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How to Choose the Right Planter for Your Container Garden

A variety of containers with plants sitting on a patio.
Claire Norman/Shutterstock

Container gardening is an excellent way to add a natural, earthy look to any home, while also providing fresh produce for your family. It can get a bit tricky choosing the right container, though.

Whether you’re interested in growing herbs, flowers, or vegetables, container gardening is an excellent way to get started. Although some claim this is an easier way to garden, it’s still essential to know the basics, including how to choose the right planter.

Types of Containers

One of the coolest things about this style of gardening is just about anything can function as a container. It allows you to get creative, and add your own touch to the beautiful project before you.

As long as size and drainage are taken care of, you can have a flourishing garden of flowers or veggies. If you’re just starting out, it’s sometimes best to stick with planters, as they’re specifically designed for plants.

Down the road, once you’ve developed that green thumb, you can add more character to your garden with some timeworn wheelbarrows or watering cans. They make gorgeous containers for flowers.

For now, though, here are some basic types of planters:

  • Plastic: The least expensive, lightest container to move around, these make it easy to transfer plants in and out of sunlight.
  • Clay or terra-cotta: These have a naturally beautiful look, but they’re heavy and can break if dropped.
  • Wood: Raised bed gardens are often made of wood, and their earthy charm is stunning.
  • Cement: These are expensive, but they’re rugged and durable. They’re also very heavy—especially after you add the soil. If you plan to use these, make sure you find a permanent place to set them before planting.
  • Ceramic glazed: These are similar to terra-cotta, but hold moisture better due to the glazed coating. They’re a bit pricey, though.
  • Polyurethane foam: These look sleek and similar to concrete containers, but they weigh about 90 percent less. They also insulate roots well in both hot and cold temperatures.
  • Window boxes: These are excellent for keeping herbs or fresh greens within arm’s length, right outside your window.

Container Sizes

A patio covered with plants in containers of various sizes.
Ingrid Balabanova/Shutterstock

If you want a healthy and blooming garden, it’s essential you know which type of plant you plan to add to a container before you select a size. You’ll often find container sizes listed on seed packets, so follow those instructions, as they’re specific to what you’re planting.

Always keep in mind that it’s easier to grow vegetables (and other plants) in larger rather than smaller containers. Large containers hold more soil and will stay cool and moist longer, whereas smaller pots with less soil dry out faster during hot summer months.

You can pretty much grow any vegetable in a container if you take care of it properly.

Don’t Forget About Drainage

It’s especially vital to water your container garden often during hot summer months because they’re above ground and don’t hold moisture the way the earth does. However, it’s also essential to have proper drainage—you don’t want to drown the roots.

So, drainage holes are the happy medium, as long as you water those plants with tender love and care. If you notice the soil is pulling away from the side of the pot, you need to water your plant.

If you aren’t 100 percent sure, stick your finger in the soil, down to the knuckle. If it feels damp, you can wait a bit before watering. If it’s dry, though, water your plant. This way, you’ll ensure you aren’t under- or overwatering.

If you plan to use a container that doesn’t have drainage holes, drill a few yourself.


Now that you know a little more about containers, it’s time to pick out some veggies and flowers to load into them!

Emilee Unterkoefler Emilee Unterkoefler
Emilee Unterkoefler is a freelance food writer, hiking enthusiast, and mama with over ten years of experience working in the food industry. Read Full Bio »

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