters

Hanging baskets and pots are a great way to make the most of the vertical space you have.  The look nice on decks and are great for people that are limited on space.  They consist of a pot that is supported by wires or cords that come together at a hook to be hung.  They can be made entirely of plastic with a plastic pot, cords, and hook.  Hanging planters can also be made of a metal wire frame basket, metal chain and a metal hook.  The metal frame is then lined with a fiber liner that acts as a water tray by absorbing moisture and draining the excess.  The fiber liner can be made of synthetic materials such as recycled plastic or natural materials such as coconut fibers or sphagnum moss.  Hanging flowers should be kept out of windy locations to prevent drying out the soil.  They can also leak a lot of moisture when watered so considered keeping plants under the hanging baskets to minimize the amount of water wasted.

Seed pots

Seed pots are small containers used to grow plants from seeds; they are not large planters.  Once the seedlings have sprouted the plant is transplanted.  Seed pots can be made of plastic or sometimes a biodegradable material.  They can be individual small pots or a connected tray that can be split up when it is time to transplant.

Self-watering pot

Self-water pots contain a hidden reservoir at the bottom of the planter that holds extra water that the plant can absorb as needed.  They are typically made of plastic and, as a result, are lightweight.  This is an ideal planter for small plants that need frequent watering and indoor plants that can tolerate wet conditions such as a peace lily.  These types of pots are also useful for hanging plants that receive a lot of ventilation and will be less likely to dry out or to be used in places that may be hard to reach with water.  Self-watering pots typically have a plug at the bottom.  If you use the planter outdoors be sure to remove this plug otherwise the planter may overflow with rain causing the plant to drown.

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