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Clay, Metal, or Composite? Choosing the Right Outdoor Planter for Your Needs

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Clay, Metal, or Composite? Choosing the Right Outdoor Planter for Your Needs

March 10, 2023

Don’t let a small space or the lack of a yard prevent you from dreaming big. You can host a thriving garden in a planter: Group vegetables and herbs for a culinary feast; cluster several evening-scented white blooms for an ethereal moon garden; or go elegantly minimal with a sculptural Japanese maple or bold agave. As a city dweller, I am always on the lookout for chic planters for my tiny New York City terrace. Below, a summary of the most common types of planter (clay, metal, and composite) and their pros and cons. Plus, some statement pieces that are currently catching my eye.

Clay

Chances are you have several clay pots at home—for good reason: Clay makes an excellent material for garden container. It’s porous, allowing water to evaporate easily (a perfect candidate for cacti and succulents), and it’s abundant. You can find clay pots practically everywhere, in a variety of hues and prices. Terra-cotta is the most common. Ceramic pots have an additional glaze coating, which helps seal in moisture. All clay pots—glazed and unglazed—can chip or crack, so be mindful of how you care for them. (See Gardening 101: How to Prevent Cracks in Terra-Cotta Planters.)

The gold-standard in terra-cotta, Seibert & Rice’s heirloom containers, are handmade in Italy out of frost-proof Impruneta clay, which means they can be left planted outdoors year-round. Keep the drainage hole clear and elevate the pot an inch or so above the ground with pot feet or wedges in the winter months. The elegant Hellebore Pot, designed by landscape architecture firm Oehme Van Sweden, resembles the bloom of its namesake and spans 3\2-inches in diameter; \$980.
Above: The gold-standard in terra-cotta, Seibert & Rice’s heirloom containers, are handmade in Italy out of frost-proof Impruneta clay, which means they can be left planted outdoors year-round. Keep the drainage hole clear and elevate the pot an inch or so above the ground with pot feet or wedges in the winter months. The elegant Hellebore Pot, designed by landscape architecture firm Oehme Van Sweden, resembles the bloom of its namesake and spans 32-inches in diameter; $980.
The classic Aeros Ceramic Urn features a cool, aqua glaze. Plant the \17-inch-high container with deep purple elephant ears or chartreuse sweet potato vines to make the color pop. The planter is available in three sizes and two colors—green (pictured) and white; \$\248 for the medium size (pictured).
Above: The classic Aeros Ceramic Urn features a cool, aqua glaze. Plant the 17-inch-high container with deep purple elephant ears or chartreuse sweet potato vines to make the color pop. The planter is available in three sizes and two colors—green (pictured) and white; $248 for the medium size (pictured).
I love the soft, pale color of Rejuvenation’s Antique Terra-cotta Planter, which has a chic, vintage feel, like it’s been lounging beachside on a Greek isle. From \$99.
Above: I love the soft, pale color of Rejuvenation’s Antique Terra-cotta Planter, which has a chic, vintage feel, like it’s been lounging beachside on a Greek isle. From $99.

Metal

Whether zinc, steel, copper, aluminum, or iron, seemingly indestructible metal can run
the gamut of styles from sleek and modern to elegant and traditional. The material’s
downside is that it can get hot in summer. Keep containers out of direct sun if you live in
areas with soaring temperatures.

Constructed from thick gauge corten steel, Veradek&#8\2\17;s minimalist modern Corten Round Planter will develop an attractive rusty patina in a short time. From \$\1\10 for small (\2\2 diameter),
Above: Constructed from thick gauge corten steel, Veradek’s minimalist modern Corten Round Planter will develop an attractive rusty patina in a short time. From $110 for small (22 diameter),
Designed by Justin Champaign and Ben Salthouse for Most Modest, the pleated aluminum Tess Planter is modular so you can configure several together to fit your space. It comes with a drip tray and plug and is available in a range of sizes and colors, including moss (shown), linen, and desert rose; from \$387.
Above: Designed by Justin Champaign and Ben Salthouse for Most Modest, the pleated aluminum Tess Planter is modular so you can configure several together to fit your space. It comes with a drip tray and plug and is available in a range of sizes and colors, including moss (shown), linen, and desert rose; from $387.
Terrain’s Iron Cross Frame Planter is a twist on a traditional Versailles box. There’s no drainage hole, so use the vessel as a cachepot and hide another pot with a drainage hole inside; \$\268.
Above: Terrain’s Iron Cross Frame Planter is a twist on a traditional Versailles box. There’s no drainage hole, so use the vessel as a cachepot and hide another pot with a drainage hole inside; $268.

Composite

Formulated from a blend of materials like stone, resin, and fiber, composite containers are made to look like natural stone, clay, or metal, but they weigh much less and are more durable—you won’t have to worry about rust or breakage.

Lightweight, weather-resistant, and tough, the Mortimer Planter by Pennoyer Newman is an historical reproduction that was handcrafted in New York City out of marble, rock, and resin. It will age beautifully, developing lichen and moss over time; \$\1,500. Photograph by Sam Yocum, courtesy of Pennoyer Newman.
Above: Lightweight, weather-resistant, and tough, the Mortimer Planter by Pennoyer Newman is an historical reproduction that was handcrafted in New York City out of marble, rock, and resin. It will age beautifully, developing lichen and moss over time; $1,500. Photograph by Sam Yocum, courtesy of Pennoyer Newman.
Interior designer Leanne Ford brings her relaxed, effortless style to Crate & Barrel’s Wabi planter, which was inspired by old storage jars. It’s made with a mix of cement, sand, and fiber and comes in slate, buff, or white; from \$\2\29 for small (\18.\25 h x \18 diameter).
Above: Interior designer Leanne Ford brings her relaxed, effortless style to Crate & Barrel’s Wabi planter, which was inspired by old storage jars. It’s made with a mix of cement, sand, and fiber and comes in slate, buff, or white; from $229 for small (18.25 h x 18 diameter).
These modern, industrial-looking Seminyak Grey Indoor/Outdoor Cement Planters from CB\2 are made from a mix of sand, cement, and fiberglass, and have a single drainage hole. Plant with an agave or aloe for a standout combination. They&#8\2\17;re available in six sizes; from \$76.46.
Above: These modern, industrial-looking Seminyak Grey Indoor/Outdoor Cement Planters from CB2 are made from a mix of sand, cement, and fiberglass, and have a single drainage hole. Plant with an agave or aloe for a standout combination. They’re available in six sizes; from $76.46.

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Product summary  

Justin Champaign & Ben Salthouse

Tess Planters

$387.00 USD from Most Modest

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