How to Choose a Plant Container

There are a lot of different kinds of plant pots and containers available. Plastic plant containers are great for balcony gardens because they're cheap, light-weight, durable and attractive. You can get creative with the plant containers you use - they don't need to come from your local garden shop. You can use anything that holds potting soil and can have drainage holes drilled into it. Following are the types of plant containers you can use in your balcony garden.


Terra Cotta

Terra cotta plant containers are one of the most visually pleasing container on the market (they are definitely better-looking than black nursery containers). They are beautiful and relatively inexpensive plant containers, but there are five good reasons to avoid terra cotta containers in a balcony container garden.

1. Large containers can be too heavy for balcony gardens.

2. Terra cotta can crack easily in freezing temperatures and may need to be overwintered inside during cold winters.

3. Terra cotta containers break easily if knocked over.

4. Heavy and brittle terra cotta containers are a pain to move (especially when moving from apartment to apartment).

5. Because terra cotta containers are porous, they allow moisture to escape from potting soil.

If you like the look of terra cotta, the best thing to do is get plastic plant containers that look like terra cotta. Some containers that mimic terra cotta look just like the real thing, but they may be a bit more expensive.

Nursery Pots

Black nursery potsA balcony container gardener on a budget will often use black plastic plant containers from the garden shop nursery instead of buying more expensive containers. Some experts say to stay away from black containers. Nursery plant containers are usually black, and you can use them to cut down on plastic waste and to save some money. But keep in mind that the color black attracts heat, and a black container can make plant roots hot, which can inhibit the plant's growth.

Because these plant containers are cheap and abundant, it’s a shame to purchase a plant and have to get rid of the container it came in just because it’s black. (If you do get rid of your black containers, make sure to donate them to someone, give them back to your local garden shop or recycle the plastic.)

If you do want to keep those black plant containers, it may not cause you a problem at all. If you don’t receive bright sun or live in a hot climate, nursery containers should work just fine. Black containers can last for years in very hot weather and hot sun without problems. For places like a sunny balcony garden in Phoenix, Arizona, though, you may want to use a lighter color just to be safe.

Baskets with Fiber Lining

Strawberries in hanging containerThe first container plants to suffer from heat waves and dry air last week are baskets with coconut fiber lining (other fibrous lining can be made of sphagnum moss). Although this type of plant container looks pretty, you may want to avoid containers with coconut or any other fiber lining because the lining is fibrous, which allows moisture in the potting soil to escape from all sides.

If you have or want to purchase a plant container with a fibrous lining, there are several ways of working with the container. One option is to line the lining. Place a plastic grocery bag with holes punched in it inside the lining before putting potting soil inside. This way the plastic will allow for drainage (which is very important to prevent root rot), but it will also better protect the potting soil from evaporation. Another, prettier option is to cut slits in the lining and plant on all sides of the container. Many balcony gardeners will plant bunches of strawberries on the top, sides and bottom of the plant basket, and grow strawberries from all angles. Plant sparsely because the strawberry plants will grow and fill out. This same thing can be done with flowers. The plants themselves will insulate the soil and keep moisture in.



Metal containers can be used for container plants in your balcony garden. They are interesting and aesthetically pleasing, and are often a cheap alternative to buying new pots. You can use old coffee cans or large food cans from restaurants. Goodwill usually has some interesting metal containers. The only potential problems with these containers are blinding sunlight reflections (when new), and they can leave rust stains on balcony surfaces (when aged).


Plastic plant containers are the best containers on the market today. They’re cheap, available in many shapes and sizes, and will help retain potting soil moisture (while also allowing for drainage). The best part is that they’re lightweight, which is important for balcony gardens and for people who move around a lot. If you need to move a container to a new location, it won’t be as heavy as other types of plant containers. You can use old plastic food containers or black plastic containers, and paint them in order to reuse them.

Recycled Pots

Tomato sprouts in recycled metal containersFor the eco-friendly (or very cheap) balcony gardener, use recycled containers as plant pots. Anything from coffee cans to plastic bottles can become plant containers. Get creative, do some recycling and be green! All you need is a drill. When using recycled containers, there are a few things to consider. Will this container withstand the elements? Can it have a hole drilled into it? Is it big enough? Is the potential plant container aesthetically pleasing? Could it have dangerous sharp edges? Will a plant inside of it be easy to repot in the future? Will it ruin the floor of the balcony (rust from metal)? Will you be patient enough to find similar items so the containers don't clash and make everything look cluttered?

One great recycled plant container is a large storage bin. Drill holes in the bottoms of the bins for water drainage and aeration, or create a hydroponic system. Durable (and opaque) plastic bags are a great planter for vegetables like potatoes that need a lot of dirt. It's easy to find eco-friendly options for your balcony garden. So now that you know all of your plant container options, what are you waiting for? Get planting!

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