Pots are a small-space gardener’s best friend. They’re compact, portable and can be used to grow a variety of edible and
ornamental plants. You can find them in a range of colours, sizes, and materials too, including plastic, terracotta, glazed or fibreglass. But what’s best for your potted patch? We dig deep and explore the pros and cons of each (so you don’t have to).
Plastic is one of the most widespread and commonly used materials for pots. It’s affordable, lightweight, and can be repeatedly washed and reused. Pots are manufactured from different grades of plastic – some pots are made from higher quality plastic than others, so are less prone to shattering or cracking with prolonged UV-exposure. Many nurseries now also sell pots made from recycled plastic. You’ll find plastic pots mostly in black but are available in other colours too.
As a con, plastic pots retain heat and consequently, can cause potting mix and roots to dry out faster (when compared to other materials). To help reduce moisture stress issues, avoid placing plants in plastic pots in full sun at the height of summer and/or erect a shade cloth to help lessen water loss.
While plastic pots are lightweight, this means they easily blow over in severe weather conditions and can cause plants to break. This is exacerbated if plants are top heavy, like a fruit tree or woody shrub. You will need to weigh pots down with pavers or similar if adverse weather conditions are expected.
Pros: lightweight, economical, durable, reusable.
Cons: varied aesthetic appeal, easily toppled over with strong winds, affected by temperature extremes.
Terracotta pots have a timeless appeal. They have been long used in gardens as they’re aesthetically pleasing, sturdy, and inexpensive. The downside is they’re highly porous, which means they’re prone to drying out faster than other materials. But the good news is you can use a terracotta pot sealer (available at garden centres) to help reduce moisture loss. Alternatively, work with the material and choose plants that prefer drier conditions, like rosemary or bay tree.
Pros: economical, classic aesthetic, reusable, sturdy. Cons: can be heavy once filled with plant and potting mix, highly porous, will break if knocked over.
Glazed terracotta or ceramic pots involves firing pots at high temperatures and coating the outside with a glaze. This gives the pots a decorative finish, which also helps make it hard-wearing and resistant to most weather conditions. As pots are sealed with a glaze, they do not dry out like traditional terracotta pots; therefore, they keep the potting mix and roots cooler. They are quite heavy though, so it’s best to choose its final spot before filling with potting mix, especially if it’s a larger plant. Otherwise, raise it on ‘pot wheels’ so you can easily move it around the garden or balcony.
Pros: sturdy, available in a variety of colours and finishes, keeps potting mix and roots cool.
Cons: heavy once planted, can be expensive.
Fibreglass pots are made from plastic that have been reinforced with glass fibres, so they are strong but also lightweight. They’re also weather- and UV-resistant, so can withstand weather extremes and are designed to keep their colour, even with prolonged sun exposure. With all these benefits, they are usually available at a higher price point than other materials. But as the saying goes, “Buy once, cry once.”
Pros: lightweight, durable, weather- and UV-resistant.
Cons: can be expensive.