Pros, Cons, & Design Considerations for Various Plant Container Materials

Plants play an important role in the design of interior spaces. Aside from their ability to help direct foot traffic, enhance the desired mood of a space, and complement a building’s architectural features, plants are also proven to increase the health and wellbeing of the occupants within.

interior_plantscaping_cover-259x350In my book, The Manual of Interior Plantscaping: A Guide to Design, Installation, and Maintenance, you will learn how to design for many of the major types of interiorscape projects such as living green walls, container displays, atriums, indoor gardens, and more. In addition to learning about the basic principles needed to create a successful interiorscape design, you will also be exposed to tried-and-true information on pest and disease prevention, plant nutrition, proper pruning, and watering techniques.

Here is a short excerpt from my new book, The Manual of Interior Plantscaping: A Guide to Design, Installation, and Maintenance.


Decorative plant containers come in a number of materials, each with a specific look. Some containers are eco-friendly and made with recycled materials or sustainable products. Colors, finishes, and prices are dependent on the material used to manufacture the container. The price for containers can also vary widely and many containers may cost more than the plants themselves.


Plastic Plant Containers

-Vista Planter Shown

Plastic decorative containers tend to be the least expensive choice and are used most frequently in designs where the budget is limited. Most plastic containers come in simple cylinder shapes with no lip on the top and with a matte or gloss finish. They are available in various colors, including neutrals, metallic, and bright neon tones. These plastic decorative containers are already waterproof and many include a raised center to lift the plant out of any drainage water that accumulates. The containers are lightweight and are often designed to stack together, saving on shipping costs. Plastic containers are usually used in moderately priced homes, small offices and businesses, and casual restaurants.


Fiberglass Planters

-Jay Scotts Fiberglass Shown

A wide variety of fiberglass containers are available in an almost unlimited number of shapes and colors. Fiberglass molds are easily made and can be an excellent choice for custom design work. Due to the nature of the material, it can also be used to make organic shapes and bowls. A lip on the top of the container adds a nice touch and helps a container to look more high-end.

Fiberglass containers are usually made with a glossy or textured finish. They can mimic the look of wood, stone, iron, seashells, rock, or nearly anything else imaginable. They are waterproof and may or may not have a raised center for drainage. Some brands of fiberglass containers include their own subirrigation system to make watering easier.

Some fiberglass containers may require a moderate lead time for manufacturing, especially if you are ordering a custom design or color. Fiberglass is relatively lightweight and is usually shipped with each container in its own package to protect the finish. Multiple containers may be shipped on a palette to lower the costs of handling the individual packages.

Fiberglass containers can fit into almost any décor and are used for projects with moderate to high-end budgets. Unusual shapes and finishes may increase the price, while standard shapes and colors will fit most commercial project budgets.


Containers made of ceramic or terra cotta are rarely used in commercial settings for several reasons. Their look is much more casual and does not fit into most contemporary and modern designs, although they are still found in Southwest-themed designs, Victorian gardens, and very casual designs. They are heavy, and chip and break easily. Furthermore, they can be difficult and costly to ship and are not water proof. Most ceramic and terra cotta containers that are used are made locally or sold to home owners.


Metal Plant Containers

-Brushed Marine-Grade Aluminum Shown

Metal containers are once again gaining in popularity. Metal cylinder containers were popular in the 1970s and 1980s, but fell out of favor for a number of reasons. Often they were heavy and expensive, and developed water leaks at the seams. Those with a polished finish scratched easily, and all of them corroded over time. They often gave the interior a cold, industrial look that became outdated in the 1990s and 2000s.

Now metal containers, and those with a metal finish, are once again becoming popular, especially in more minimalist and modern designs, but the shapes have changed dramatically. Modern metal containers are available in urn shapes, rectangles and squares, ovals, curved planters, saucer-shaped bowls, and many others.

[excerpt pp. 81–82]


–Taken from The Manual of Interior Plantscaping© Copyright 2015 by Kathy Fediw. All rights reserved. Published by Timber Press, Portland, OR. Used by permission of the publisher.

Kathy is a LEED AP with specialty and has developed a comprehensive green certification program for landscape and interiorscape businesses, projects and approved products. She has over 30 years experience working in the horticulture industry in sales, marketing and management. She is the publisher of the online magazine, I-Plants Magazine.

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