For those us with small balconies, porches and patios finding plant containers in our choice style, size and color can be challenging. The selections are enormous and outright gorgeous. But if we're not careful, we can easily purchase a container not suitable for our special micro climate or something that would clash with our aesthetic sensibilities. Here are seven main types of plant containers that do work well in our small space micro climate and give us a wide selection from which to choose. Note: This post primarily addresses ornamental plants for container gardening. Follow my blog for a post on herb and vegetable gardening.
This wood container is an example of one used decoratively. It's also hides a more utilitarian plant container, such as a plastic one. To preserve the natural wood look and protect the it from rain and UV rays, you may want to apply a clear sealer.
PROS: Ideal for extending your interior decor style, such as a transitional style. It can hide an inner, cheaper pot. More important, it helps to soil from drying out in the inner pot when located in the hot sun and during high temperatures. Additionally, soil in the inner pot has some protection when exposed to winter low temperatures and frosts.
CONS: Needs periodic cleaning because bugs will find their way and make a home between the pot and the outer container. Some do not have drainage holes which will need to be added. Can be expensive.
Here's a wood half barrel type planter. Construction is made from slates held together by bands and of different types of wood. The one in the image is Northern white cedar and is water-based stained. They're often used for growing vegetables, especially those that require support, such as tomatoes. They easily accommodate screens and posts. However, in this example clearly they are just as beautiful when used for ornamental plants, such as this riotous splash of flowers.
PROS: Porous, allowing air and water to flow easily. Over time, the wood oxidizes to a lovely patina. Perfect for a casual, "country-like" garden style.
CONS: Although it's fairly light in weight, it gets very heavy when filled with soil, and it does hold a lot of soil. This will make moving it around difficult. Just be sure to locate it in the right spot. Or at least place it on platform that has wheels.
Containers: Clay, Glazed & Unglazed, Earthenware, Terracotta and Stoneware
These are by far my most favorite plant containers. I state knowing that they are the most fragile and I explain why under PROS. There's a difference between the types and how to best care for them reduces disappointment in purchase them. There's an excellent article on clay pots, earthenware and terracotta on A Garden Of Planters I encourage you to read. Here is a summary on the differences in clay plant containers:
- Clay "is the raw material of all ceramics." Clay pots are fired at a higher temperature so much so that the "cells are bonded like glass" and thus water does not leach out.
- Earthenware is fired at a lower temperature than clay. It's porous and will leach water from the potting soil. This is a particular issue for unglazed earthenware. In hot temperatures, monitoring soil moisture is a must. Prior to planting, it's a good idea to soak the pot first. Earthenware is soft and cracks easily.
- Terracotta is earthenware but with a high iron content. It's unglazed although some (by new manufacturers) add a silicone sealant to reduce water absorption from the potting soil. Due to natural salt in the clay, a whitish appearance may surface but this can be removed with cleaning.
- Stoneware is harder than earthenware and normally has a shiny glaze.
PROS: Very wide range of fun and sophisticated styles and colors. Porous allowing water and air to reach and move around in plant soil, important for healthy root system. Make excellent and attractive water fountain bases.
CONS: Larger posts are heavy with and without soil. (Note: for large planters, add packing peanuts to about a third of the bottom with soil only added to the upper two-thirds. This will help reduce weight issues.) Can be very expensive. View this as an investment and choose carefully.
Fiber Glass and Plastic Plant Containers
Fiber glass and resin plant containers are absolutely fabulous in design and color choices. Often you'll see huge almost massive planters in public places. Fortunately for us, they're readily available apartment and home dwellers. Two contemporary designs are shown here.
Plastic plant containers have really come a long way in style and colors. There are still the basic types, such as what you normally get when you purchase a plant. These will always be needed. They're also great for propagation; very light weight; great as liner plants in decorative outer plant containers; and have excellent drainage.
It's the ornamental styles that can often imitate classical and modern designs (as do the fiber glass planters) found in clay and concrete plant containers. I've seen some containers with concrete-like finishes that I had to touch and lift just to convince myself the containers were plastic.
Below are just two types of plastic containers. On the left is the roll-arm style with a bottom tray attached that snaps off and on. Drainage holes are normally already drilled in at the bottom. Colors can vary but the terracotta color is found most frequently.
The one on the right, believe it or not, is also plastic. Manufacturers have really stretched style and color that run gambit from the very utilitarian black "grow" type to a simple decorative to classic ornate to modern. I find it hard to image you wouldn't be able to find one for your decor taste. As noted below with a link, Wayfair offers a broad selection.
PROS: Very light weight, even with soil and can be more easily moved around. As stated above, comes in a wide variety of styles and color. Double wall or lined are also available which help to reduce the need for frequent watering. A standard type can be quite inexpensive; however, for the more decorative and larger ones, you will definitely pay a tidy investment price. Readily available in garden centers, online and home improvement stores.
CONS: Obviously, they're not porous; thus, air and water will not be able to pass through the soil. Soil can get over heated when the pot is exposed to full sun, particularly in the hot summer temperatures.
Hanging Baskets And Rail Planters
Hanging baskets and rail planter containers come in a variety of materials as discussed above. Additionally, hanging baskets can also come in a cocoa lining with a wire frame. Both options are wonderful for small and tiny balcony spaces. Similar to its many 'cousin' containers, there is a wide variety of styles, shapes and colors from which to choose. Here are just two:
PROS: Both hanging baskets and rail planters take great advantage of the apartment balcony space that is available to you. Large selection of colors and styles readily available. Many styles, especially the rail planter, come with self watering features. Can very easily be moved around. Excellent for bringing splashes of color from seasonal flowering plants and trailer plants. Easy to clean and store for the next season.
CONS: Wind and heat can quickly dry out the soil (strongly advise getting a self watering to help with this). You must and I say this with a please (really! unless you want to get an unwanted knock on the door) take care that watering does not escape to your down stair neighbor's balcony. Space for planting is small. Select your arrangement with great care.
Vertical and Vertical Wall Planters
As far as I know, such planters are relative new to being available for apartment dwellers. Even when I had a townhouse and occupied every space with garden elements, I had somehow missed this. But options and designs are here now and you and I can go as vertical as much as our spaces will allow.
I'm learning along with you and will have to update the post as I get more first hand information. In the meantime, here are some designs and resources.
Get inspired with vertical planting from these marvelous designs: