Choosing outdoor flower pots or plant containers

Flower pots have been around since ancient time. Egyptians around 1500 B.C. used pots to transport myrrh trees from what is now Somalia. Early Italians saw the value in using pots to minimize need for fresh water to grow herbs. Today, we use flower pots and other plant containers to incorporate plants in outdoor living areas like a deck or porch. Use pots to grow vegetables, which is especially beneficial to those with limited or no yard space. There are factors to consider when selecting outdoor pots or containers for growing vegetables or flowers. Shown above is a plastic trough planter with drain holes.

Amount of Sunlight

Sunlight is a must for most plants but the sunlight that nurtures plants can also cause the soil in the pot to dry out more rapidly than if the plant was in the ground. If you will be placing the pot in full sun (6+ hours of direct daily sunlight), a non-porous container will help to retain moisture and remain cooler than the traditional clay, porous pots. 

Lightweight resin plant container looks like stone or cast cement

Porous pots are made from clay/ceramic materials while non-porous pots may be made of materials like stone, plastic, concrete or resin. The advantage of resin pots comes with the decorative design of the pots, mimicking features seen in clay and cement pots formed in mold. Resin and plastic flower pots are lightweight and shatterproof making them an excellent alternative to the heavier, breakable clay/ceramic pots. In addition, clay/ceramic pots are more susceptible to cracking in freezing temperatures and may need to be stored indoors in colder climates.

As long as a stringent watering schedule is maintained, either porous or non-porous pots can be used for flowers or vegetables.

Watering Requirements
Flower pots with attached saucers
A saucer beneath a flower pot can capture water run-off. Deeper saucers can retain water from which the pot can wick moisture as needed. Self-watering pots have large bases into which dangles fiber wicks from the pot. Keep the base filled so the plant can draw water. Using a saucer is particularly helpful because you can water from the top of the plant and know that when water begins seeping into the saucer that the soil is saturated. The saucer then protects the surface on which the pot is resting.

Pots can be set directly on the ground to allow excess water to seep through the holes to the ground beneath. Draining to the ground is advantageous for very large pots of flowers or vegetables.
Flower pot with false bottom water reservoir

A plant with no drain holes may have a false bottom, like the planter shown above. Inside this container, a plastic grid with holes will hold the dirt above the false bottom where water will drain. This type of planter is helpful in areas prone to mosquitoes so no drained-through water remains open as a mosquito breeding site. Pots with reservoirs, which lack external drain holes, are best suited for areas protected from rainfall since rain water would collect in the pot and possibly cause the plant to rot.

Permanent Containers

Because of their weight or the way they are constructed, some containers are considered permanent. Raised beds built from wood boards, railroad ties or bricks provide a large scale garden container. Barrels, cut in half, provide a large sturdy container for multiple large plantings of flowers or vegetables.

Related articles:
Vegetable plants to grow in containers
Additional landscaping topics