Most people think ofwhen they think of planters, but an indoor planter can be the focal point of a living or dining room, or act as a room divider in an open-plan space. Planters are simply extra-large containers. Though often used outdoors, they can make a dramatic indoor garden, filled with varied and colourful house plants.
Planters are sold at gift shops, florists, furnishing departments of chain stores, office furniture suppliers, garden centres and DIY centres. Some are sold ready for use, others come in kit forms. There are floor-level planters, table-top planters and even wall planters, in a range of styles, sizes and prices.
There are three ways to use a planter. You can fill it with alayer and mixture, remove one or more house plants from their , and plant them in the planter. Plants grow strongly this way, but their become entangled, and you can’t remove or replace one without harming the others.
You can fill a planter with peat, gravel, perlite or vermiculite, then insert the house plants, in their pots, in the peat. Growth is restricted, but you can easily replace, re-arrange or turn plants, so they don’t grow lopsidedly towards the light. Or you can simply place one or more potted house plants into a planter, and use theirto help conceal the pot rims.
Cost varies from ‘cheap and cheerful’ plastic to expensive hand-made and antique planters.
Weight counts if you have to drive or carry a planter home, or up stairs. Very heavy planters can put undue loading on wooden floors, especially if filled with damp, loam-based potting mixture. Heavy planters tend to be more stable than light ones, important with young children. To grow tall plants in a lightweight, peat-based potting, opt for a heavy planter, to balance the top weight.
Style depends on taste and setting. There are modern, traditional and ‘period’ planters, decorative in their own right or modestly neutral. The more ornate the planter, the more it competes with the plants.
Size depends on available space and door widths (unless the planter is in kit form), its purpose –whether purely decorative or to separate one living space from another– and the size and number of plants meant to fill it. The larger a planter, the more dramatic, and easier to regulate. Weight and cost will, of course, affect the size you choose. Shape also depends on taste and setting, but simple shapes are always pleasing. The larger a base in proportion to the height, the more stable a planter, all else being equal.
Materials are much the same as for small pots: plastic, terracotta, wood, metal, fibreglass, concrete, stone and reconstituted stone. You can also choose from rattan and bamboo; glazed ceramic and even brass-lined mahogany.
For a real touch of luxury you can also buy planters made of hammer-finished solid copper. One model on sale even has a birdcage built into its base.
Whatever your choice, make sure it is watertight and think carefully before you choose a site for it as they can be very heavy to move if you change your mind.
The most unlikely objects will serve as tailor-made planters. A browse around antique fairs or second-hand markets may uncover just what you were looking for.
Popular, straight-sided, Versailles planters are named after the famous French palace. Made of vertically slatted wood, with wooden balls in each corner, they come in white, green and black, and also in asbestos cement, finished to look like wood.
Similar square wooden planters are sold, with splayed-out sides. Less expensive are square PVC planters, made to look like wood, and sold in kit form in several sizes. All are raised slightly off the ground; rest the legs on small, flat castor cups, to spread the load on carpets.
These vary from simple plastic tubs, 38-180cm (15in-6ft) across, to ornate terracotta and ceramic urns on raised pedestals. Popular for patios, but suitable for an informal, ‘country-cottage’ look indoors, terracotta garden urns can be brought indoors to create a rustic atmosphere.
Rectangular planters Sometimes called troughs, they come in similar materials and styles to square planters, and are useful as room dividers. Especially attractive are the fibreglass models, made to look like antique lead and reconstituted stone and terracotta ones. Some sit directly on the floor, others have feet or built-in plinths.
Plastic triangular planters, 60 x 60 x 38cm (24 x 24 x 15 inches), are ideal for corners. If you have the room, an old, cast-iron bathtub on legs would make a superb room divider filled with Weepingor Palms.
Barrel halves. From 30-90cm (12-36 inches) wide, and 23-45cm (9-18 inches) high, they come in natural, stained and painted finishes. Narrower wooden casks are also sold. You can line a large wicker laundry or log basket with polythene, and fill it with plants.
Victorian jardinieres, whether genuine antique or reproduction, are glazed planters on matching pedestals, often highly ornate and rather delicate, and always pricey!