Add splashes of color all around you deck, patio and landscaping with planter container gardens

Planters - Buying Guide

Planters can house all sorts of plants, vegetables and flowers. Depending on the type of plants you choose, along with other factors like drainage and location, you have several styles to choose from.

This buying guide highlights the different types of planters, along with care and maintenance tips.

Planter Considerations and Types

Consider the size and weight of your plant and its watering needs before selecting a planter

  • Make sure your planter has enough room for a fair amount of soil and root growth.
  • Also, check that the planter has drainage holes or is made from material you can drill holes into, so excess water can drain through, and preventing the roots from becoming waterlogged.
  • Porosity, or how porous the material is, is also important as the soil must be able to breathe so roots receive oxygen.
  • Make sure your planter can withstand harsh weather conditions if you plan to leave it outside all year long.
  • Dark-colored pots absorb more heat than lighter colors.
  • For full sun, choose a pot made from nonporous material to prevent evaporation.
  • If you are unable to water daily, make sure planters have a drip tray or reservoir.
  • Colder climates require frost-free containers like stone, cement or wood.

Type Benefits Drawbacks


  • Attractive
  • Available in a variety of colors and designs
  • Retains water better than clay
  • Breakable
  • Expensive
  • Heavy
  • Poor drainage*
  • May crack if frozen


  • Affordable
  • Acquires character with age
  • Generally lightweight (especially tin)
  • Dents easily
  • May overheat soil, damaging roots
  • Rusts easily unless liner is
  • Poor drainage*


  • Available in a variety of styles
  • Lightweight
  • Long lasting
  • Resists breakage
  • Somewhat attractive -- some resemble terra cotta or other natural materials
  • Does not weather well
  • Looks artificial
  • Poor drainage*
  • Top-heavy plants may fall
    over if plastic is lightweight

Unglazed clay (terra cotta)

  • Attractive
  • Easy to mix and match
  • Excellent drainage
  • Readily available
  • Reasonably priced
  • Breakable
  • Heavy
  • May crack if frozen


  • Acquires character with age
  • Aesthetically pleasing
  • Affordable
  • Buy or build exactly what you want
  • Good drainage
  • Heavy
  • Rots unless liner is applied

* You can improve drainage in most cases simply by poking or drilling holes in the bottom of the planter.

Care and Maintenance Tips

Caring for your planters will ensure they continue to look good and safeguard your plants

  • Since the roots are container-bound and cannot search for nutrients, provide plenty of water, fertilizer and plant food.
  • Fertilize based on the type of plants in your planters, not the construction material.
  • Purchase soil mixes especially formulated for containers.
  • Garden soil can contain diseases and drains poorly, so use fresh soil every year to provide good aeration and avoid accumulation of fertilizer salts.
  • Potted plants require more fertilizer and water than plants grown in the ground.
  • Soil in pots freezes more quickly, so move tender plants before frost.
  • Move terra cotta and ceramic planters inside to prevent breaking or cracking during harsh weather.
  • Water frequently, especially in the hotter months of summer.


Here are a few accessories and add-ons to consider for your container gardens:

Accessories: Many planters come with optional accessories such as water saucers to protect the surface under the plant and to keep water from completely draining away. Porous saucers, like clay, will not completely protect the surface beneath them, so depending on where you place them you may want to consider plastic or ceramic saucers.

Galvanized Metal, Copper and Lead Planters: These metal containers offer an attractive and distinctive style that provides a unique accent to outdoor areas. Materials may not weather well.

Half Whiskey Barrels: Large wooden planters for large plants or a large container garden, whiskey barrels are attractive additions to a yard or deck.

Hanging Baskets: You can buy plants and flowers in plastic white or green baskets accompanied by a hook for hanging. You can also buy the basket and make the container yourself. These baskets can be heavy when filled with soil and water so make sure you have sturdy hardware in place before you hang them.

Self-Watering Planters: These planters include a reservoir for water plus a mechanism, such as a wick, to provide the plant with a sustained water supply. Self-watering planters tend to be a bit more expensive than standard planters but they reduce the frequency of watering. They are also helpful when placing plants in locations that are difficult to access.

Window Boxes: Window boxes are available in plastic or wood and come in a variety of lengths. They provide an attractive accent to your home, displaying seasonal foliage, flowers and more.

Wire and Moss Baskets: Plants grow through spaces in the moss basket, creating a nice full look. These baskets, however, are not waterproof, so use them outdoors only where water drainage is not an issue.