Terracotta, Wood, Plastic, Glazed, Coloured, Patterned or Plain
March 1, 2022

By Kate and Len Lucas

Good grief, all we are talking about here is pots and it’s possible that the question as to whether pots are going to make your gardening life better or worse, could be irrelevant.

So here are a few things we have learned about pots. Big pots look better than small ones, even when they are empty. The bigger the pot the less you have to water it. Big pots are more expensive and really big pots are really expensive. Experience has told us that what the pot looks like is almost as important as what you put in it and in our experience, if you can grow it in the garden then you can grow it in a pot.

Plastic pots, even big ones, are cheaper than any other material and the shapes or patterns on the side of a pot tend to increase the cost. So let’s chuck in that all-important factor of personal taste and see if we have arrived at the discovery that “what pot” is a pointless exercise and that the pot committee is unable to solve the riddle of the universe.

We need to back out of this horticultural cul-de-sac and return to that question of why invest in the first place and what’s the benefit? Here are some suggestions based on our own experience. You might want to grow a plant that will not survive in your garden soil e.g. Rhododendron or Camellia. You might not want to risk the plant running amok in the border e.g. Bamboo. Some plants won’t look right unless they are shown off in a pot e.g. Thuya “Whipcord”. The plant may be just too tender to leave out in the cold weather e.g. Cannas or Banana. Or quite simply, to take the hard edge off a rather cold looking piece of concrete or paving slabs or even just show off and make out you are at the Chelsea Flower Show.

Whatever sort you buy here are a few things that might help.

Use potting compost for whatever is going in the pot and always mix in some fish, blood and bone, that way it will keep the plant going all year as it is a slow-release feed. You can buy fish, blood and bone in boxes or tubs at any good garden centre.

For most outdoor pots and especially if the plant will be in it for some time, putting broken bits of pot or even pieces of polystyrene packaging in the bottom, will help with drainage to stop the roots from rotting.

The water you add to the pot at the top is meant to run out at the bottom to show you that you have given it enough water. However, the plant food dissolved in that escaping water will produce green algal growth on whatever surface it runs on. Therefore all our pots, except the very large one, have plastic trays under them except in the winter. We never use feet for pots because we can’t see the point of them.

If you don’t like the colour of a pot anymore, then you can paint it rather than buying another. We still use large, inexpensive, plastic pots and have painted many of them with matt blackboard paint. They look a lot less plastic that way.

We have fewer terracotta pots than we used to because of cracking and shattering in the winter. Today, better production methods have almost eliminated that problem and most of our pots are what we would call “glazed pottery” pots.

Over the years, we have probably bought pots of every kind, with the one exception of the half-wooden half barrel. They are at the expensive end and should be long lasting. We have never bought them, therefore, have no experience to pass on and the only reason for not buying them was personal taste.

To be honest, it wouldn’t matter what kind of pot you bought. You spent your hard-earned money on something because you like the look of it or if you prefer the self-satisfaction that brings a smugness and warmth.

And when spring and summer return and that glass of cold lager or chardonnay joins you on your lawn, patio or wherever else you call your garden, then you can say “welcome” and toast to your new pots.

You just can’t put a price on that.