Examining standard container materials

What a container is made of is actually very important, and it's something you should be aware of when searching for the perfect container. For example, you want a container that i Is nontoxic to plants

1 Doesn't overheat quickly in the hot summer sun

1 Is durable enough so it can continue to serve and support its contents and look good on display

Here are the container material options you're likely to encounter:

^ Plastic: Lots of containers are made of plastic, from flimsy to substantial. It's a very practical material, inexpensive and versatile. However, it tends to hold in moisture and not breathe well, which may or may not be a problem for your chosen plants.

If you go with plastic, have fun — don't limit yourself to the ubiquitous white and green plastic pots when with a little searching, you can find other colors and even patterned ones. Some of the better faux terra cotta plastic pots are really quite attractive and are a great lightweight alternative to pottery or real terra cotta.

Self-watering plastic containers are getting a lot of attention these days because they make watering a snap and are perfect for vacationing gardeners who have to leave their thirty plants unattended for several days at time.

  • Terra cotta: Technically, terra cotta is unglazed pottery. It's a garden classic and looks handsome in so many situations. It's generally quite affordable. Drawbacks? Well, it wicks moisture away from plant root systems, and over time, it tends to develop cracks or flake. Because terra cotta absorbs water, which expands when it freezes, the container can crack and break if you leave it outdoors when the temperatures dip below freezing.
  • Glazed pottery: With glazed earthenware, you get to enjoy the greater heft of clay but have more color options and perhaps elegance as well. These containers are fairly durable, though they, too, can crack in winter if any small portion isn't glazed.
  • Wood: Containers of wood, especially softwoods like pine and fir, sop up moisture and eventually rot or fall apart. Yet there's no denying the wonderful rustic look. The solution may be to nest a plastic pot inside a wooden container. Otherwise, you may get more use out of something constructed from rot-resistant wood such as cedar.
  • Metal: You can press metal containers into plant-holding service. Remember the need for a drainage hole and beware of displaying it in full sun, which causes it and its contents to really heat up. Some possibilities include old olive-oil containers, buckets, and cast-iron kettles.
  • Concrete: When you want a tough, long-lasting, cold-resistant container, concrete is a fine choice, whether as an urn or as a planter box. It can be pretty heavy and hard to maneuver, though. Therefore, it's often wise to put it on the chosen spot before filling it with potting soil and plants.
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