What are the Different Types of Deck Planters?

Jeri Sullivan

Deck planters are containers for plants located on decks and patios. The different types of deck planters include wooden planter boxes, patio planters, terracotta plant containers, plastic outdoor planters, and over-the-rail planters. When container gardening, most gardeners use a variety of deck planters to accommodate an assortment of plants.

The terracotta clay variety of planter has been used for thousands of years.
The terracotta clay variety of planter has been used for thousands of years.

Container gardening, as the term suggests, is a planting option for people who don't have large expanses of land to work with. The plants are grown in containers instead of in the ground, which make them a good choice for apartment dwellers, wheelchair-bound gardeners, and those who don't have a lot of time to devote to gardening. Deck planters may also be used for house plants that periodically need to be moved outdoors into the sunshine.

Using waterproofing on exterior wood deck planters will contribute to their sturdiness.
Using waterproofing on exterior wood deck planters will contribute to their sturdiness.

Wooden planter boxes are the most commonly seen type of deck planters. The containers are either square or rectangular and are available in natural wood colors or painted. Some have additional wood inlay along their sides to make them fancier. Since there usually is no drain hole in wooden planter boxes, many gardeners choose to simply sit another pot inside the planter box and use the planter box for decoration.

Patio planters are deck planters used primarily by vegetable gardeners. A patio planter has a separate bottom used as a water reservoir. The bottom is filled and the top container sits on top. The top container has holes in its base to allow the water to absorb into the soil above. The reservoir keeps the soil consistently moist and reduces the frequency the plants need to be watered; regular water is crucial for vegetable plants during their production season.

Terracotta plant containers are a traditional pot that has been used for thousands of years. This clay material is formed into a pot and baked or fired in a kiln until hard. The pot is then glazed to form a waterproof coating. Terracotta is used for deck planters because it is heavy and can hold large plants without tipping over in the wind. Though terracotta is a reddish-brown color naturally, the glaze application can include coloring the pot to match the deck decor.

Plastic outdoor planters are a popular choice both for convenience and cost. Garden stores, home improvement stores, and discount retail chains all carry plastic planters. The plastic containers are inexpensive compared to other deck planters and are available in a myriad of colors and designs. The only drawback is plastic containers are very lightweight, so if a large plant is used, the gardener must weight the container bottom with gravel to prevent it from becoming top heavy and tipping over.

Over-the-rail planters are designed specifically for decks. The rectangular planters have a cutout along the bottom that allows them to fit directly onto the rail of a deck. Most of these style planters also have some sort of clamp that attaches to the deck railing to prevent the planter from falling off. Once attached, the gardener can add soil and plants but due to the shallow design, the best options are plants that are less than 12 inches tall at full maturity.

Flowers can be grown on a deck in a variety of containers.
Flowers can be grown on a deck in a variety of containers.

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Discussion Comments


@spotiche5- I think that your best plan for a small outdoor deck is the use round, deep, terracotta plant pots for several vegetable plants. You can put plants such as peppers and tomatoes in these types of pots because they provide enough room for the root systems. They are also easy to place on top of a table or in the corners of your deck, which will make plenty of room for other outdoor activities like grilling or hanging out with friends.

As for planting your flowers, deck railing planters are ideal. Just as the article describes, they fit securely on your deck rails. This will allow you to plant flowers in them without taking up much space on your deck. Your flowers will also stand out and look great in this location.


What are the best types of deck planters for small decks? I don't have a lot of space, but I want to plant a few vegetable plants and flowers while still having enough room for a table, four chairs, and a grill.

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