Garden Container Materials
Choosing Suitable Garden Pots


Assorted Rustic Garden Containers

Garden container materials such as wood, clay, metal or stone all have strong associations in the mind of your garden visitors.  Paying attention to  material choices such as these adds richness and variety to your garden design.


Don't forget to consider durability of materials and the type of plant you intend to pair with the container as you make choices to extend the life of your design. 

Garden containers on the market today are available in a variety and diversity of materials never before available. 

Modern manufacturing and design methods make a tempting array of design choices available. 



Material Characteristics



Terra Cotta Urns
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Terra Cotta Urns Terra Cotta Pots for Sale Standard Terra Cotta Pots

Terra Cotta Garden Container Materials


Design Characteristics

  • Adaptable to many applications, both formal or informal.  
  • Older pots tend to have more character due to aging and patina.  
  • Terra cotta placed in damp areas will begin to collect moss and mildew marks which adds immeasurably to the sense of history in a garden.   
  • Terra cotta harmonizes especially well with old brick or stone.  
  • Terra cotta is available in almost any conceivable style, so it is easy to match to your garden mood.  
  • Terra cotta takes paints well, so provides opportunities to use an unlimited color range.

Care Characteristics

  • High end, fired terra cotta can last for years in your garden, as it is usually sealed from moisture retention and as hard as stone.   
  • Lower end terra cotta pottery can be made to last as well, but will require more preparation, maintenance and care over its lifetime in the form of sealing and resealing annually.        
  • Terra Cotta Urns or Jugs should be planted with annuals as pot bound plantings can destroy the container.  As an alternative, place a suitable pot in the mouth of the urn.
  • Plants in terra cotta pots require more frequent watering as the terra cotta absorbs water from potting mixes and soils.  



Green Chinese Glazed Pots
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Green Chinese Glazed Pots Modern Brown and Blue Glazed pottery Colorful Glazed Chinese Pots

Glazed Pottery and Ceramic
Garden Container Materials


Design Characteristics



  • Typically used in situations where more formal effects are desired, though some glazed pottery can cross over into less formal applications, depending upon size and shape.
  • Some glazed pottery and ceramics will be  highly decorated, while others remain simple in shape and form.
  • Glazed pottery and ceramic containers work especially well in complementary or polychromatic color schemes due to their wide range of brilliant colors.

Care Characteristics



  • High end glazed pottery and ceramics can last for years in your garden as they are more reliably frost proof than lower priced pottery.



  • Glazed pottery benefits from yearly cleaning and regular care. 
  • Cracks in glazed pots spell their death, as once the glaze is cracked, water seeps under the glaze and destroys the pot.
  • It is easier to overwater plants in glazed containers, as it will not evaporate through the container as it does in terra cotta pots.




Impatiens and Alyssum in Half Barrel
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Impatiens and Alyssum in Half Barrel Violets in a Blue Wooden Container Planted Wooden Barrels on Stairway

Wood Garden Container Materials


Design Characteristics

  • Most often used in semi-formal or informal situations.
  • Natural wood planters blend well with plant materials and can maintain an unobtrusive presence
  • Easily finished in almost any color and style 
  • Versatile and inexpensive material to mix with garden containers made of other materials

Care Characteristics

  • Oiling, staining, or sealing with a product that contains preservatives is generally required prevent rotting.   
  • Adding metal or plastic liners can easily extend the life of wooden garden containers.  
  • Easily constructed at home with the most basic woodworking skills.
  • Best when cleaned yearly (or between plantings) and allowed to dry prior to replanting




Bicycle Baskets used as planters
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Bicycle Baskets used as planters Hyacinth planted in basket Daffodils in Woven Basket

Woven Wood (Basketry)
Garden Container Materials


Design Characteristics

  • Provides an especially quaint and informal contribution to the garden
  • Best used to plant annuals or as camouflage for containers made of longer lasting materials.
  • Excellent as containers for patios, tables, or fences, where they can be best appreciated as temporary additions to the garden space

Care Characteristics

  • Baskets and woven wood rot quickly and easily if care is not taken to preserve them.
  • Light weight, easily moveable choice
  • Best if used in drier locations, as constant moisture will quickly and easily rot materials.
  • Generally these garden containers will not last more than one or two years in moist climates.




