Urns and planters are used primarily to provide decorative accents to gardens and homes, although they can be used to plant vegetables and shrubs. Planters need to have adequate drainage and be filled with a high-potting mix for healthy plants. To prevent the spread of disease, soaking used terracotta pots in a solution of 9 parts water to 1 part bleach is a good idea.
Planters and urns can be made from almost any durable material. Terracotta pots are among the most familiar, but plants can be placed in glazed ceramic, plastic, wooden, metal, concrete or glass containers. The most important requirement is that all pots must have drainage holes or plant roots will rot.
Before selecting a planter or urn, consider several factors. First, the style of the home and garden will dictate container choice. Formal urns full of flowers provide an attractive accent to traditional homes, while a rustic wooden basket complements cottage decor. Some planter materials are more durable than others. For example, wood containers eventually rot and must be replaced. Terracotta and glazed ceramic pots break if dropped and may crack during cold winters. Select planters appropriate for the size of the plant. Vegetables, flowering roses, shrubs and small trees need 5 gallon or larger containers.
Planters and urns work for apartment dwellers or those with limited space. The elderly may not be able to care for a large vegetable garden, but can enjoy maintaining a few accessible pots. Additionally, planters take less time and money to maintain than traditional flower and vegetable gardens. They also provide a colorful decorative element to porches and patios.
Almost any plant can thrive in a container, according to the West Virginia University Extension Service. Vegetables grow well in bushel baskets, wooden crates or large troughs. Cooks appreciate the convenience of potted herbs close at hand. Annuals are used extensively in containers, although perennials and bulbs can also be grown. Containers work especially well for tender perennials and shrubs that would die in temperate climates. These plants are easily taken indoors once cold weather arrives.
Planters and urns range in cost from a few dollars for plastic or metal containers to several hundred dollars for decorative glazed and terracotta pots. Larger containers and those with decorative elements cost more, although most nurseries have sales. Yard sales and thrift stores are a good place to look for containers. Better yet, recycled containers--wooden crates, bushel baskets and plastic containers--are free.