Updated: November 2017

Garden Planters and Flower Pots

When it comes to making your yard, patio, deck, or home feel personalized and inviting, nothing does the job quite like well-maintained flower pots and planters. Inside your home, of course, pots, urns, and planters are the only way to keep your plants. But outside, a nice mixture of planters and natural soil plantings can really bring a yard to life. Spring time is usually when you get your annual flower pots ready to go. During the winter months, dead plants and flowers should be removed from pots, and soil should be dumped as well, though many people add fertilizer and nutrients to their used potting soil and re-use. If you have clay, terra cotta, or ceramic pots and planters, they should be emptied and brought indoors during the winter. Winter freezing and thawing can crack clay materials (especially if they are left filled with soil), leaving you with broken and crumbling planters in the spring. In this guide, we will get some ideas on where to find and how to use pots and planters in your gardening inside and outside the home - and check prices and where to buy.

What's the best kind of planter or flower pot?

There is a huge variety of styles and materials to select from when choosing pots and planters for your garden. Some people like to go for a unified look with similar sizes and materials for all their planters, other go for variety -- different heights, mixing wood and ceramic, etc. Planters come in a few main styles. The most traditional is the "pot" or planter, think of ceramic flower pots ranging from tiny to gigantic. You can buy planter pots made from ceramic, terra cotta, wood, metal, resin, fiberglass, and cast stone. As they grow in size, the clay pots get really heavy, so artificial materials like resin are getting more and more popular. Next up is planter boxes. Wooden planters can be square or rectangular, and are often used lengthwise along longer areas. With their very natural appearance, they work well on decks. Be sure to keep wood planters on solid ground though as they will rot more quickly when placed on top of soil. Planter boxes also come in vinyl, polyethelene, and other materials, but wood is the most common. Urns tend to be bigger and have more of a decorative, sculpture flair to them -- traditionally an urn looks like a cup sitting on a small base, often with handles or other decorations on them. The final category is hanging and wall planters, which are usually smaller than pots. These can be used below window sills, hung from trellises, attached to columns or poles, or to the side of the house. Deck and rail planters fall into this category as well, meant to liven up long boring railings along a deck. So keep in mind the variety available when you plan your project - don't just settle for a few red terra cotta pots.

Garden Planter and Pottery Tips

Here are some tips to make your garden potting and planting experience a success.
  • For big pots, you don't need to fill them all the way up with potting soil. First, put in some large chunks of styrofoam on the bottom (like the pieces that come wrapped around a DVD player or other electronics), then put the correct depth of soil on top of this. This helps in 2 ways - your pots will be a LOT lighter and easier to move, and you will use less than half the soil you would otherwise need.
  • Make sure your garden planters have drainage holes, whether pots, urns, or boxes. Plants don't do well in standing water. If needed, you can drill your own holes.
  • Choose planters that fit your yard - for a small patio, don't get 4 large-size urns. And a few 6 inch flower pots surrounding a pool patio is not adequate.
  • Consider adding hanging pots to your patio or deck -- these make dramatic summer highlights as flowers drape and spill over the sides of the pots.
  • Use pots to bring color into your space - sure, the good old orange colored ceramics are traditional and nice, but you can also find some brilliantly glazed or painted pots with all kinds of colors and patterns -- be bold!
  • For really big pots, consider fiberglass or resin to reduce the weight.
  • If you want to keep planters outdoors during the winter, use wooden planters and not ceramic.

Best places to buy planters and flower pots

Since buying fresh plants and flowers usually involves a trip to the nursery, it often makes sense to pickup pots and planters at the local nursery. Not a bad idea, but you'd be amazed at the huge selection of garden planters and pots you can find online. Online shopping also lets you find more specialty items, like vegetable planters, self-watering planters, etc. True, when ordering larger items, shipping costs can add up to a considerable amount, but as an example, we looked at ordering two 20" tall terra cotta pots, one 18" polyresin urn, and two 26" polypropylene planter boxes, for a total shipping charge of $22 - not bad when you consider the price of gas and time spent driving around town to buy them locally. So lets take a look at some of the best and most popular online gardening sites that offer planters and pots. One site we like is Gardeners.com - as the name suggests they cater to all your gardening needs, not just planter boxes. They carry both indoor and outdoor planters and have been in business for more than 20 years. If you are looking for real, hand-made terra cotta planters, check out GardenPlanters.com - they offer a nice collection that ranges from $20 to $1000. A nice 14" tall large footed urn with lions heads will set you back about $68. They also carry umbrella stands and statuettes - keep in mind that all purchases are final, no returns allowed. Another nice site is HPotter.com, which specializes in home and garden accent pieces. These tend to me more upscale planters, like $78 copper pots and $158 vertical urns and $418 grand urns. Not for your "average" garden, but still fun to look! BestNest.com, while officially a site built around bird houses, also has over 200 pots and planters and hanging planters to choose from, and they offer free shipping on orders over $75 with a 30 day return policy. From $3 faux terra cotta planters to $150 tall topiary planter boxes, they have a nice selection to browse. Finally, check out SimplyPLanters.com. Again, a good selection broken down by planters, urn, planter boxes, and wall and hanging planters, you can also search by price range, size, shape, and material to find just what you are looking for. They also offer free shipping on most orders and a liberal return policy.