Essential Guide to Choosing Vertical Garden Pots and Containers

May 15, 2023Resources & Inspiration, Planters

If you’re looking to elevate your gardening game with a vertical garden, you’re in the right place. One crucial aspect that’s often overlooked is selecting the right vertical garden pots and planters.

Vertical garden pots aren’t just for show – they can have a substantial impact on the health and well-being of your plants. Plus, with the variety of vertical garden systems available, certain containers and planters might work better with specific systems. 

This article will guide you through these considerations, helping you make informed choices about the vertical garden pots and containers for your garden. 

1. Understanding Plant Needs and Vertical Garden Systems

Before we jump into the types of containers, it’s essential to understand your plant’s needs and the type of vertical garden system you’re using. Different plants have different requirements when it comes to root depth, water drainage, and soil type. Similarly, various vertical garden systems cater to different kinds of containers.

For example, if you’re using a pocket garden system, soft-sided, breathable planters are often the best choice. For a vertical planter box system, you might use individual pots or boxes that can be securely attached to the system.

Fabric Containers Make a Lightweight Option for Verticals Gardens
Pocket garden planters are made of fabric, are breathable and budget friendly

2. Container Materials: Pros and Cons

Different materials offer unique advantages and drawbacks when it comes to plant containers. Here, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of the most common materials: 

Plastic: Lightweight and resilient, plastic pots are a frequently chosen option for many vertical gardeners. They’re excellent at retaining moisture and are typically more cost-effective than other materials. Pots made from high-quality polypropylene are particularly durable and can withstand various weather conditions over time.

However, as plastic is non-porous, it’s essential to ensure good drainage to prevent water-logging. While some plastic pots may become brittle and fade in colour after prolonged exposure to sunlight, those made from robust materials like polypropylene are less likely to have this issue.

Always check if the plastic used is BPA-free and safe for growing edible plants. Some manufacturers also offer options made from recycled materials, contributing to a more sustainable gardening practice.

Terracotta: Known for their classic, natural appearance, terracotta pots are porous, which allows for excellent air and water movement. This makes them an excellent choice for plants that prefer drier soil. However, they can be heavy, fragile, and more expensive than plastic pots. They also tend to dry out quickly, which may require more frequent watering.

Terracotta Pots Bring a Decorative Touch to Vertical Gardens
Terracotta pots are more decorative but their heavier weight and bulk may limit their use for some vertical gardens

Ceramic: Ceramic pots offer a wide variety of colours and designs, making them a decorative choice for your vertical garden. They are heavy and sturdy, providing good insulation for plant roots. However, their weight can be a disadvantage for vertical gardens, especially those that are wall-mounted. They’re also more fragile than plastic or metal containers.

Fabric: Fabric pots, like grow bags, are increasingly popular due to their breathability, which promotes healthier root growth and prevents overwatering. They’re lightweight, making them excellent for vertical gardening systems. However, they may not provide as much support as rigid containers, and they may require more frequent watering as they dry out faster.

Metal: Metal pots can add a sleek, modern touch to your garden. They’re durable and can handle a variety of weather conditions. However, metal containers can heat up quickly in direct sunlight, which can harm plant roots. Also, they may rust over time if not adequately treated.

Remember, the type of vertical garden system you’re using might influence your choice of material. For example, if you’re using a freestanding system, it can typically handle heavier containers made from ceramic or terracotta. On the other hand, a wall-mounted system might require lighter materials like plastic or fabric to reduce weight.

3. Size and Depth: Matching Plants to Planters

The size and depth of your containers should match the type of plants you intend to grow. Generally, a deeper pot is necessary for plants with extensive root systems, like certain vegetables and perennials. On the other hand, shallow-rooted plants, such as succulents and herbs, can thrive in less deep containers.

Small Containers: Ideal for small, shallow-rooted plants, such as succulents, some herbs (like thyme and oregano), and flowering annuals like pansies and marigolds.

