With so many fantastic new materials on the market today, container planters are now available in a huge range of shapes, colours and designs. Most of these materials are frost resistant, strong and durable. The advantage of using modern materials such as fibreglass, fibrecotta and polystone is that technology now allows such materials to look incredibly similar to terracotta, stone and lead but without the disadvantages.
Stone planters are carved from a variety of materials from granite to sandstone, chosen for their natural beauty, longevity, strength and weight. They are the heaviest planters and thus ideal for use in locations where other planters may get knocked over - you'll see a lot of them in stately homes and National Trust properties not only because they visually suit the surroundings but also because they are relatively indestructible to the general public. Stone planters are also usually the most expensive type of planter because of the manufacturing processes involved and transportation. They are usually made-to-order and each one is unique. Stone weathers over time and moss, lichen and other attractive discolouration will occur naturally - alternatively they can be pressure washed to remove stains. Stone planters last for many years and will weather naturally over time.
Polystone planters are made from resin combined with powdered stone. Polystone is lighter than solid stone and less likely to chip or fracture as there are no natural fault lines. Polystone planters are as durable and strong as stone planters but without the weight. Most designs resemble real stone planters so well, you would not be able to tell the difference by eye.
Like polystone planters, poly-terrazzo planters are made from resin combined with stone, either as powder or fragments depending on the appearance required. Terrazzo-style polystone contains fragments of crushed stone of a different colour to give a unique texture and colour effect, like that of natural granite. Poly-terrazzo is lighter than solid stone and less likely to chip or fracture as there are no natural fault lines. Poly-Terrazzo planters are as durable and strong as stone planters but without the weight.
Fibreglass is a versatile strong material which produces planters more lightweight than similar products constructed of stone, clay or other traditional materials. The versatility of fibreglass means these planters come in a huge range of sizes, shapes, colours and textures.
'Gel' and 'Matt' refers to the surface texture of the finished product - Gel coated planters have an extra layer of very glossy finish, whereas Matt planters have a slightly rough, unreflective appearance like finely ground stone. To protect these planters from scratches, always move them about with a dolly or trolley.
Terracotta planters have become a staple ingredient of most gardens mainly because they are porous - air and moisture can penetrate through the terracotta clay, which is good for healthy soil and the very fine roots plants produce. The material will also wick away excess water to some degree. However because of this, terracotta pots are often not reliably frost-resistant and can easily break after frosty weather as the water freezes and expands. They also retain heat and can become quite hot in the sun - ideal for some plants but not for others. Thicker terracotta pots help to maintain an even temperature as the clay acts as insulation. Terracotta planters are usually more expensive because of the weight (which affects shipping costs) and construction processes. Modern alternatives such as fibrecotta look virtually the same but are frost hardy, durable, lightweight and more cost effective. Some of these materials are also breathable.
Fibrecotta is a modern engineered material constructed from terracotta reinforced with fibreglass fibres, creating a product that has all the benefits of terracotta and the beautiful colouring, but is substantially stronger and more durable. These planters are a lot more frost resistant than terracotta and quite a bit lighter.
Galvanization is the process of applying a protective zinc coating to steel (or iron), in order to prevent rusting. Our zinc planters made from steel coated in a layer of zinc. Steel is very strong, flexible and malleable, and the zinc layer helps to protect the steel from rust, increasing the life time of the planters. Our zinc planters have a steel thickness of 0.69mm on planters up to 60cm, and a thickness of 0.80mm on planters exceeding this size. To protect the steel, they have been electroplated in zinc at a thickness of 120g/m². Often you will find other manufacturers galvanising their planters at a far lower quality of around 40g/m2, which means a thinner coating, and thus far less protection. Zinc planters need to be moved with a trolley to prevent scratching - if the steel is exposed to water it will start to rust if left untreated. Impurities in the soil and water can also slowly eat away at the protective zinc galvanising layer and lead to rusting and damage - so, although you can place soil directly into these planters, we advise using a thick, non-biodegradable plastic liner or bag to help protect your planter from these trace chemicals.
