Here you’ll find both the Good News and the Bad News about garden pots of all sorts. And remember, the best outdoor planters are the ones just right for you.
Below you’ll find lots of information about stone, wrought iron, cement, and other pots that may take cold weather better than clay flower pots. But, if you’d like information on clay pots, you can find it here.
For beauty, durability, and performance, you can’t beat stone planters and urns. Dry-cast limestone, for example, produces a lovely smooth finish in graceful forms. The stone has porosity, so it breathes, but is also frost-proof, so unless you’re looking at below-zero, you can use them year-round. Even in colder climates, the garden pots can stand out all winter, but empty.
If you need any convincing at all, spend about two minutes at Longshadow planters. You’ll want one. You’ll want more than one!
Stone planters come in all sorts of sizes, too. You can purchase those big dry-cast stone planters (such as the ones at Longshadow) for large visual impact statements.
But stone garden pots come in much smaller sizes, too. Some have lovely scrolled designs, or occur in squares, rectangles, or graceful curves.
These smaller styles are great to use in multiples, and serve well along garden paths, on patios, or up the stairs as in this lovely urban front entrance.
The Good News: Beautiful, big, versatile, keeps roots cool and aerated. Did I mention beautiful?
The Bad News: Expensive. REALLY heavy. In some climates, must be emptied to winter over (but you can add non-rooted displays).
Plastic and Fiberglass
These have gotten better and better at mimicking clay, metal, and stone pots, so they’re a good buy for people for whom weight is an issue. They’ve improved the molding techniques and colorations, so they’re approaching the real thing. Good choices for more and more people.
But—and this is important—don’t buy cheap plastic or fiberglass pots because they’re generally thinner and will not last. They’ll crack easily and you won’t be pleased.
The Good News: Lightweight. Pretty good imitations. Less expensive than the materials they imitate. Weather resistant.
The Bad News: Cheap ones look cheap, and they won’t last very long.
Here are two examples of PVC plastic pots you can believe in. They come with a 20-year warranty and are just two of the offerings from Mastergardening.com.
This small slat planter below comes completely pre-assembled. It contains the highest concentration of Titanium Dioxide available (which protects against harmful UV rays, guaranteeing your planter will never fade, crack, chip or peel.)
Below is a larger green lattice planter with the same construction and 20-year warranty. Mastergardening.com. offers lots of gardening pots (window boxes, hanging planters). Click here to find these and many other stylish planters.
Planter: Large Green Lattice PVC
Iron and Metal pots
These include the scrolly, Victorian wrought-iron pots as well as the newer, sleek contemporary sheet metal pots. The range of styles, in other words, is wide. These can be great “statement” pots, on both ends of the style scale. You can find old, scrolled Victorian urns that are suitable for formal and effusive displays as well as sleek, brushed-metal, smooth-sided silvery metal garden pots that go well in a minimalist environment.
The Good News: Statement planters. You can refresh wrought iron “finds” by cleaning and spraying with special paint found at any big box store. Great in displays seen by the public. Can stay out over the winter (You may want to bring them in due to weathering problems, but they won’t break outdoors).
The Bad News: Can be expensive. Iron does rust (you can treat for this). Conducts heat, so watch the roots. Some are very heavy. Often found without drainage holes (here you can simply plant up a pot that has holes, and drop it into a metal planter).
These are also cast, and the best garden pots for year-round planting. They’re now being made with subtle colorations, elegant forms, and their strength has been vastly improved. I love my big concrete urn—very functional, it’s great in front of the house. A real focal point.
Want to see how beautiful these garden pots can be? Check out Lunaform.com and (as with the cast stone at Longshadow) you will want one of these hand-built, hand-turned beauties.
The Good News: The best news is you can leave concrete garden pots out all year, planted. They are less expensive than cast stone. Sometimes. Comes in a variety of sizes and styles. Visually supports a lot of different flower planting styles—is versatile and doesn’t overpower the plantings.
The Bad News: Really heavy. You aren’t moving a big urn around, believe me. Can chip. Holds water well.
Half-Barrel and other Wood planters
Half-barrels are rustic and cottagey-looking. Use these garden pots in an informal setting. Some people line them and make water gardens, too. I’ve never tried this, but I’ve heard it works. Other sorts of wood pots include nearly any wood crate or box you have. Be aware that some woods (soft woods, mainly) can rot easily. Best plan is to seal them, so you reduce this problem. You can make square wood pots in an hour or so—so they’re very good for the do-it-yourself sort.
The Good News: Inexpensive, maybe even free. Have a natural look. You can make them yourself.
The Bad News: They deteriorate quickly (though you can seal them, and use hard woods—but still, they have a life span). They’re really suitable for informal displays only.
Make Your Own: Hyperturfa
These are garden pots you can make in your backyard. Or you can also mix up the hyperturfa and paint it on other surfaces, like concrete and plastic. I think these look best as troughs or sinks—traditional pot styles are too man-made looking for this treatment.
They’re most suitable for rock and alpine gardens. Weathered-looking, rustic, and naturally “rocky” in appearance, very weather resistant. I’ve seen nice dwarf conifers planted in these troughs as well as traditional alpine and rock-garden flowers.
Here’s how to do the paint-on version:
1 part Cement to 2 parts Sand (You can also use a dry mortar mix as a substitute for these two)
2 parts compost of the soilless variety. Very important to use soilless, and crumble it.
For adhering to the Surface:
Mix up the hyperturfa dry parts and add water to make a thick, but moldable paste.
Paint the pot with a heavy-duty PVA adhesive and let it dry until tacky to the touch. Paint on the hyperturfa mix and smooth it around until you get an even coat and the look you like. Let it dry for about 24 hours. Paint on a second coat if you want and mold that to your liking. Your can wait another 24 hours and go back to the surface to make it look more craggy and rock-like if you want to.
This isn’t a surface you can make look elegant or finely molded. It’s rough and it’s meant to look that way. Go with it!
Garden Tip: You can also make Portland cement troughs in your backyard pretty easily. These are great for alpine and rock garden plants. Try Shundler Hyperturfa for more recipes. You can see beautiful photos of alpine and rock garden flowers at The Alpine Garden. Or, for a more comprehensive site about alpine and rock garden flowers, try Alpine Garden Society
But no matter how much you know about garden pots, you still want to make sure your outdoor planters reflect you–your style and your lifestyle.