best pots for container garden - Knowledgebase Question

Aliso Viejo, Ca
Avatar for tlcoughlin
Question by tlcoughlin
September 16, 2005
Our whole backyard is with pavers. We've bought 7 large clay pots but was told these would not last long due to the moisture and reccommend planting in plastic containers inside these decorative clay pots to make them last longer. We're now looking to get 5 larger pots for dwarf citrus trees, camelia tree and pittosporum tree and some vines. What material is best? The cement ones will last but are heavy:we don't mind it if this is the best. But will they let the plant breathe or are they same as the resin or plastic? We've heard so many different views and are confused. We just want to plant once and be done. I am a beginner and just want to plant something that will keep growing w/out having to change out pots every 2yrs.
We live in Southern CA. and are thinking of planting red riding mandevilla, bowers vine, camelia tree, gardenia, pineapple guava, boxwood etc. with some color. Any suggestions would greatly be appreciated. Since I already purchased the clay pots made Mexico, will these plants be OK in plastic containers inside the pots?
Thank you very much for much needed advice.

Answer from NGA
September 16, 2005
I agree, there is a lot of conflicting information floating around about the pros and cons of terra cotta (clay) vs plastic pots. So, here are the facts: terra cotta tends to wick moisture out of the potting soil. Good if you have plants that like soil on the dry side; not so good if your plants like moist soil. You can overcome this by watering more frequently. Ordinary Terra cotta pots can crack in freezing weather. Thick sided clay pots will not crack in freezing weather. Before first use, saturate the clay with water so it doesn't immediately draw all of the moisture from the potting soil. Do this by plugging the drainage holes and filling the container with water and allowing it to soak overnight. Or, you can seal the inside of the pot before filling it with potting soil. Plastic pots do not wick water away from the soil but they do degrade in sunlight so expect them to last 3-4 years. You can plant in plastic pots and sink these into the clay pots, or you can plant directly into the clay pots. You'll just need to monitor your plants for water needs, knowing that the clay pots will wick moisture from the soil. Hope this sheds some light on the controversy!

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