Medium Containers: Suitable for a wider range of plants, including larger herbs (like basil and mint), flowering perennials (like geraniums and petunias), and small vegetables (like lettuce and spinach).

Large Containers: Needed for plants with large root systems or those that need more space to grow, like tomatoes, cucumbers, and some perennial flowers.

Remember, for vertical garden systems, managing the weight of your containers is key. Larger, deeper containers will be heavier, especially when filled with soil and water, so they’re better suited for robust, freestanding vertical garden systems. Wall-mounted systems, on the other hand, might be better paired with a series of smaller, lighter containers.

4. Exploring Different Shapes of Pots and Containers for Vertical Gardens

When it comes to vertical gardens, one size or shape certainly doesn’t fit all. The diversity of container shapes available can add depth, interest, and functionality to your vertical garden. Let’s explore some popular shapes and their unique benefits.

a) Round Pots:

Round pots are traditional, versatile, and work well in almost any garden setting. They’re ideal for single, specimen plants and can be used in tiered or stacked vertical garden systems.

b) Square and Rectangular Containers:

Square or rectangular pots are excellent for creating clean, geometric designs in your vertical garden. They are space-efficient and, if your vertical garden system allows, can be arranged in a grid format for a modern, minimalist look.

c) Stackable Pots:

Stackable pots are designed to be stacked one on top of the other. They are great for vertical garden systems as they use vertical space efficiently. Often, they feature a cascading design that allows water from the top pot to trickle down, watering the pots below.

d) Vertical Wall Planters:

These containers are designed to be attached directly to a wall or a vertical surface. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and they can even be designed to fit specific spaces.

e) Hanging Baskets and Pots:

Hanging baskets or pots can be suspended from above, either from a wall bracket, ceiling, or a freestanding frame. They are a great way to add layers to your vertical garden and can create a cascading effect with trailing plants.

Hanging Baskets are Great for Vertical Gardens

Remember, the shape of the pot you choose should take into account the specific needs of your plants, the aesthetic you’re aiming for, and the practicalities of your vertical garden system. With the right containers, your vertical garden will be a thriving, visually appealing addition to your space.

5. Drainage: Essential for Plant Health

Regardless of the type, size, or material of your container, proper drainage is crucial. Without it, water can accumulate in the bottom of the pot, leading to waterlogged soil and potentially causing root rot – a harmful condition for most plants.

Most commercial pots come with drainage holes, but if you’re upcycling containers without them, you’ll need to create your own. The number and size of holes needed will depend on the size of the container, but as a general rule, more is better.

Managing Overflow of Water Between Vertical Garden Pots

Navigating water flow between containers is vital in vertical gardening. Avoid situations where water from one pot oversaturates the one below. Some systems have inbuilt solutions for this; others require strategic container arrangements to ensure proper drainage without harming other plants.

Certain vertical garden systems have individual planters equipped with reservoirs for catching excess water, preventing it from seeping into the container below. This design avoids overwatering and maintains ideal moisture conditions for your plants.

In contrast, systems without integrated reservoirs often arrange containers to allow water to flow from one to the next. In such cases, you need to be mindful of container arrangement.

One strategy is to place water-loving plants at the bottom and those that prefer drier conditions higher up. Alternatively, using external drip trays for each container can catch excess water and prevent the oversaturation of lower containers. This is important to prevent potential water damage to surfaces like decking or a patio.

The goal is to encourage free drainage from each container without causing oversaturation in the containers below. It requires balance, careful planning, and a bit of experimentation.

6. Consider DIY Container Options

If you’re budget-conscious or enjoy a hands-on project, consider DIY vertical garden planters for your garden. Various items can be creatively upcycled into unique and functional plant containers.

a. Plastic Bottles: These are readily available and can be easily transformed into pots. They are lightweight, making them suitable for most vertical gardening systems. However, plastic bottles aren’t designed for long-term exposure to the elements, and they can become brittle over time, especially under high UV exposure, requiring more frequent replacement.

b. PVC Pipes or Gutters: These materials can be used to create a cascading vertical garden. They’re sturdy and long-lasting, and their elongated shape can accommodate more plants. However, they can be more challenging to install and may require additional support due to their weight.

