The Different Types of Garden Planters & Planting Tips

Pots, containers and planters overflowing with flowers can add beauty to any garden. But a container garden can serve a practical purpose as well. It can be the perfect solution for those with little or no garden space. Aside from growing flowers, those limited to a small yard, balcony, or only a patch of sun on their driveway can produce almost all kinds of vegetable crops in containers. Thyme, chives, basil and other herbs do very well in pots and planters, which can be placed in a convenient spot right outside the kitchen door.

A container garden can also benefit a larger garden. Place them on a pedestal or on the ground, hang them from your porch, or mount them on a windowsill to create a focal point in the garden, lend instant colour, or tie in the architecture of the house to the garden. A pair of matching planters on either side of the front walk can be a welcoming decoration. Place pots and containers on your patio or deck to add colour and ambience to your sitting areas.

Garden experts usually suggest using single-large planters for outdoor areas and arranging groups of pots, both small and large on terraces, stairways, or anywhere in the garden. Groups of pots and containers can hold a collection of your favourite plants or herbs, which can be both for ornament and for cooking. Houseplants summering outdoors in the shade also make a beautiful addition to container gardening. Wall hanging planters and window boxes offer a number of ways to add instant colour and appeal.

Selecting the Container Size

You should know that it is easier to grow plants in larger containers than small ones. Larger containers hold more soil, which stays moist longer and resists temperature fluctuations. Wall hanging planters are especially prone to drying out, but you can address this problem by getting a planter that comes with an integrated self-watering system. With self-watering wall hanging planters all you will have to do is top up the reservoir and your plants will self-water, meaning they will never dry out.

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You will also have to decide what plant you want to grow in each pot or planter. Different factors determine how large and deep the container should be. Some of them include the size and shape of a plant’s root system and how fast it grows. Rootbound plants, for example, will fill up every square meter of the soil available, will dry out rapidly and won’t grow well in small planters. Mixed planting also requires a large container that offers enough root space for all the plants you choose to grow. Keep in mind that light-coloured containers, like white ones, keep the soil cooler than dark containers. How large the container should be will depend on how much room you have, what will support it, and if you plan to move it. If you are considering placing a large planter on a balcony or deck, make sure to check how much weight the structure will safely hold.

Drainage is a Must

No matter what kind of container you choose, it must have drainage holes. A container without drainage will cause the soil to become waterlogged and plants may die. The drainage holes don’t have to be large, but they should be enough to allow excess water to drain out. If you like a certain container and it has no holes, you can drill some yourself. A container without holes is generally used as a cachepot, or cover, to hide a plain pot.

Choosing the Container Material

Terracotta or clay pots look attractive, but they are breakable and can get damaged easily by freezing and thawing. In cold areas, they will need to be stored in a frost-free place to prevent cracking. They aren’t suitable for shrubs or hard perennials that need to be kept outdoors year-round.

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Cast concrete is a long-lasting option available in a range of sizes and styles. You can even make one yourself. Keep in mind that plain concrete containers are very heavy, which make them difficult to move and not suitable for use on balconies or decks. For a lighter option consider concrete blended with vermiculite or perlite, or concrete and fibreglass mix.

Fibreglass and plastic containers are an affordable option that is also lightweight and available in various shapes and size. Look for sturdy and somewhat flexible containers and avoid thin, stiff ones as they can become brittle with cold or usage.

Containers made of polyurethane foam look significantly like terracotta or concrete containers, but they weight up to 90% less. These foam containers resist cracking and chipping and have the ability to insulate roots against both hot and cold temperatures. These characteristics make them a good choice for potting up plants that will stay outside year-round.

Wood pots and planters offer a natural look and protect roots from rapid temperature swings. With this material, you can choose to build your planters yourself. Pick a naturally rot-resistant wood such as cedar or locust, or use pine treated with a preservative. Moulded wood-fibre containers are sturdy and inexpensive. Metal, though strong, isn’t a good option because it conducts heat, which exposes roots to rapid temperature fluctuations.

Preparing Your Container

Once filled, containers can get pretty heavy. So decide where your planter will be located and move it into position before filling and planting. If keeping your planters watered during the day is a problem, look for sites that receive morning sun but get shaded during the hottest part of the day. Consider doing this even if you are growing plants for full sun as afternoon shade will help reduce the amount of moisture plants needs.

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It isn’t necessary to cover the drainage holes with pot shards or gravel before adding potting mix. The covering won’t improve drainage and it may actually block the holes. To prevent soil from washing out, place a layer of paper towel or newspaper over the holes before adding mix. For deep pots, consider adding a layer of gravel in the bottom to reduce the amount of potting soil required.

Know that plain garden soil isn’t suitable for container garden as it’s too dense. Instead, use a houseplant soil mixture for small containers and a relatively soilless planting mixture for larger containers to maintain the needed water and air balance. Pre-moisten the soil before adding it to the container. You can do this by either watering it before you fill the container or by flooding the container with water several times and stirring. The soil should be uniformly moist before planting.

When planting a mixed container, forget about spacing requirements and plant densely (but prune the plants once they fill in). For shrubs and trees, trim off any circling roots and cover the root ball to the same level as it was set at the nursery. Firm the soil gently and finish by watering thoroughly. Don’t fill the container level to the top with soil mixture – leave space for watering.

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