These planters are some of the lightest available and come in many colours and finishes. Read more about our zinc planters
Like zinc galvanised planters, stainless steel planters are light and come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes and are mainly chosen for their price and look. They have either a brushed (smooth but non-reflective) or polished (mirrored) surface finish. The properties of stainless steel means they are rust resistant, frost proof and strong.
Corten Steel is a type of steel that naturally weathers over time and develops an attractive and protective oxidised layer with a unique industrial aesthetic. Although it is rusted the surface layer actually protects against further corrosion. In other words, the steel is allowed to rust in order to form the protective coating. This protective layer develops naturally thanks to the makeup of the steel. If this layer is disturbed or scratched, it simply regenerates on the exposed area. Due to the way in which corten steel generates its protective layer, each corten steel planter will be unique.
Wood is a traditional material used to produce planters mainly for looks. The variety of tones within the range of natural woods enhanced by varnishes, sealants and paints makes wood an ever popular choice. Relative to other natural materials they can be lighter, cheaper and easier to move around, however they don't tend to last as long as harder materials like stone and fibreglass, and need protecting with paints regularly. Wooden planters can also be protected from the effects of watering and weather by non-biodegradable plastic liners. Being a flexible, fibrous material, wood will not become damaged by frost but they may rot.
The most common use for containers are for decorative use on patios and indoors or literally to 'contain' some prolific plants that can very quickly take over a garden. Garden Mint, Strawberries and Bamboo are common garden plants that grow extremely quickly and spread everywhere they can. However, planted in a container, you can enjoy these staple garden ingredients without having to dig up their offspring every year.
Smaller planters with less soil volume will have more extreme temperature changes, dry out quicker and won't be adequate for some species of plants. For example, Clematis require their roots to be protected over the winter period, so a container of at least 40cm deep and 30cm wide will be required. However small planters are ideal for some succulents, alpine species and annual plants such as pansies.
You can grow a number of trees in planters from olives to cherries providing they have enough soil volume to grow in. It's best to check the individual needs of your chosen tree with your garden centre or supplier from which you purchased the tree. Try and get the biggest planter you can. Leave about 2-3 inches of planter above the soil level so that when watering you don't get run-off. This way you can also add fertilizer/manure next year. The shape of a container does not really matter - the roots will reach the edges and be contained and restricted whatever you do. You can prune the roots if creating a bonsai tree, this will help encourage new roots to form and leave space for nutrient rich soil to be mixed in every year or so.
Wooden planters are used mostly if your tree needs to be portable because they are light. If you wish to have an immobile planter, stone would be good for the weight. Fibrecotta, fibreglass, and polystone planters also are strong and sturdy and should be fine for planting trees in.
Most planters come with drainage holes which are essential to prevent any plant becoming waterlogged. However if you are planting into pots that sit inside your planter, you may not need drainage holes, providing water can drain away from the bottom of the internal pot.
As mentioned above, zinc and galvanised planters will suffer from exposure to chemicals and salts naturally occurring in soil, so these planters are best used with an internal plant pot housing the soil and plant, or with the use of a liner.
It's very important to feed container plants, either when watering or with compost every year to maintain the balance of nutrients, minerals and microbes in the soil. It's also important to water them before they start to wilt, and also not to over-water them. Over-watering strips out the soil's goodness as well as rotting the roots.
To get more help and advice on container plants email our gardening expert Paul Peacock, who writes as Mr Digwell from the Daily Mirror at [email protected], and he will reply to you directly. We will publish the question and answers he sends to you.
If you are unable to find exactly what you're looking for in our range, or you need a specific colour just give us a call and we can create your perfect planter in fibreglass or stainless steel. Fibreglass planters are available in any RAL colour and can be designed to your exact specifications. They are usually more expensive and can take a few weeks to create.
Call us on 0118 903 5210 or email us at [email protected]