Resin Half Basket on Fence
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Resin Half Basket on Fence Stacked Resin Containers Grey Resin Containers

Fiberglass and Resin
Garden Container Materials


Design Characteristics



  • Among the most versatile options from a design style perspective
  • Available in multiple shapes, textures, and sizes for nearly any design application
  • Fiberglass and resin containers can be made mimic most other materials easily.
  • Inexpensive fiberglass and resin products may be cheap looking or unconvincing as substitutes for more expensive materials.
  • Fiberglass and resin pots generally do not develop a patina or grow lichens and moss as do stone and clay containers.

Care Characteristics 

 

  • Lightweight, easily moveable selection 
  • Generally inexpensive as compared to their natural material counterparts
  • Tough, lightweight materials create easily cared for garden containers.
  • Generally frost proof and unbreakable
  • May fade or lose color over extended periods of time.
  • Useful life 1 - 8 years
  • May be made from porous or non porous materials. 




Stone Trough with Lobelia and Geraniums
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Stone Trough with Lobelia and Geraniums Stone Boots Stone Pots with Pink Hydrangeas

Stone Garden Container Materials


Design Characteristics

  • Broad range of shapes, sizes and styles available, both formal or informal.
  • Often associated with classical and traditional applications
  • Associated with permanence and solidity, thus lending a sense of history in many applications 
  • Over time, develops a wonderful patina
  • Cement containers can be cast into unusual and dramatic shapes
  • Cast or molded stones look best in more formal situations, while chiseled or cut stone often adapts better in more informal applications.

Care Characteristics

  • High end, fired terra cotta can last for years in your garden, as it is usually sealed from moisture retention and as hard as stone. 
  • Non-porous material which can reduce watering chores
  • Generally extremely strong and durable
  • Extremely heavy to move in most situations
  • Un-manufactured stone is less available and can be prohibitively expensive




Violets in Metal Washtub
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Violets in a Metal Washtub Stacks of Shiny Metal Containers Green Metal Pot with Angels

Metal Garden Container Materials


Design Characteristics

  • Broad selection of styles in antique, recycled or new garden containers
  • Multiple shapes, colors and finishes offered on the market
  • Metal finishes ideal for stylish modern designs
  • Highly polished, sleek metal containers add polish to the garden 
  • Aged, rusted or antiqued metals add a sense of history to the landscape

Care Characteristics

  • Frost proof containers that do not crack or split
  • Some metals are prone to rust, so choose good sealants to apply or purchase ready made moisture sealed containers 
  • May be prone to scratching or denting in high traffic areas
  • Poorly made containers may have sharp edges or corners
  • In strong sunlight, some plants may not tolerate the heat collected in metal products




Bent Metal Window Box with Tulips
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Bent Metal Window Box with Tulips Wirework Containers in Garden Center Pink Flowers in a Wirework Container

Wirework Garden Container Materials


Design Characteristics

  • Highly decorative metal baskets and wire work containers are available on the market
  • Available as wall, window, and free standing baskets
  • Visually softer than other containers
  • Highlights plant combinations as the main focus, with simple and unobtrusive lines of metal

Care Characteristics

  • Water moves freely through these containers, thus requiring more water.  Several layers of coco or sphagnum moss liners can help to retain water
  • Some wire basketry can be easily bent or crushed
  • Liners will require renewal on an annual or bi-annual basis




Brightly Colored Plastic Pots
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Brightly Colored Plastic Pots Small Plastic Pots Plastic Window Box

Plastic Garden Container Materials


Design Characteristics

  • Typically, plastic pots are used where container function is valued over aesthetic value.  These pots make great planting containers placed behind a grouping of planters that have eye catching characteristics, as silent partners
  • Some plastic pots are highly decorative and well disguised, these make great fill in pots between more expensive and dramatic containers
  • With preparation, plastic containers accept a number of decorative applications, from paint finishes to "faux" finishes such as stone, wood, or metal.

Care Characteristics

  • Cleaning required between uses.
  • Easy care, but prone to cracking and splitting with age
  • Non-porous material which traps water in soils for longer periods
  • Plastic pots are lightweight options and are easily moveable
  • Generally frost proof during early years of use
  • Low cost options are available
  • May become scuffed or abraded ,creating irreparable damage to aesthetics.


The vast array of garden container materials available can be somewhat overwhelming, more so when coupled with decisions about the plantings to add to them. 

It is worth the effort to chase down the right containers for your new plants however!  Nothing beats the right container, with the right plant, in the right place!

Material choices are a large part of figuring out that perfect planting combination.  And boy does it feel good when it all comes together!





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