Gutters can be used in Vertical Gardens
Upcycle gutters to create a vertical garden for shallow rooted plants

c. Wooden Crates or Pallets: These offer a rustic aesthetic and can hold a larger volume of soil, which is great for larger plants. They are also sturdy and can be easily attached to walls or fences. However, untreated wood can deteriorate over time, so it’s best to use crates or pallets that have been treated for outdoor use.

d. Old Kitchen Items: Items such as colanders, kettles, or even an old chest of drawers can be repurposed into unique planters. The material and durability will vary depending on what you use.

Remember, when choosing any container, whether it’s a traditional pot or a DIY option, it’s important to consider drainage and the specific needs of your plants. The lifespan and durability of DIY containers can be less than commercial options, especially when they are not originally designed for outdoor use. Regularly check your DIY containers for any signs of wear and tear and replace them as necessary.

7. Pots and Containers Suitable for Different Vertical Garden Systems

Choosing the right pots and containers for your vertical garden system depends largely on the type of system you’re using. Here are a few examples of suitable containers for various systems:

a) Pocket Planters: These are fabric or plastic systems with individual pockets for plants. They’re often lightweight and flexible, meaning you can hang them on walls without much structural support. For these systems, you typically don’t need separate containers. You can plant directly into the pockets, making them ideal for a variety of plant types, including small flowers, herbs, and even strawberries.

b) Panel Systems: These systems use a large panel with holes into which you can insert pots or containers. These systems require pots that match the size and shape of the holes in the panel. They’re typically used for larger plants or for creating a green wall.

c) Pot Racks or Shelves: With these systems, you can use almost any type of pot or container, as long as it fits on the shelf or within the frame of the rack. This gives you a lot of flexibility in terms of the size and type of plants you can grow. Just make sure the weight of the pots (especially when filled with soil and water) is within the rack’s capacity.

d) Pallet Gardens: Pallet gardens are a type of DIY vertical garden system where a wooden pallet is repurposed into a vertical planter. The slots between the pallet slats act as containers. Plants are directly planted into a soil mix within these slots.

e) Trellises or Climbing Frames: These are typically used for climbing plants or vines. In these systems, pots are often placed at the base, and plants are trained to grow upwards. The pots used should be sturdy and heavy enough to support the weight of the plant as it grows.

f) Hanging Baskets or Planters: These are designed to hang from a support structure like a hook, a rail, or a beam. They’re great for plants with trailing or cascading growth habits. You’ll need containers with strong, secure handles, and they should also include a drainage system to avoid waterlogging the plants.

Plastic Pots are a Lightweight Option for Vertical Garden Walls
Lightweight plastic pots secured in a vertical wall allow for decorative gardens using minimal space

8. How to Choose the Right Vertical Garden Pots and Containers

Choosing the right containers for your vertical garden is not just about aesthetics; it’s also about providing the right environment for your plants to thrive. Let’s go through some key factors to consider when choosing pots and containers for your vertical garden.

a) Consider the Size:

The size of the container you choose will depend on the type of plants you want to grow. For larger plants, a larger pot is necessary, not just to accommodate the plant, but also to hold enough soil to retain moisture and nutrients. Small, shallow pots are best suited for succulents or plants with shallow root systems.

b) Drainage is Essential:

Good drainage is crucial to prevent waterlogging, which can lead to root rot. When choosing containers, ensure they have sufficient drainage holes. If they don’t, you can often drill holes yourself. Remember to consider the water runoff when setting up your vertical garden to avoid damaging surfaces below or overwatering plants at the bottom.

