Whether you enjoy an urban patio, have a small yard or just love putting your posies in pots, container gardening offers an attractive and space-saving solution for growing your favorite blooms and produce.
There are many types of garden containers, and selecting the right one can be tricky. But the right pot can make all the difference in growing healthy and happy plants. With that in mind, we offer the following tips to help you select the right container for your plants.
1. Choosing the Right Container Material
Containers come in a variety of materials ranging from terra-cotta and plastic to metal, wood, and concrete. There are certainly pros and cons to each type of container, and you’ll want to consider your climate, needs and personal style when selecting garden pots.
Metal pots come in many styles and are very weather resistant. However, heat can make them very hot, which can harm plants.
Pros: Come in a wide variety of styles and are weather resistant.
Cons: Prone to rusting, often heavy and heat can harm plants and roots.
A Terra-Cotta pot may have the most classic look, but it can be prone to easy breakage.
Pros: Has a natural and classic look; clay is porous and lends itself to good drainage.
Cons: A Terra-Cotta pot is made out of clay and it can crack if frozen or dropped. Plants need to be watered more often in a porous clay pot. They are typically heavy and may need an extra tray underneath to catch the excess drainage.
Plastic containers have come a long way in appearance, and they can often imitate the look of stone and terra-cotta pots. However, that doesn’t always make them the best alternative to those materials.
Pros: Can be made to imitate most any other material, they’re lightweight, fairly resistant to weather (can be left outside during the winter in Utah), and you don’t need to water plastic pots as often because they are impermeable to water.
Cons: Lightweight and can easily blow over during strong winds.
Wood containers are naturally beautiful, easy to find, and can be often created out of materials you have on hand.
Pros: Inexpensive, lightweight and can be painted any color.
Cons: Certain woods are prone to rotting.
Concrete planters have been enjoying a surge in popularity.
Pros: Variety of designs available and are sturdy.
Cons: Can be heavy unless made of the lightweight material.
2. Container Size and Shape Matters
Although it may be tempting to select that beautiful tiny pot, it is important to ensure that the container you select matches the amount of space your plant will need for its roots. A general rule of thumb is to have a minimum depth of four inches at the edges of your container. The smaller the pot, the more frequently you will need to water it.
There are many different shapes of pots, and different plants prefer different pot shapes. Shorter plants that grow in a sort of round shape often prefer shorter, wider pots, while more upright plants prefer taller, deeper pots for root support. Shallower pots require more frequent watering.
No matter the size and shape of your container, make sure you have the proper drainage. Whatever container you select should have holes at the bottom to allow water to drain through. If water is unable to drain from your container, the roots will become water-logged, and your plant will die.
3. Planting your Container: “Thrillers, Spillers, and Fillers”
Once you have selected your perfect pot, you are ready to plant your container. Choose the correct soil for your plants. Begonias have different needs than succulents. In general, potting soil is the best option for container gardening as it contains added nutrients to help your plant grow in a container.
There are many ways to showcase plants in a container. Many gardeners follow the simple recipe of selecting and planting, “thrillers, spillers and fillers.”
Thrillers are most often vertical plants like grasses, hibiscus, and bamboo that can be planted in the center of your container to add height to the mix. Spillers are plants that tumble down the side of your container, and include plants like ivy, vinca vine, and wave petunias. Finally, to bridge the gaps in the pot, select filler plants like geraniums or begonias.