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Monday, July 04, 2005

Gardening - Planter/Container selection.

Choosing the appropriate container for your plants will promote good plant health and attractive displays within your garden or home.

What Plant container to choose?

With almost an endless range of plant pots and containers on the market it can sometimes be difficult to know what container will suit a certain situation. Sizes and materials used as containers for a particular landscaping situation will depend on what effect you are trying to achieve.

Traditionally terracotta pots, window planters and wooden wine barrels blend well into any cottage garden or pottager style garden, wooden tubs that can be constructed to suit any size plant are more suited to larger gardens with a more colonial, country style.

Large earthen, glazed, copper, or hypertufa pots are found to be used in most modern landscape design situations as garden features. Large urns create beautiful water features, Bold glazed pots are perfect for accentuating borders or as a way to emphasis or direct focus on an entrance way.

Ideally the containers you use will look their best when chosen to compliment their surroundings. Landscape uses are limited only by the imagination in what you can achieve with stunning pots and containers.

Plant health and watering?

For the healthiest container plantings, choose containers that allow enough space for plant roots to develop. For faster growing annuals and vegetables allow enough root space the equivalent of the space used by top growth in the root growth area. For slower growing Rhododendrons and Conifers allow a touch more than root ball space for maximum health. As a general rule, deep rooted plants require deeper pots.

Providing the appropriate container for the plants moisture needs and drainage requirements will ensure good plant heath. For moisture loving plants avoid terracotta and sphagnum moss containers as they dry out quite quickly.

These porous types of containers work fine if well irrigated during the summer months, ensure that the entire pot is wet down for maximum water holding. Wooden planters are slightly better at holding water and may not require heavy watering during dry spells.

Copper, stainless steel/ galvanised steel, concrete, plastic, glazed ceramic or lined terracotta pots hold the water well. Terracotta pots can be weather conditioned by applying a coat of marine varnish to the outside of the pot.

As always during winter months the watering regime will decrease according to your individual plant requirements.

Caring for plant containers?

Regular examination of your pots will alert you to any problems you may have. Cracking of ceramic and clay pots, rot in wooden planters, snail housing, and general decay of containers can be rectified before more container problems and possible plant deaths.

Use of pot feet or claws, saucers and pot trays will help avoid damage underneath heavy containers or messy pots. Catching any overflow of water from your container on to hard surfaces will avoid staining or decay to the hard surface.

Remove any used soil from containers if storing them. Soils will become stagnant when left to sit, and become unusable.

A suggestion is to throw used soils into compost bins if there is no sign of fungal disease in the used soil. Be careful not to add too much unused slow release fertilizer in the compost as worms may be burn by the fertilizer.

Cleaning plant containers?

Before replanting into any used pots, scrub the pots/containers thoroughly with a solution of hot water, and ten percent household bleach. With a brush remove mineral stains and grime from both the base, sides, as well as both the inside and outside of the container. Rinse thoroughly once clean.

Plant Containers. Types, uses and tips.

  • Copper or brass -– Can be expensive, also very attractive. Another way to achieve the copper look on larger plant containers is to wrap the container with copper foil/ sheeting, a lower cost option with an excellent aged finished effect.
  • Glazed ceramic - There is an amazing array of sizes, styles and colours available. Select the style best suited to plantings and be sure to check for any damage to pots at time of purchase.

  • Clay dish or low bowl -– Excellent for low growing shallow rooted plants, ideal in front of other taller containers, perfect for use within water features or even as small succulent gardens. The only warning is that some shallow planters will dry out all year round.

  • Wooden tub/ Barrel - Very spacious root area allows room for small trees (Citrus, Conifers), as well as larger shrubs (Camellia, Rhododendron) to be grown. Treat inside of planters with a non toxic wood preserver or use wood that is treated for below soil surface.

  • Terracotta pots and trays -– Huge variety of styles and landscape uses. Adaptable to most landscape situations, and are a little more inexpensive than ceramic pots.

Terracotta is best soaked in water for at least an hour before planting, thus helping to maintain maximum water holding ability. The addition of paint to the exterior can help hold water also, a product available now that is almost more terracotta colour than terracotta itself is a product produced in Australia called Megatreat liquid Terracotta which can be used on the exterior of your terracotta pots to refresh old pots or turn concrete pots and planters into terracotta!
To view the Megatreat website follow link below:

  • Plastic - Also available in a range of colours and styles. The only disadvantages are black plastic tends to draw heat and dries out soil rapidly. Plastic also tends to deteriorate when left in the sun for long periods.

  • Hypertufa -– A medium for containers that is low cost and can be created by the home garden enthusiast and landscape designers alike. Larger pots can be made on-site and situated straight into their desired location.

For details on how to make hypertufa pots and general information please follow the link:


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