Whether you're a container-gardening novice or you'd like to expand your existing collection, our simple guide will help you select a planter.
Laura Alexander

From traditional terra-cotta to the latest in fiberglass, there are more planter options now than ever before. With so many choices, selecting the right container can be tricky, and it's much more than just a matter of taste. Each material has distinct advantages to consider. Once you know the pros and cons, you are one step closer to having pots full of gorgeous flowers.

Terra-cotta
The beauty and value of these classic clay pots make them all-time favorite selections. They're inexpensive and complement any style garden with their rich, warm color. Regular terra-cotta wicks water away from the soil, which helps prevent overwatering. You can reduce the need to water by sealing terra-cotta with a commercial sealant or purchasing a high-fired pot. Both plain and high-fired clay will crack from the stress of repeated freezing and thawing during cold winter weather.

Concrete
Available in a wide variety of styles, sizes, and colors, concrete is heavy enough to keep plants stable in even the most windy conditions. Unfortunately, it also makes full planters nearly impossible to move. Like terra-cotta, concrete will absorb moisture from the soil. These planters also typically have thick sides, which reduce the room for soil inside. A good concrete planter will last for years, but its durability costs. This is one of the more expensive material choices.

Glazed Ceramic
When it comes to artistic beauty, glazed pots are hard to beat. They provide instant color and afford great design flexibility through variations in color and texture. These versatile pots work equally well indoors or out, although in the Upper South they should be brought inside for the winter. While a good glazed planter can last for many years with proper care, these striking accents carry a moderate to high price tag.

Lightweight Foam
This has become a popular container material in recent years and has the added benefit of insulating your plants. Lightweight foam is easy on the pocketbook, making it an attractive alternative to more traditional materials. Bring these pots inside during very cold winter weather, though. Otherwise, they'll crack like terra-cotta.You'll also need to protect foam planters from high winds. Simply place a layer of pebbles on the bottom of your pots to prevent them from tipping over.

Fiberglass
A relative newcomer to the world of planters, fiberglass boasts many advantages. It is made into a variety of styles to simulate materials such as stone, wood, and metal. Light and durable, it is easy to work with both indoors and out. Most fiberglass containers come with plugs in their predrilled drainage holes for ultimate flexibility. With its middle-of-the-line pricing, fiberglass makes an affordable, lightweight, and resilient option.

The Hole Truth
Plants can be placed in almost anything--from an old boot to a classical urn--provided there's a hole for draining excess water. Without this, the plant's roots will drown when overwatered. If your planter doesn't have a hole, drill one. Then place a piece of wire mesh, a coffee filter, or a layer of gravel over the hole to keep soil from washing out.

This article is from the April 2005 issue of Southern Living.

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