A plant container can be pretty much any object that holds potting soil and that can have drainage holes drilled into it. You no doubt have seen photos of (or in real life) plants growing out of an old boot. Even old bathtubs or troughs can be used as plant containers.
But not everything that holds potting soil should be used as a plant container. Before you choose any old recycled plant container, think about its durability, shape and size, and if the container will look good in your garden.
Durability. How will the container hold up outside? An old oatmeal container may hold be able to hold potting soil, but it is made of paper, and it will rot away quickly. Even some plastics, such as Rubbermaid bins, will become brittle and break apart in the hot sun. The container must also be able to withstand other elements, such as wind, and not blow over.
Shape and size. Will the container’s shape make it easy to transplant plants later on? If you cut the tops off of plastic water bottles, realize that the ridges on the sides of the bottles make it difficult to slide a plant out of the bottle during transplanting. It is always best to find a container that has a wider top than its base. This makes it easier to slip the container plants and their potting soil out of the container during transplanting. Also make sure that the container is large enough. Even the largest plastic Starbucks cup is small in a balcony garden, and size is important for several reasons. One is container plant health. Containers with larger amounts of potting soil will dry out less quickly. A Venti Starbucks cup will dry out within an hour or two on a hot summer day. Another reason that size is important is for aesthetics. Small garden spaces like balcony gardens should be planted with a few large plant containers, rather than many small ones. When looking for a recyclable container, bigger is better. One small coffee cup planted with baby’s tears on a table, but the whole container garden should not consist of small plant containers.
Looks. Sometimes nature-loving balcony gardeners want to recycle everything from food scraps for their compost bins to an old plastic bucket they found by the dumpster. But just because a plastic bucket can be turned into a plant container, should it? If a plastic bucket looks too much like a plastic bucket, even if it’s painted, you may not want to use it. So choose containers that either look good to begin with (metal, such as an old washbin) or something that can be painted or spray painted. Know your own level of creativity and craftiness, as well as your own balcony garden style before attempting a recycled project. You don’t want to end up with a balcony garden that looks like a junkyard!
Now that you know a few guidelines for choosing a suitable plant container, you can create your own unique garden! If you’ve created your own container, snap a picture and share it with other balcony container gardeners on BalconyContainerGardening.com’s Facebook wall.