Planters are a popular home and garden accessory, but what exactly is a planter? Planters come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from large pots to small window boxes, perfect for growing herbs.

Read on to learn more about what a planter is and how to choose the right one for your garden.


What is a Planter?


minimalist planters on a window sill


A planter is a container used for growing and displaying plants, typically made of wood, plastic, or metal. Planters are available in different shapes and sizes, ranging from wall-mounted to hanging planters, freestanding containers, and window boxes.

You may be wondering how a planter differs from a pot or other similar containers. The main difference is that a planter usually has drainage holes to allow excess water to escape, preventing the roots from sitting in soggy soil and helping promote good air circulation for your plants. Additionally, planters can come with air holes or a plastic liner, which helps create an ideal environment for growing healthy and vibrant plants (Mays et al., 2022).


Materials Used for Planters


Ceramic and Stone


ceramic and stone planter, located in a bright window

Ceramic and stone planters are known for their long-lasting durability and attractive designs. While they can be slightly heavier than plastic or metal planters, the extra weight is due to the thick walls that protect against root rot and soil erosion.

Plants are known to grow better in these planters, as the material can store and radiate heat to keep the soil warm. Plus, they absorb moisture, allowing the plant's roots to stay cool and hydrated in the hot summer months.

  • Pros: Lasts longer than plastic, attractive design
  • Cons: Heavier than other materials, more expensive
  • Tip: Look for thicker walls and larger drainage holes.


SWP (Stone, Wood, and Recycled Plastics)

Planters made from Stone, Wood, and Recycled Plastics


SWP planters are a better alternative to plastic pots. Its composite material is biodegradable, which means that it will break down into its natural elements in over 20 years. This makes the SWP pot an environmentally friendly option for people who want to reduce their plastic waste but still provide some natural textures in the planter. 


  • Pros: Lightweight, weatherproof, frostproof, and durable
  • Cons: Can be more expensive and look a bit different than concrete
  • Tip: Use for lightweight and durable hanging planters




metal planters

Metal planters are usually made of zinc alloy or galvanized steel and can be used to create a modern look in your garden. They are also incredibly strong and resistant to corrosion.

  • Pros: Very durable
  • Cons: More expensive than plastic or ceramic, not suitable for warm climates
  • Tip:  Look for weather-resistant finishes.




wood planter

Wooden planters are beautiful additions to any outdoor living space and can be as simple or as intricate as you like. They also have the advantage of being able to hold a lot more soil and plants than other materials while still remaining lightweight and easy to move around. Redwood and cedar are the best types of wood to look for when buying a planter.


  • Pros: Lightweight, eco-friendly, easy to move and maintain
  • Cons: Can rot over time if not maintained properly
  • Tip:  Look for pressure-treated wood to make sure it’s more resistant to rot and decay.




fiberglass planter

Glass planters are perfect for plants that require more light and humidity, as the transparent material allows more air and sunlight to reach the soil.  With that said, these planters may require more regular maintenance to prevent cracking and discoloration.


  • Pros: Transparent, looks attractive in any garden
  • Cons: Requires more maintenance, can break easily, expensive
  • Tip: Look for thick and impact-resistant materials.


Factors to Consider when Selecting a Planter


Size and Shape


Planters of different sizes and shapes


If you are planting a small herb garden, for example, then opt for a smaller planter with shallow sides so that your plants receive enough light and air circulation. If you are planting shrubs or trees, however, then you will need a larger planter with deep sides to accommodate the roots.


Type of Plant


types of plants

Think about the type of plant you want to grow and make sure the planter is suitable for it. For example, succulents prefer shallow containers, while large trees may need a deeper one. Additionally, some plants may require specific types of soil or climate conditions that can be provided by certain materials.


Location of the Planter

​​location of the planters

The location of your planter is just as important as the material and size you select. Consider how much sunlight, shade, wind, and moisture the area receives. This will help you determine if a particular material or planting depth is required for successful growth (Blum, n.d.).


In hot places, ceramic planters may be more suitable as they can withstand extreme temperatures. In cold climates, glass and plastic planters are better options as they insulate the soil more effectively.


Aesthetics and Style

planters of different aesthetics and styles

You want something that will fit in with the overall look of your outdoor space. Take into account the colors, textures, and shapes that you like, and select a planter that reflects them. There are minimalist, modern, and vintage styles to choose from, so it’s easy to find something that will match your landscape design.


Tips for Maintaining Planters

Watering and Fertilizing

Your plants will need to be watered and fertilized in order to thrive. Make sure the soil is moist but not soggy, and use a balanced fertilizer according to package instructions. Your planter should also be able to drain excess water easily, so check that it has the right size drainage holes for your plants.


Protecting from the Elements

Your planters may be exposed to a variety of weather conditions, so make sure to protect them from sun damage, frost, and heavy rain. Consider placing them in areas that receive protection from the elements or purchasing covers for extra protection.


Cleaning and Storing

Clean your planters by wiping down the surfaces and removing any dirt or debris. You may want to store your planters during the winter months, so make sure to take proper precautions, such as wrapping them in a protective material and storing them in a dry place.



With the right materials and proper care, your planters can last for years and bring beauty to your outdoor living space. Keep these tips in mind, and you’ll have beautiful, thriving plants all year round.






Blum, A. (n.d.). The pot experiment - is it your cup of tea? Plantstress.

Mays, D., Richter, K. , Bradley, L.K., Sherk, J., Kistler, M., Neal, J. (2022). Plants grown in containers, Chapter 18. In: Moore, K.A., and L.K. Bradley (eds). North Carolina Extension Gardener Handbook, 2nd ed. NC State Extension, Raleigh, NC.

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