A planter (or pot, depending on your choice of terms) is key to the success of your plants. It needs to be the right size and material. It's also helpful if it's durable, attractive, and well-priced. But drainage is a major key to being happy with the planter you purchase, says garden expert Erin Hynes, a former horticulture extension agent and author of numerous garden books.
"The most important rule is to choose a planter with drainage holes in the bottom, so the soil doesn’t become waterlogged," Hynes says. "Well-drained planters are the best protection against drowning plants.” Without good drainage outdoors, rain can collect and drown or rot your plants. Indoors, it's tricky to prevent overwatering unless the pot drains.
In researching the best planters, we kept in mind value, durability, style, and how well the planter suits different plants and growing needs. We also looked for planters that are suitable for all the many plants gardeners grow: houseplants; succulents; African violets; orchids; vegetables, such as lettuces and tomatoes; herbs; annual flowers; and more.
Trendspot 6 In. Oatmeal Knack Ceramic Planter
Durable, quality glazed ceramic
Can't be left out over cold winters
Here's a basic planter that has it all. Classically attractive and made from durable glazed ceramic material, the handcrafted Trendspot Knack Ceramic Planter does exactly what a planter should do: hold soil and allow for drainage. It also comes with an attached saucer to protect tabletops and prevent drips.
Because it's glazed ceramic, it's unlikely to discolor in UV light, washes up easily to sterilize the pot for the next plant, and should last for many years. (In cold climates where temperatures stay below freezing for weeks at a time, bring it indoors to prevent cracking.)
The Trendspot Knack Ceramic Planter is available in multiple colors and three sizes—4 inches, 6 inches, and 8 inches across. Those sizes accommodate everything from small starts of herbs or houseplants to larger plants such as patio-planted peppers or lettuces.
Price at time of publish: $14
Dimensions: 4 inches, 6 inches, or 8 inches across | Material: Glazed ceramic | Placement: Indoors or out
SwinDuck 12 Pack 6-inch Modern Plastic Planters
Multiple drainage holes
Ideal for propagators
Excellent as gifts
Pre-drilled drainage holes
Only one size
Saucer doesn't fit snugly or snap on
When you want to indulge your green thumb in a big way, go for these versatile planters that are as cheap as, well, dirt. They're less than $2 each, yet they are sturdy and well designed, including a matching saucer, and are available in a variety of colors. They are 6 inches across, which should take care of a broad array of plant needs. We also like that they have 36 pre-drilled drainage holes, shaped like leaves, on the bottom.
These pots are billed as good for indoor or outdoor use, but we recommend bringing them indoors when temperatures regularly hit freezing, or they may crack over time. Also, inexpensive plastic tends to fade in outdoor light over time.
Price at time of publish: $20
Dimensions: 6 inches across | Material: Plastic | Placement: Indoors or out
Serenehuman Self-Watering Macrame Hanging Planters
Comes in two colors
Sold only as a two-pack
Plastic can crack over time
Simple, elegant, and affordable, this hanging planter also is self-watering. So not only does it keep your plants healthy but the self-watering reservoir also prevents—unless you really overwater—water dribbling out from your hanging planter all over your floor or furniture. The reservoir holds 16 fluid ounces. We also like the silver-accented handwoven macrame hangers—a classic touch.
It's generously sized and available in classic white or stylish black, both of which work with a wide variety of decors. It's also affordably priced, so you can have several hanging on a porch, arranged on a deck or patio, or spanning a bank of windows.
Price at time of publish: $33 (set of 2)
Dimensions: Pot is 10 x 5.4 inches, overall length with hanger is 18.5 inches | Material: Stone-textured polypropylene | Placement: Indoor or outdoor
Best for a Wall
Gardener's Supply Company 3-Tier Vertical Wall Planter, 3'
Metal stands up to outdoor conditions
Removable plugs to opt for drainage
Includes wall brackets
Too hot for moisture-loving plants
Shallow troughs limit size, selection
There are many wall planters out there, but it can be hard to find one that is well made and doesn’t come tumbling down. Enter this metal construction beauty, which is both tough and attractive and sports a rustic farmhouse look. The sturdy metal brackets screw into the wall, holding the three galvanized metal troughs securely.
With a water capacity of over 6 quarts, this planter is excellent for trailing plants and herbs, cacti, succulents, and more. Each tray has a removable plug for drainage.
Price at time of publish: $80
Dimensions: 36 x 4 x 25 inches | Material: Galvanized steel | Weight: 5.62 pounds | Placement: Indoors or out
PolyStone Planters Extra Large Composite Planter
Available in several colors
Can be left outside even in winter
Has drainage holes
Building your own planter costs less
All but impossible to move when full
This planter is perfect for those problem spots where you'd like to have a garden but don't have any soil, such as balconies, decks, driveways, or expanses of pavement. Just set this attractive planter in place and fill it with enough soil to support small trees and shrubs. It's refined enough so you could even put it indoors, in an entry or sunroom. The manufacturer says it can withstand temperature extremes from minus-30 degrees Fahrenheit to 150 degrees above.
