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Decorative Planters


We usually grow plants in containers for the beauty of the plant, but the container itself can be every bit as much a feature as the plant it contains. In fact in some instances, the pot is more of a feature than the plant, becoming an important design element that complements the overall house and garden style.

With this in mind, you need to strike a balance between the planter and the plant it contains. The plant should look in harmony with the pot, so think carefully about its size, colour and form. Large, bold plants can detract attention from the planter, so if you have an ornate planter, it may be better to grow a plain, relatively insignificant plant, or even leave it empty.

Choosing and siting the planter

As with all design features, the planter should be in keeping with the style of nearby buildings and the garden in which it is placed

Terracotta chimney pots, strawberry pots and wooden barrels work well in cottage gardens

Use large terracotta citrus tubs and olive pots in Mediterranean gardens

Use classical stone and marble urns in formal gardens (in Greek, Roman and neo-classic English styles)

For Balinese rainforest gardens use colourful, glazed mosaic pots

Also look at where the planter can be placed for maximum effect:

Consider the proportion and scale of the pot and its surroundings. Even without plants, big planters need lots of space, so try to place a large elaborate planter where it won’t look cramped.

A decorative planter is an eye-catching feature, so consider placing it near the house or at the end of a path where it can be easily seen and admired.

Look at its placement in relation to other pots. Plain formal pots can be placed in a line, evenly spaced, with the same type of plant. In a cottage setting, pots can be informally grouped, to give a pleasing arrangement of sizes, colours and textures. Elaborate planters, however, are best placed on their own, without the distraction of other pots and garden accessories to detract from their appearance.

Setting the pot on a pedestal

Ornate planters deserve to be seen, and a pedestal will raise it to a comfortable viewing height. Pedestals can be bought ready-made, or you can make your own out of brick, stone or concrete. Whatever you use, choose a material that complements the planter (eg. don’t use red brick for a stone or concrete planter). A low wall surrounding a courtyard also makes a good pedestal.

Types of Decorative Planters

Urns, troughs, tubs, chimney pots are just a few of the decorative planters now available. At the top end of the scale are stone or ceramic originals, but there are many affordable modern concrete and plastic/fibreglass copies.


In most cases, the planter will be placed outdoors exposed to the elements so durability is important. Terracotta is porous, so not only are the containers prone to drying out, they can absorb water, which freezes and expands in very cold weather, cracking the pot. Cement and reconstituted stone also have the same porous qualities.

Terracotta and cement pots are prone to discolouration from moss and algae. Plastic pots will fade over time in sunlight, and eventually become brittle. Fibreglass lasts longer than plastic, but also loses its colour in sunlight.

If you have a valuable planter, consider placing it indoors or on a verandah (under cover) for extra protection.

Hunting down antiques

Antique and one-off crafted pots can be considered as collector’s items, their uniqueness giving them value and interest. If you’re in the market for an investment piece, visit a range of reputable antique shops, Asian and European importers, and potters’ galleries. In the short to medium term, genuine antiques are more likely to increase in value than modern pots unless the potter is very well known and highly regarded.

Think about security if you do purchase a valuable item – don’t place it where it can easily be stolen (visible from the street). Even the backyard can pose a risk if the pot is in view of neighbouring houses.

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