Exploring Different Kinds of Containers

Container gardening is all about, of course, growing plants in containers of all kinds. Going hunting for pots and other potential containers for plants can be a lot of fun. Often you put the horse before the cart — in other words, you choose the pot first and the plant second. This order isn't mandatory, of course, but it has the advantage of letting you picture and plan the look you want.

Before you impulsively start collecting all sorts of pots, remember three key practical concerns when picking out a container:

1 Drainage: Most potted plants don't like to sit in soggy soil, so a way for the water to drain through is critical. Turn over every pot or potential container to see whether it has drainage holes. If not, perhaps you can add a hole with an awl or high-speed electric drill/masonry bit. You can grow plants in pots without drainage holes, but doing so requires a lot of care to make sure the roots of the plants aren't sitting in water. Note: If you don't want water getting onto the display surface, naturally you want to include a saucer. Lots of pots are sold as pot-and-saucer sets.

Tip: Don't risk breaking an expensive or unique pot by trying to make a drainage hole. Instead, use the container as a cachepot, a decorative pot that hides another container: Fill the bottom 2 inches of the pot with pea gravel, and the put the plant into a smaller plastic pot that fits into the ornamental one.

1 Color: A neutral hue (white, tan, brown, or plain green) lets the plant be the star. On the other hand, a brightly patterned container adds drama and excitement to an otherwise rather ordinary plant display. You can also look into matching a color on the container to a flower or foliage color. Done well, this effect can be quite fabulous.

1 Longevity: Think about whether you want to use this container for just one summer or whether it's going to be a long-term feature of your yard and garden. And decide whether you want to leave the pot exposed to the elements all winter. Inexpensive pots, of course, tend to be less durable, to break or crack or fade when left out for a long time in the sun and weather. Thicker, heavier pots are much more of an investment. This concept's true even if the plants within change over time or from one year to the next.

The following sections give you a rundown of container sizes, shapes, materials, and other trappings that help you hold things together.

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