Choosing the right shape, size planter

Wednesday November 6 2019

Shoppers check out potted plants on display

Shoppers check out potted plants on display during the My Fabulous Homes Festival at KCCA Grounds in Lugogo, Kampala, last year. Photo by Rachel Mabala 

By Carolyne B. Atangaza

A planter of the right shape and size can greatly increase your gardening space and add beauty to your home. A colleague recently shared a frustrating experience with a wrong sized planter.

Several years ago, she planted a seedling in a plastic container which she placed just outside her verandah. Without realising, the plant burst through the container and started growing under finally surfacing on the neighbours verandah.

Had she taken the care to find out the type of plant she was growing and used the right plant, this confusion would have been avoided. But with so many different materials and styles of planters, how do you choose the right one? Here are a few things to consider:

Type of plant
Before splashing money on that beautiful planter first find out the type of plant you want to grow. According to Maureen Atuhumuza, a plant stylist and landscaper, the type of plants you want to grow and what their needs should determine the planters you choose.

“Some plants grow quickly and might need a lot of room for their roots. Others need a lot of sunshine while others do well in a shade. If you are planning on putting a planter in an area where it will receive a lot of sun, you will want a planter made of a non-porous material so as to retain enough water for longer periods. The opposite is true for plants that receive less sun,” Atuhumuza recommends.

Planter material
There are as many planter materials. Each material provides a unique style and has its own advantages and disadvantages. Atuhumuza notes that clay is one of the more popular materials for planters. Not only do clay planters easily blend in almost every environment but they are also very porous, allowing for excellent air flow to your roots.


However, clay is delicate and cracks easily when knocked over. And because of their high porousness, they are not suitable for plants that need a lot of sun because they can dry out rapidly.

Other favourite planter materials are stone and concrete. A concrete planter looks great; they are durable and can brave the harshest weather conditions.

“There are concrete planters made from cement and wire mesh available on the market; they have a very classy and professional look, available in many shades and finishes. They however can be heavy especially when filled with soil and are expensive. These should be used for plants that stay in cool areas to avoid excessive heat that is likely to be retained in the material,” she advises.

Others types include plastic, wood, melamine, fiberglass and wicker.

Outdoor or indoor
Where you plan to use the planter is important according to Lillian Katiso. Different materials are well suited for different weather and temperatures.

Synthetic planters
Synthetic planters and plastic planters are some of the most cost-effect planters While a plastic planter may not have the same classic appeal as a wooden planter or concrete planter, it is lightweight and durable and available in many designs. Plastic planters hold moisture well which is good for hot and dry climates, but can become brittle and break easily in colder temperatures.

Wooden planters
A wooden planter is often a popular choice due to its attractive, natural style and warm appearance. Wooden planters retain water and do quite well in cold weather, providing insulation for your roots. Most wood planters are made with thicker, rot-resistant wood like redwood or cedar and treated to prevent weather damage. Wood planters can be inexpensive and age gracefully, but they can also be quite heavy.

Why is size so important?
Brenda Ekke, a horticulturist, notes that a plant must be potted in a container that has enough room to grow but is not too big for the plant itself.

“Did you know that if you place the plant in a planter that is too small for it will stunt its growth? Equally a small plant potted in an oversized container may be affected by the unbalanced moisture content in the soil. If plant roots cannot reach the bottom of the pot and the drainage holes are completely clogged, excess moisture collects at the bottom of the container, forming a mass of moist soil mass. This can either result in root rots, extra-heavy planters, or an unpleasant odor of wet soil,” she reveals.

Find out how deep the roots grow. “It would be a mistake to choose a planter based the current size of the plant. Instead, first look at the mature size of the plant. For each planter, store the amount of soil in proportion to the type of plant and the size to compensate for soil moisture,” Ekke recommends.

For ornamental plants, such as small succulents, you need a flat bottom that is less than 15 cm deep. For year-round plants, a depth of the soil of about 30 cm is sufficient. The soil for perennials should be between 30 and 45 cm deep.

Bushes need a bit more ground, which must be between 45 and 60 cm. Small trees need even deeper soil, which is between 60 to 90 cm.

Shape matters
An important factor for the proper growth of a plant is not only the size of the container, but also its shape. The most widely used and practical flower pots and planters for outdoor use are round, square or rectangular. Some of them are also equipped with an irrigation system.

Medium to large round, square and rectangular containers with deep soil reservoirs from 30 to 90 cm, depending on the type of plant, are good and suitable varieties for flowering perennials, shrubs and small trees. Use larger pots to plant combinations of several species so each plant has room to grow. Flat and low flower pots and planters with less than 15 cm deep soil are ideal for growing small succulents, chickweed or houseleek plants.

Planting frames can bring low flower pots and planters a little closer to eye level. Flat containers are also well suited as showpieces for outdoor dining tables. Vase-shaped pots that bulge at the top are suitable options for mixed combinations of annuals, flowering perennials and an evergreen shrub or small tree.

A wide opening provides plenty of space to put together a combination of plants. Select the depth of the container based on the plant species you want to include. Many variants are available on the market today.