Outdoor containers can be a wonderful way to add focal points throughout the garden. In many urban areas, the primary means of having a garden may be through a series of planters set up on a roof or terrace. Whatever your particular situation, it is important to choose planters that are not only beautiful, but are also built to last.
The cheapest and most popular types of outdoor planters are made out of thin plastic. While these planters are okay for a quick fix, they have a tendency to crack and break in extreme weather, so they probably will not last you for very long. They also are not generally all that attractive looking and have a tendency to look as cheap as they cost.
Another terrible, but equally inexpensive, planter choice is thin, machine-made terra cotta. These planters are also very likely to crack and break in freezing weather. If you like the look of terra cotta, a better choice is handmade terra cotta that is at least 1/2-inch to 1-inch thick. The thickness of the clay will help to prevent cracking and breakage.
Among my favorite planter materials are fiberglass, high-fired ceramics, and concrete blends. Fiberglass planters look and feel a lot like thick plastic, but they can be painted to resemble glazed ceramics or other materials to a great degree of accuracy. Fiberglass is much more durable than ordinary plastic. It won’t tend to crack or break, and it is lightweight, which makes it an excellent choice in areas where you may want to move the pots around from time to time.
High-fired ceramics are most commonly imported from Asian countries. They are made from an outdoor-ready type of clay that has been glazed and then fired to a high enough temperature to make the possibility of cracking during freezing temperatures far less likely. Not all ceramics that are available on the market today are made to go outdoors. Most garden centers will carry indoor planters on their indoor shelves, and all outdoor planters on their outdoor shelves to help the customer be able to differentiate between the two. When in doubt, always check with a salesperson or your landscaper first. The best part about ceramic planters is the sheer variety of colors available in an assortment of effects, including crackled, drip, or multi-colored glaze patterns. It’s easy to create a stunning, very elegant effect with a large ceramic pot strategically placed in a garden, with or without plants in it.
Concrete blends are usually a mix of fiberglass and concrete. This combination works really well because you can create the look of stone or slate, while at the same time getting the lightweight feel of fiberglass. These planters look really great in highly geometric, very contemporary shapes and settings.
Metal planters have become a very hot item in recent years, and while I agree that they can look really sleek and modern in the right context, there are a few things you should look out for. First, make sure that the metal doesn’t appear to be too thin or it will have a tendency to dent and warp over time or as you try to move these planters around. The second thing you should look at are the welds between the pieces of metal that make up the planter. Welds that are already beginning to crack or pull apart will only continue to do so even more when you add the pressure of dirt and plants. The last thing to consider is that some metal planters will have a tendency to rust over time, so you will want to check and make sure that they have been treated with a rust-proofing of some sort before purchasing.
The last and most important thing to check any planter for before purchasing is drainage holes. If you are planning to put dirt and plants inside of them, then a drainage hole is absolutely mandatory to prevent plants from drowning and developing root rot. If your planter does not contain drainage holes, you can drill them yourself using a drill bit that is at least 1/2- to 1-inch in thickness. Smaller holes will have a tendency to get dirt clogged up in them. You will also want to line the base of your planter with 1-inch or so of pebbles or broken pottery shards to prevent all of your potting soil from escaping.