For a real splurge, place several in a row.
The planter has a natural-looking, stucco-like surface in several colors. It's insulated to somewhat prevent freezing in cold climates and premature drying out of soil in warm climates. Good thing you can set it and forget it because it weighs nearly 30 pounds empty.
Price at time of publish: $306
Dimensions: 36 x 4 x 25 inches | Material: Galvanized steel | Weight: 5.62 pounds | Placement: Indoors or out
Best for Herbs
Mr. Stacky Stackable Vertical Garden with Self-Watering Tiers
Grow as many herbs as desired
Works well for succulents
Plants must have the same water needs
Wheeled tray is costly
One of the challenges of growing herbs in containers is you need to grow a lot of them to have plenty for cooking and other purposes. They also need full sun. This clever herb garden on wheels solves those problems.
It's constructed of compact stackable tiers, so you can grow multiples of all your favorite basils, thymes, mints, oreganos, parsley, cilantro, and more in a vertical garden. If you have limited areas that have enough sunlight, it’s compact enough to place all your herbs in that small patch. An available wheeled base tray (sold separately) makes moving the planter even easier.
Best of all, the vertical tiers are self-watering, so you don't have to worry about the herbs drying out and all your hard work going to waste.
Price at time of publish: $40
Dimensions: 12 inches wide x 5.5 inches deep x 26 inches tall (5 tiers) | Material: Plastic | Placement: Indoors, outdoors, tabletop
Giantex Folding Wood Planter
No assembly required
Folding construction eases storage
Removable bottom wood panel
Works best with pot set inside it
It can take some searching to find an affordable wooden planter that is also well made, but this one fits the bill. Made of solid cedar, it has legs that lift the bottom off the ground, promoting ventilation that protects the planter and any wood it might sit on. For additional ventilation, there's space between the slats that comprise the sides. Additionally, the bottom is removable.
One of this planter's best attributes is its versatility: You can fold it and move it not only to store in the offseason but even during the growing year, when lighting conditions change. To take advantage of this, however, we recommend that you set a pot inside the box instead of filling it with soil, as it's designed. Not only does this make it easier to move the planter but it also prolongs the planter's life and prevents any soil from sifting. We also recommend that you paint the planter or apply an outdoor wood sealer to extend its life even further.
Price at time of publish: $60
Dimensions: 15 x 15 x 14 inches | Material: Cedar | Placement: Indoors or outdoors
Kante Tall Lightweight Concrete Modern Tapered Outdoor Planter
Durable UV-resistant material
Multiple colors and finishes
Has a drainage hole
Can chip, especially during shipping
Tall planters have so many uses. Position a pair on either side of an outdoor entry for a classic, elegant look. Use one inside in a living area to give instant importance to an otherwise modest-sized plant. Or fill it with colorful or fragrant flowers to enjoy at a level where you can enjoy them more fully.
Our top choice for a tall planter is durable—made from concrete and fiberglass—but affordable. Many tall planters can easily cost $100 or more, but you can buy the Kante for just over half that price. It should be tough enough to resist all kinds of weather, regardless of the season. Also it’s available in a variety of sizes and colors. The simple, classic design works with a variety of decors and architectural styles.
While tall planters such as these go well in pairs, we have noted that on some occasions, the two that arrived were not the same color.
Price at time of publish: $59
Dimensions: 15-28 inches tall | Material: Lightweight concrete and fiberglass | Placement: Indoors and out
Best for Deck or Balcony Rail
HC Companies Outdoor Plastic Railing Planter Box
No screws or nails, so ideal for renters
Stacks and stores easily out of season
Can adjust drainage hole numbers
Included soil conditioner unnecessary
Railings of balconies and decks are the ideal places for planters, allowing you to surround yourself, when sitting and relaxing, at eye- and nose-level with colorful and fragrant flowers, herbs, and vegetables. This durable railing planter box comes in multiple colors and requires no hardware to mount it securely on a railing. We’ve noted it’s so durable that it’s withstood 50 mph winds.
It's also cleverly designed to fit two sizes of deck railing (2 x 4-inch and 2 x 6-inch). Though it may tend to wobble a tad when empty, filling it with soil stabilizes the planter and keeps it secure. Use one solo or, since it's so well-priced, several in a row.
