New, Vintage and Antique Planters


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As suburban yards have shrunk and urban residences with outdoor spaces have up-ticked, planters, simple to pop on a balcony or terrace, have thrived. While sprawling backyards require tireless weed-pulling, pruning, and propagating, the option to outfit plants in large ceramic planters—everything from cement planters to urns bought on the cheap—allow anyone to certify themselves a garden guru.

Perusing the planters at your local nursery, however, is liable to incite a premature freeze—which is to say nothing of vintage planters, with their myriad of designer names like Haeger, Roseville, and California Pottery. Options abound and it’s not always evident which planter crosses aesthetics and functionality best.

In-the-know gardeners will likely direct you to examine a few key characteristics, including the planter’s material, size, and drainage capabilities. Unglazed terracotta pots may be the ubiquitous planters of your youth but rarely do they give a seedling or sapling a fighting chance—unglazed terracotta is notorious for allowing moisture to seep out. While you can remedy this with clockwork watering, a plethora of other planters, from cement planters to fiberglass, beckon.

With planters, just like with rugs, going bigger is always better. A larger planter means more soil, which in turn gives a plant’s roots the opportunity to expand. While we’re on the subject: Choose plants that are destined to stay small. Opting for a plant that will grow too large will inevitably have you re-potting in no time. If you truly have your heart set on raising a Meyer lemon tree or showpiece-caliber hydrangea, do some groundwork first and call around to nurseries that specialize in dwarf versions.

Lastly, and perhaps most pertinently, heed the importance of a drainage hole. While it can be tempting to unceremoniously drop a grocery store-bought herb into a pint-sized pot sans drainage hole you’ll soon be reaping the repercussions: namely, a plant suffering from rot. Treat drainage holes as a matter of necessity, not recommendation, especially when looking to invest in large planters that will hold pricey statement plants. If you do fall in love with a planter, say, a Mediterranean planter or Chinese planter pot, that doesn’t have a hole, a local plant shop (or masonry yard) can likely drill one for you.

Once you’ve mastered the planter basics, all that’s left to do is sync up a stellar plant-planter combo. To help, we’ve cued up a shortlist of duos that are virtually no-fail.

Traditional Urn Style Planter

If there was ever a time to break out the thrillers, fillers, and spillers (horticulturist talk for tall, attention-getting plants, shrubby flowers, and vines that dangle), an urn style planter is it. Featuring a shapely urn that sits atop a fluted pedestal base, the urn style planter is perfect for making sophisticated statements. Use a cast of like-colored plants with eye-catching leaves. Persian shield or purple fountain grass make for showy centerpieces, while a combo of coleus and sweet potato vine can take up the other two positions. Be sure to place your urn style planter somewhere with presence and don’t hesitate to lock down a pair. Use anywhere you’d be inclined to normally quarter a doublet of stone lions.

Italian Terracotta Planters

Bold, vividly colored, and often irreverent, Italian terracotta planters are a keystone for procuring interior-grade gravitas in an outdoor space. Italian terracotta planters span the spectrum, ranging from rustic planters with a time-worn gravel washes to high-sheen, Animalia-inspired numbers in kicky hues. Caladium, with its plentiful variegations and alluringly matte, spade-shaped leaves make a perfect complement to small, colorful Italian planters. For larger, urn-shaped Italian terracotta planters with rustic finishes, there’s no going wrong with a lush, canopy-creating plant such as monstara. Use in conjunction with rustic tile floors and billowy curtains and the Positano mood is set.

Chinese Fishbowl Planters

Elaborately embellished and rich with symbolism, the Chinese fishbowl planter was originally conceived to house koi and goldfish—the design’s included stand allowed for unencumbered gazing. While many pots feature interior designs that will, regrettably, be covered up once you drop in a plant, these pots’ lively exteriors more than make up for it. The presence of a stand does encourage that you display a plant with a bit of pomp. Bird of paradise and alocasia both fit the bill beautifully. Alternatively, if you have a blue and white Chinese fishbowl planter, sword ferns always make for an attractive filler.

Shallow Rectangular Planter

Shallow rectangular planters require a bit of pre-planning since you’ll have to procure a plant that prefers to keep things surface level rather than putting down serious roots, but once the legwork has been done the results can be truly stunning. In keeping with the modernist nature of a shallow rectangular planter, choose a palm with some architectural integrity. A firework-headed ponytail palm or stubby dracaena both require minimal room for roots and have the ability to turn a shallow planter into an official work of art.

Vintage Brass Planter

Succulents’ high tolerance for abandonment has led them to long dominate the plant scene. So long, in fact, that you might be entirely sick of them. Yet pop one into a vintage brass planter and you might be surprised at your renewed affinity for the sucker. Look for lush, full-headed specimens like Sempervivum (which literally translates to “live forever”). A powdery, silver or chalky white finish can be an especially befitting complement to a brass containers’ illustrious finish.