The Best Material for Planters (Comparisons and More!)

Regardless if you’re new to gardening or are a seasoned plant collector, it can be overwhelming to understand which pot material is best. I’ve certainly been there, and I’ll gladly share the knowledge I’ve gained over the years!

The 7 best plant pot materials are 1) terracotta, 2) plastic, 3) fabric, 4) ceramic, 5) metal, 6) wood, and 7) glass. Terracotta and plastic are the most common due to their high versatility. Plastic planters retain more water, while terracotta lets water escape.

Plants are very resilient, having been on Earth longer than we ever have. Still, to give them a better chance, it’s important to grow them in the right pot. At the end of this article you’ll understand which materials will work best for certain plants and scenarios, so let’s go into it!

1. Terracotta

Terracotta is a popular planter material typically made of unglazed clay. It is extremely porous and dries out faster than other materials. However, it can crack in temperatures as cold as 14°F so they must be wrapped in cloth for insulation.

Porous or Non-porous: Porous

Resistance to Cold: Low

This is probably one of the first materials that come to many people’s minds. Terracotta is an unglazed clay-based material that has been baked and used for planters for years.

The iron content in the clay of terracotta pots reacts to oxygen when baked. This creates its iconic rust color, making it a nice earthy element to use in interiors.

Additionally, since it’s made of clay, it’s biodegradable and is an impressively heavy material that is ideal for supporting tall plants.

Soak Terracotta Planters Before Use
Soak Terracotta Planters Before Use

With how porous clay is, it’s easy for air and water to pass through its hundreds of tiny holes. Because of this, its potting media will dry out faster than usual.

Kept outdoors in a hot climate, you could end up watering your plants in terracotta pots daily!

Another downside to terracotta is that they’re not very cold-hardy. You’ll need to wrap your outdoor terracotta pots with blankets or bubble wrap to prevent them from cracking at 14°F or -10°C.

This package deal for terracotta pots on Amazon was our top choice in The 3 Best Pots for Aloe Vera.

2. Plastic

Due to its versatility, plastic is a commonly used planter material. It is also lightweight and cheap. However, such pots are not environmentally friendly and tend to hold excessive moisture.

Porous or Non-porous: Non-porous

Resistance to Cold: Moderate

Plastic pots are widely used in nurseries and homes all over the world due to how cheap and commonly available they are.

Unlike terracotta, plastic is lightweight, making it easy to move. They also come in endless designs. Plus, they are not nearly as fragile as other materials.

You’ll also have to take extra care not to avoid overwatering your plants in plastic pots. The only way water can escape these non-porous pots is out of the drainage hole.

This high water retention is ideal for moisture and humidity-loving plants, like the creeping jenny. But for succulents and cacti, this can easily result in rot and plant death!

There are many types of plastic available, including food-safe plastic, so each is different. But the biggest disadvantage to using this material is that it is not eco-friendly and can be unattractive to eco-conscious gardeners.

Unfortunately, since they come in so much variety, it’s very easy for them to look mismatched indoors. But don’t worry. They’re fairly easy to customize with a bit of paint!

Learn how to Paint Those Plastic Garden Pots The Right Way for a fun gardening project for the whole family!  

3. Fabric

Fabric is a durable and common planter material mainly used for outdoor gardening. Air and water passes through it easily, making it vulnerable to frost and mold. Smaller fabric planters can easily be knocked over and must be used with caution.

Porous or Non-porous: Porous

Resistance to Cold: Low

Thanks to how permeable the fabric is, it provides plants plenty of access to air and allows water to pass through it without any issue.

Because of this, you might think that fabric is not nearly as useful as other materials. However, they are surprisingly durable.

Properly cared for, fabric planters or grow bags can last for more than 5 years without tearing or disintegrating.

Another thing I like about this material is that they’re light, come in many sizes, and are great for growing food crops like tomatoes and potatoes. They’re also eco-friendly, and you can even make grow bags or fabric planters at home!

How To Make Your Own Grow Bags
YouTube Video – How to Make Your Own Grow Bags

Additionally, since air and oxygen passes through the fabric easily, many gardeners choose fabric planters to take advantage of air pruning. This process encourages the plant to develop more roots, making it easier to encourage healthy root systems.

One of the issues with using this material, however, is that they are likely to develop mold in unfavorable conditions. Smaller fabric bags also don’t have any support and will spill soil when knocked over.

Lastly, this material is barely, if at all, frost-resistant. Your plant roots will only be covered by a thin layer of fabric and can freeze in or be shocked by the cold.

4. Ceramic

Ceramic planters are beautiful clay-based vessels that can double as decorative pieces. However, many are expensive, do not have drainage holes, and often come with a glaze, making them highly water-retentive. This pot material is fragile and must be protected from pets and children.

Porous or Non-porous: Non-porous if glazed, porous if unglazed

Resistance to Cold: Low

Ceramic is another clay-based material, except they’re oftentimes more colorful than typical terracotta. This material usually comes in many patterns, making them wonderful for interior design.

Aside from being handmade, these are regularly decorated and painted by hand. This makes them much more expensive than everything else on this list.

In addition, ceramic planters are usually not as thick as terracotta. So despite their beauty, they are extremely fragile. Be careful with leaving these around children and pets.

Many of the ceramic pots I’ve seen share two common features: one, they are frequently glazed and two, they do not always have drainage holes.

This might sound harmless at first. However, these paint-protective glazes typically work as a sealer and do not allow water to pass through. Plus without drainage, your plants will always be in danger of root rot.