Price at time of publish: $31
Dimensions: 24 x 9 x 9 inches | Material: Plastic | Placement: Outdoors
Best for Veggies
Vivosun 5-Pack Heavy-Duty Non-Woven Fabric Grow Bags
Handles for easier moving
Size allows for inserting stakes
Pots don't retain water
Likely to last only a few seasons
Many vegetables can be grown successfully in pots, but the challenge is finding a large-enough planter. Even "patio-type" tomatoes, for example, do best in planters that contain at least 5 gallons of soil, preferably more. Enter grow bags.
These soft-sided, nonwoven fabric pots come in sizes that can hold 1-30 gallons of soil. According to the manufacturer, their nonwoven design means water won't hang around in the pots, avoiding the possibility drowning your veggies. These grow pots also are inexpensive, large, and durable and cost far less than similarly sized containers. They can be emptied at the end of the growing season, washed off, and stashed away.
Use them indoors, including under grow lights, or out. You can even use them on top of problem soil, especially for root vegetables needing loose soil and/or those that benefit from hilling, such as potatoes.
Price at time of publish: $22 (3-gallon)
Dimensions: 9.5 x 9.84 inches | Material: ⅛-inch thick nonwoven breathable fabric | Placement: Indoors or outdoors
The Trendspot Knack Ceramic Planter is our choice for Best Overall Planter. It offers three sizes, each slightly larger than the other, so you can easily choose just the right size. For more specialized gardening, consider our Best for Herbs Planter, the Mr. Stacky Stackable Vertical Garden with Self-Watering Tiers.
What to Look for in a Planter
"The most important rule is to choose a planter with drainage holes in the bottom, so the soil doesn’t become waterlogged," says Erin Hynes, a former horticulture extension agent and author of numerous garden books. Without good drainage outdoors, rain collects and can drown or rot your plants. Indoors, it's tricky to prevent overwatering unless the pot drains.
Plastic is an inexpensive choice that is durable and can be shaped into many styles and colors. It's also excellent for keeping soil evenly moist. However, especially in warmer climates, direct sunlight can destroy cheap plastic and fade colors. When shopping for plastic or similar pots, look for thicker planters billed as UV-resistant.
Fiberglass and resin, or materials that include one or both, tend to be extremely durable and UV-resistant. They also tend to cost more than plastic.
Wood planters can be expensive and, if not well made, last only a year or two. Look for quality construction and protective finishes such as paint and sealants.
Metal containers are attractive and available in a wide variety of materials, including galvanized steel, brass, copper, and more. They tend to overheat in hot climates, and some are not rust-resistant.
Concrete containers are heavy but durable. They resist cracking and freezing in cold climates as long as the soil is removed for the winter.
Terra cotta or natural clay is beautiful, classic, and practical for succulents and cacti. But unless it's glazed, it can dry out quickly. Also, in cold climates it must be brought indoors over the winter. If you must leave planters outside year-round, opt for something other than clay or concrete, which can crack when freezing water expands.
Plastic, fiberglass, glazed clay, or other nonporous material is recommended if you live in a dry climate or want to minimize watering, Hynes says. Those planters keep the soil moist longer.
"There’s no simple formula for calculating size,” Hynes notes. “So find out how large the plant will ultimately get." With most indoor plants, choose a planter that’s about 2 inches in diameter larger than the current container. Hynes also recommends that you look for a planter that can be moved when needed and, if intended to be used outdoors, stored in a protected space at the end of the season.
What can you grow in a planter?
The short answer is just about anything, as long as you have enough light. Besides the obvious houseplants and annual flowers, you can plant small trees, shrubs, herbs, succulents, orchids, African violets, and cacti as well as tomatoes. You can even grow cannabis in containers, where legal.
If you’re growing indoors, consider supplementing your planter with a grow light such as the type often used in hydroponics. For plants that tend to sprawl, such as tomatoes and cucumbers, provide trellises or other support.
Do self-watering planters really work?
Self-watering features are extremely helpful, especially for beginners. Just fill the reservoir at the bottom periodically and the planter delivers a steady amount of moisture.
Do planters need drainage holes?
While drainage holes allow excess water to drip out of your plant's soil, they aren't always needed. Rocks or stones at the bottom of your pot can help keep excess water from sitting in the soil, or you can even keep a plant in its nursery pot and then place that into a more pretty pot to cover it. Then, when it's time to water, simply take the plant out of the planter, water it, and put it back in the planter, nursery pot and all.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This list was researched and written by Veronica Lorson Fowler, a freelance writer for The Spruce. She specializes in home and outdoor products and is an avid gardener. To put together this list of best planters, she considered factors such as durability, value, function, style, and climate. She prioritized top picks with a good value that will last for years and assure healthy, vigorous plants. Fowler also consulted garden expert Erin Hynes, a former horticulture extension agent and author of numerous garden books.