Urban Food Garden

The pros and cons of different types of pots.

Pots come in a variety of sizes and materials.  This page compares some of the different types of pots available on the market and what they are most suitable to be used for.

Black plastic pots

Black plastic pots are cheaper and absorb more heat (warmer soil aids plant growth) than any other type of pot.  LEFT TO RIGHT: 13 cm, 20 cm, 25 cm, and 28 cm pots.  FOREGROUND: Accompanying black saucers. These size pots are suitable for growing herbs and smaller vegetables such as rocket and lettuces.

ADVANTAGES SUMMARY

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ADVANTAGES

  • CHEAPEST OF ALL POTS
  • GOOD UV STABILISATION         Take longer to break down than coloured plastic pots.
  • WEIGH LESS THAN GLAZED/TERRACOTTA POTS         Making them more portable.
  • BLACK ABSORBS MORE HEAT         Which means warmer soil and faster growing plants.

DISADVANTAGES SUMMARY

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DISADVANTAGES

  • DRY OUT MORE QUICKLY         Due to warmer soil.
  • THE PLASTIC EVENTUALLY BREAKS DOWN        Leaving a plastic waste disposal problem.
  • LOSE MORE HEAT AT NIGHT THAN GLAZED/TERRACOTTA POTS        Pots can freeze In extreme cold, which has the potential to kill plants.
  • AESTHETICALLY NOT VERY PLEASING
Coloured plastic pots

Are lighter than earthenware pots, making them more portable, but they break down more quickly than black plastic pots.  However, their lighter weight makes them ideal where weight is an issue, such as on wooden decking.

ADVANTAGES SUMMARY

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ADVANTAGES

  • • USUALLY CHEAPER THAN EARTHENWARE POTS
  • WEIGH LESS THAN EARTHENWARE POTS, MAKING THEM MORE PORTABLE.
  • AESTHETICALLY MORE PLEASING THAN BLACK PLASTIC POTS

DISADVANTAGES SUMMARY

(flip me)

DISADVANTAGES

  • THE PLASTIC BREAKS DOWN MORE QUICKLY THAN BLACK PLASTIC POTS
  • LOSE MORE HEAT AT NIGHT THAN EARTHENWARE POTS        Pots can freeze In extreme cold, which has the potential to kill plants.
Self Watering plastic pots

Self watering pots have a reservoir of water at the base of the pot that the plant/s in the pot can draw upon.
LEFT: A self watering pot with young picking lettuces in it.  RIGHT: Interior of a self watering pot showing the divider that keeps the soil in the pot separate from the water reservoir.  Note that the photo on the left was taken some years ago.  These days I sit self watering pots in a saucer to catch any overflow from the pot’s reservoir. 


As far as I am aware they are only made of coloured plastic.  Though there are self-watering inserts for conventional pots, in including terracotta ones, however I have never tried them.

ADVANTAGES SUMMARY

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ADVANTAGES

  • NEEDS LESS FREQUENT WATERING THAN STANDARD POTS
  • KEEPS THE MOISTER LEVEL OF THE SOIL HIGHER AND MORE EVEN
  • AESTHETICALLY MORE PLEASING THAN BLACK PLASTIC POTS

DISADVANTAGES SUMMARY

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DISADVANTAGES

  • THE PLASTIC BREAKS DOWN MORE QUICKLY THAN BLACK PLASTIC POTS
  • LOSE MORE HEAT AT NIGHT THAN GLAZED/TERRACOTTA POTS
  • COST MORE THAN STANDARD PLASTIC POTS
  • SOME PLANTS DO NOT THRIVE IN THE CONSISTENTLY HIGH MOISTURE LEVELS THAT SELF-WATERING POTS CREATE
EARTHENWARE POTS

LEFT: Earthenware pot.  RIGHT FOREGROUND: Earthenware pot.  RIGHT BACKGROUND: Terracotta pot (type of earthenware pot using a specific clay mixture) with Aloe vera growing in it.   All these pots have been glazed to seal the outsides. Unglazed pots are quite porous, such pots need more water than comparative sized glazed pots as they lose moisture through their sides via evaporation.

ADVANTAGES SUMMARY

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ADVANTAGES

  • • AESTHETICALLY VERY PLEASING
  • WILL LAST LONGER AND AGE BETTER THAN PLASTIC POTS
  • RETAIN HEAT AT NIGHT MORE EFFICIENTLY THAN PLASTIC POTS

DISADVANTAGES SUMMARY

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DISADVANTAGES

  • MORE EXPENSIVE THAN PLASTIC POTS OF COMPARATIVE SIZE
  • HEAVIER THAN PLASTIC POTS        Making them harder to move.
  • MORE SUSCEPTIBLE TO BREAKAGE
Styrofoam boxes

Technically styrofoam boxes are not pots, but they are useful substitutes for pots, especially if you are on a very tight budget as they can usually be sourced for nothing.  I mainly use them to grow seedlings, but they can be used to grow most types of vegetables, though I do not recommend that they be used to grow fruit trees.

ADVANTAGES SUMMARY

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ADVANTAGES

  • CAN BE SOURCED FOR NOTHING
  • THE INSULATING PROPERTIES OF STYROFOAM KEEPS THE SOIL WARMER AT NIGHT THAN PLASTIC POTS

DISADVANTAGES SUMMARY

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DISADVANTAGES

  • BREAK DOWN RELATIVELY QUICKLY
  • NOT VERY AESTHETICALLY PLEASING
  • HARD TO GET A SAUCER UNDERNEATH THEM TO CONTAIN EXCESS WATER
Other pots on the market

Since I bought the bulk of my pots many more types of pots have come on the market, including cascading pots, wall pots and pots made of composite materials that look like earthenware but weigh less.  However, as I have not used such pots and this website is based on my personal experiences, I have not included them in this article.

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