If you plan to use these, I suggest checking the inside of the pot to see if it is glazed. When it doesn’t have drainage holes, these containers are best used as decorative catch pots.

5. Metal

Metal is an attractive and versatile material for pots. It is highly durable and not easily damaged. But metal is also temperature-sensitive. Hence, it is best used indoors where temperatures are more stable.

Porous or Non-porous: Non-porous

Resistance to Cold: High

Whether you’re looking for something with a modern or vintage look, metal planters are probably your best bet.

Metal is probably one of the strongest materials on this list. You’ll never have to worry about breaking them—even if you drop or knock over any metal planters, making it a bonus for those with children.

Aside from that, metal has a nice sleek look and can be used both indoors and outdoors. Rust can be an issue, but this will not significantly harm your precious plants.

Discover how this is possible in Is It Safe to Plant in a Rusty Container? 

While they won’t shatter or break in the cold, a major disadvantage to using metal planters is that they are extremely sensitive to severe temperatures. Remember, metal is a great conductor of heat.

Therefore, this material may not be best for climates with fluctuating and extreme temperatures. Metal plant pots are safer used indoors.

6. Wood

An excellent planter material is wood because of its high availability and low cost. Contrarily, wooden planters need more maintenance as they are hard to clean, vulnerable to termites, and require liners.

Porous or Non-porous: Porous

Resistance to Cold: Moderate to high

You’ve probably seen wooden planters at least once in your life. This lovely material is frequently used for flowers and bonsais, and is great to use in cold climates.

Wooden planters have a warm and natural element that cannot be found elsewhere. What’s great about these is that you can make them yourself or have them custom-made for cheap!

Con of Using Wooden Planters
Con of Using Wooden Planters

Unfortunately, unless the wood planter is treated, it can stain or rot over time. When they repeatedly get soaked with water, these planters rarely last more than 2 years before rotting.

Luckily, you can prevented this from happening by using sturdy liners!

Find out more in: Should You Use Liners in Planters? 

Aside from that, I find that the rigidness and boxiness of wooden planters make them difficult to clean. This material is also vulnerable to termites, so beware!

7. Glass

Despite being aesthetically pleasing, glass planters are challenging to use. They are fragile, not cold-resistant, and can expose plant roots to great temperature fluctuations. Use this material with caution and keep it indoors, away from pets and children.

Porous or Non-porous: Non-porous

Resistance to Cold: Low

Glass is a very interesting material that is strikingly gorgeous and often used for terrariums. Although glass planters are not very common, you can drill holes into an old mason jar and turn it into a planter.

Nevertheless, there is a bit of controversy on whether the extra light exposure through transparent glass is ideal or not for plant roots.

Unlike stems and leaves, plant roots typically grow underground, where there is little-to-no light. Exposing them to more sunlight than they normally receive can negatively affect how they handle other stressors.

Additionally, if the roots are consistently exposed to light, their soil temperatures are more likely to fluctuate.

Your plants will probably grow just fine in glass containers, but remember that the extra light is an additional stimulus too. One in which roots are not naturally exposed to. Algae growth is much more likely to occur in such cases as well, which isn’t pretty.

Lastly, since glass tends to crack in the cold, it can be dangerous to use them outdoors in winter. They’re also very fragile and cannot be dropped. Otherwise, they can shatter and hurt someone.

How to Pick the Best Planter Material

The best planter material is whatever is most suitable for the plant and the climate where it’s grown. Ideally, it must also be helpful to the owner and fit their preferences.

Finally, the golden question—which material is best for you? Truthfully, it depends on these 3 factors: your plant, your environment, and your wants/needs.

Plants with high water needs grow best in plastic or metal, while water-sensitive plants like cacti and succulents grow best in terracotta or other unglazed clay materials.

If you live in zones 5a and 5b or experience cold winters, it can be dangerous to use temperature-sensitive materials like glass or metal. On the flip side, these are great choices if you’re looking for something stylish and unique.

Frankly, there is no superior material. Each has their own benefits and disadvantages. Finally, aside from using a planter material that is best for your plant, try to pick one that makes plant care easier or more fun for you.

Here’s a detailed sheet of what plants work best with each planter material based on my experience to further help you decide which to choose!


Ideal Planter Material







Food Crops and Herbs

Ideal Planter Material

Tomatoes, Potatoes, Peppers


Basil, Mint, Chives


Thyme, Sage, Rosemary

Terracotta/Ceramic (Unglazed)

Cacti and Succulents

Ideal Planter Material

Snake Plants


Hen and Chicks




Plants and Best Planter Material Chart

Remember though, this is not a strict guideline. You can always try out something new, use certain materials as decorative catch pots, or switch out your planter entirely if it doesn’t work for you!


Which type of planter lasts the longest?

Pots made of plastic and clay can last for decades with proper care. However, both materials have their downsides. Plastic is a non-biodegradable material that can take hundreds of years to decompose, while clay is fragile and cannot be left in the cold.

Can plants be put in pots without holes?

While it is possible to use pots without drainage holes, it is seldom recommended. Regardless of what type of material the pot is made of, water will not escape easily, making it more likely for root rot and overwatering to occur. Pots without drainage are best used for decoration.

Summary of Best Planter Materials

7 of the best and most common planter materials are terracotta, plastic, fabric, ceramic, metal, wood, and glass. Pot materials such as terracotta, fabric, and wood are porous and do not retain water unlike plastic, glazed ceramic, metal, and glass.

Each of these materials is different and has its own uses, so there is no truly superior type of planter. Ultimately, it depends on the gardener’s preference, climate, and their plants’ needs.


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