vendredi 26 mars 2010

How to Choose an Pot for your Exterior Plants

Your choice of pots will largely depend on your own individual taste and budget. If you're buying more than one pot, it looks more effective if you match your pots and buy them in several sizes to make a nice group. Large ones with several plants arranged with some small can look better than lots of small ones.

Material:em> Porous materials generally dry out more quickly than others meaning that you'll have to water your plants more often.

Quality:em> Invest in quality pots made with quality materials which will age well. A terracotta pot, for example, will change it's colour, acquire an 'aged' look over time which will add charm to your garden.

Pot ou cache-pot?em> If you like to change your decor regularly, don't plant directly into your pots, use them as 'cache-pots', that is, keep the plants in their original plastic container and put that container into your cache-pot. If your cache-pot has no drainage holes or if you cover any drainage holes, when you water your plants, the excess water dripping down from the interior pot will stay in the cache-pot providing a good source of humidity if you are going away for a short break in summer for example.

Beware in winter, however, don't leave the water to build up for a long time because the roots of the plant will rot if they are left in water. So you'll need to empty your cache-pot if it has no drainage holes. Your plant also needs air so if the roots are constantly submerged in water, it will stop the air getting to them, this will also apply if you cover the drainage holes.

Plastic v terracotta v pottery,varnished, ceramic v metal pots v wood:
Plastic Is light so it won't weigh down your balcony and it's easier to transport the pot once full. It will hold water and air in the pot for longer. There are a myriad of colours available. BUT plastic is not great for very cold or very hot situations. It can become discoloured quickly and doesn't age very well and poor quality plastic cracks easily. It's impermiability is a minus for some plants that need air around their roots.

Terracotta:em>Is a traditional quality material which ages well, it allows the air to pass and doesn't keep plants too humid. BUT for some plants and in some climates it dries too quickly meaning that you need to water more frequently. It is heavy especially when full and one must be careful not to exceed certain weight limits on balconies or terraces. Thinner terracotta pots can crack in winter frost. Some are guaranteed as frost resistant.

Pottery, varnished, Ceramic:Quality materials that look beautiful in all manner of attractive, vibrant colours that can be co-ordinated with the vegetation. Pottery keeps humidity better than terracotta. The pot does not age and will keep the same colour and look. it just needs a wash with water from time to time. BUT these pots are heavy and have the same constraints as the heavy terracotta pots. Pottery can also be more sensitive to knocks and layers of varnish can get chipped off easily. Not all pots of this type survive winter frosts but the thicker ones are more likely to do so.

I had some gorgeous varnished pots on my stairs - bright red and black alternating. I have one left - my family have accidentally kicked and toppled some and the others have cracked in the frost:-( Much as I was attracted by the same pots with their deep colours in the garden centre last week, I had to resist!

Metal and Zinc:Pots are light, posing no problems for balconies and easy to transport and change an arrangement. Normally they don't have drainage holes so they are best used as cache-pots (although I drill the IKEA zinc pots to make drainage holes in the bottom, it's very fast and easy). They heat up very quickly which may burn a plant if the pot is in a particularly hot climate in a sunny spot or may be great in a cooler spot. BUT they can get dented very easily and it's not easy to regain their original shape once dented. If they are not good quality they may not be well soldered together and might come apart at the seams, particularly if they are large and contain a lot of earth, which will exert a large amount of pressure on the sides of the pot.

Wood: Wood is an ideal material for plants that need a peat based compost (more of this in the coming weeks) because the wood doesn't heat up too quickly and keeps the plants cool. BUT wood does decompose pretty quickly, even if the wood is treated. It's better to use wooden pots as cache-pots or line them with a plastic liner before planting (although then you lose the drainage aspect).

Hope that's helped you to make an important and sometimes expensive decision. Have fun choosing!

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