c) Material Matters:

As we’ve discussed earlier, the material of your pots and containers can greatly affect your plants. Plastic pots are lightweight and retain moisture well but may not offer the same aesthetic appeal as ceramic or terracotta. Being lightweight, they are more likely to be suitable for vertical gardens and in particular for vertical wall gardens. Weigh the pros and cons of each material in relation to your specific needs.

d) Match Your Vertical Garden System:

The type of vertical garden system you choose will also determine the kind of containers you can use. Some systems may require specific pots designed to slot or hang onto the system. Others may offer more flexibility in the types of containers you can use.

e) The Aesthetic Appeal:

Lastly, consider the look you want to achieve. Do you prefer a modern, clean-lined look? Then geometrically shaped pots in a monochrome palette may work well. Or perhaps you prefer a rustic, cottage garden style? Terracotta pots or wooden crates could be your choice in this case.

Final Thoughts

Choosing the right containers and pots for your vertical garden may take some time and consideration, but it’s well worth the effort. The right containers will not only enhance the visual appeal of your garden but also ensure your plants are healthy and thriving.

FAQ Vertical Garden Pots and Containers

What’s the best material for containers in a vertical garden?

Identifying the “best” material for containers in a vertical garden largely depends on your unique circumstances and needs. When choosing containers for vertical gardens, one crucial factor to consider is weight. The structure supporting your garden must bear the weight of the containers, soil, and plants. Thus, lighter options like certain plastics might be the ideal choice. Polypropylene, for instance, is a durable and heavy-duty plastic that withstands various weather conditions. However, aesthetics also play a part, and while plastics are functional, they might not always match your style preferences. Terracotta, while classic and beautiful, can be heavy and may require frequent watering as it tends to dry out quickly. Wood has a natural appeal, but it’s susceptible to rot over time. Therefore, it’s essential to weigh up the pros and cons of each material, keeping in mind your budget, the weight your vertical garden system can support, and your plant’s requirements when choosing your containers.

How do I choose the right size of container for my vertical garden plants?

The right container size depends on the type of plant you’re growing. As a rule of thumb, the pot should be large enough to accommodate the plant’s root system with some room to grow. Small plants or herbs might do well in containers that are 15cm in diameter, while larger plants might require pots that are 30cm in diameter or even larger. Always consider the mature size of the plant and its root system when choosing your container.

Can I use recycled containers in my vertical garden?

Yes, using recycled containers can be a great eco-friendly and budget-friendly option for a vertical garden. Make sure they’re clean and have adequate drainage. You can add drainage holes if necessary. Keep in mind that dark-coloured containers can absorb more heat, which might not be ideal for some plants.

Can I use different types of containers in my vertical garden?

Absolutely! Using different types of containers can add visual interest to your vertical garden. Just make sure that all the containers provide adequate space and drainage for your plants. And remember that different materials will have different advantages and challenges, so consider the needs of your plants when choosing.

Do I need special soil for my vertical garden containers?

The type of soil you need will depend on the plants you’re growing. Generally, a high-quality potting mix is a good choice for container gardens, as it drains well and is light enough not to put unnecessary stress on your vertical garden structure. Some plants may require specific soil types, so it’s always a good idea to research your plants’ needs.

How can you protect surfaces below from water runoff from a vertical garden?

There are several strategies for protecting surfaces below your vertical garden from water runoff. One effective way is to use a drip tray or saucer under each pot to catch excess water. Alternatively, you could consider installing a gutter-like structure at the bottom of your vertical garden to collect and direct the runoff to a suitable location.

Another method is to layer your garden strategically, positioning plants that require more water at the bottom, so they can benefit from the runoff of the plants above. You could also consider a water-absorbing mat or similar material behind the garden to absorb any water that might otherwise drip down.

Remember, each vertical garden is unique, so you might need to experiment a bit to find the solution that works best for your particular setup and location.


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