Having just been to my local garden centre, I cannot decide between the clematis in a blue pot and the fruit bush in a red pot. At one time, the choice of pot colour was simple: terracotta - take it or leave it. Then there was black. Then green. In time, we had red pots for Christmas and yellow ones for Easter. Today, growers can put their crops in pots and containers in a wide range of colours, from a standard selection to those chosen from charts.
When consumers want something cheerful but are careful with their pennies, and when growers are looking to make their plants stand out on crowded shelves, this easy way of adding value to the product is attracting a lot of attention from growers of all plants, from shrubs and roses to houseplants. More sophisticated colours for hanging pots, baskets and bowls are also proving popular. Colour is trendy.
"Sales are up on coloured pots," says Aeroplas sales and new product development manager Alex Everett. "Growers seem to be doing all they can to promote their crops with coloured pots and special promotions." He has also noticed that slotted containers are on the increase as growers seek to improve their point of sale with clear, secure labelling.
At LS Systems, sales director Darren McDonald has noticed growers adding value, improving presentation and increasing marketability by using coloured pots. "The amount of colours you can do - it's amazing. You can have any colour you want now," he says. "Gone are the days when it was just red for Christmas. Pot manufacturers now have colour charts. Coloured pots are popular and we are also doing more printing on pots. You can also have pictures. It's quite a step forward."
At Square Root Horticulture, supplier of planters, injection-moulded pots and heavy-duty containers, manager Nigel Swain says coloured-pot sales have improved. "We are doing well on colours. Obviously at the moment, at this time of year, red is popular for Christmas," he adds. "Growers are trying new things, trying to brighten things up.
"I think those that are innovative and have customers who want something a bit different and value-for-money lines are the ones that have been successful. Those that don't try something new might be struggling because it comes down to the price."
Many manufacturers are offering an increasing choice of colours for pots, hanging baskets and bowls. For instance, the Nora EasyPot from Desch Plantpak is now available in five colours: white, blue, anthracite grey, terracotta and green. A hanging basket with a 1.5-litre water reservoir, the EasyPot offers growers the possibility of setting themselves apart in the market. In the colourful E-PLA range of pots, the variety of colours available is even wider - from Antique Blue to Valentine Red.
Made by injection-moulding company and decorative pot specialist E-PLA, the pots are designed for passing through potting machines. E-PLA keeps the standard range of colour pigments in stock at all times, but will also make pots in any colour, giving growers the opportunity of developing a unique identity.
Even for small quantities, Desch Plantpak can provide E-PLA pots and hanging baskets in four trendy colours, including rose and violet, and the company offers 9cm and 10.5cm low flowerpots in six colours - dark green, light blue, dark blue, white, yellow and red - as well as the usual terracotta and black. The yellow and red are mono colours, but all the others are co-extruded with black inside.
It does not stop at pots and baskets. A novel idea might be a ready-planted window box. Again, Desch is offering items in a choice of terracotta and anthracite, with other colours available on request. New this September was the E-PLA 50cm Belinda window box.
New from TEKU Poppelmann is the VSA planter range. Terracotta is the standard colour, but special colours are available on request for pot diameters of 17cm, 19cm, 21cm and 22cm. Described as a link between "sophisticated decor and production-oriented design", VSA planters have a multi-hole profile base for watering, drainage and aeration of the soil at three levels. They can be used with any irrigation system - ebb and flow tables, concrete floors or mat watering - and are intended to promote rapid growth and provide healthy plants. A wide, U-shaped rim allows secure gripping by machinery, while the smooth edge reduces the risk of injury.
Pots and containers can be given even more appeal with the addition of printing. This gives added value to the end product by providing more information about the plant species or expressing a certain theme or concept. Desch offers full-colour printing of growers' own designs, using laser-line printing.
TEKU Poppelmann is also giving growers added value above and beyond the actual benefit of the pot in the form of the new TEKU Flex+ printing process. Introduced by the Lohne-based company at IPM 2012, the process allows pots to be printed in any base colour from the CMYK 4-c colour model. This means that full colour photographs can be transferred in perfect quality and growers have the chance to turn their pots into an advertising medium, truly setting their plants apart from the rest.
Using TEKU Flex+, a high-gloss or matt finish is also possible to enhance the image quality further. The finish can be applied either to the entire image or to individual parts to highlight important details.
The printing process can be used on small numbers of pots, depending on the pot size. For example, printed 12cm pots are available from batches of 25,000 to make an attractive alternative for smaller companies with regional marketing or for special occasions. Another positive effect of the new printing process is the capacity for simple reproduction. The parameters for the printing machine are saved and are then available immediately for any new orders from clients - ensuring that their pots are always identical.
One of the most recent developments from Labels & Packaging, and proving to be the company's best seller, is the printed paper cup. It is like a takeaway coffee cup, displaying an image of the grown plant and giving cultivation details for the young plant in the container. Based on the shape of a flower pot but cheaper to produce, the Plant Cup is also available as a Seed Cup containing growing media and seeds within the sealed container and featuring an image and details on the outside.
As it gets more difficult to compete on price alone, growers and retailers are reconsidering how plants are presented at the point of sale.
Clear winner in choice of pot for cultivating orchids
A key factor in the successful cultivation of orchids is the right growing pot, above all to ensure the best possible watering and drainage. Now there is a new option for growers, the transparent MCO orchid pot by TEKU Poppelmann.
The asymmetrical drainage channels on this pot are intended to provide a secure grip on mesh surfaces, while allowing the best drainage. Additionally, the side slits and domed holes allow excess water to drain away while allowing air to circulate. The gap between the dome and side wall is designed to allow contract between all soil sections and the base of the pot, ensuring there are no cavities in the soil. Special stacking ridges should result in easy de-nesting.
From the base to the rim, this pot has been engineered with orchids in mind. The structure of the base will help keep plants safe on mobile benches and conveyor belts. The flat rim has no leaf-damaging sharp edges and the risk of cuts and scratches is reduced for those handling the pots. Yet the rim has been made sufficiently sturdy that lifting and positioning the pots can be mechanised.
Finally, the high transparency of the selected materials favours healthy root growth and there are patented support tabs to keep the plant supports vertical and make it easy to hold the flower stems securely so their beauty can be fully appreciated.
The orchid pot is available in diameters of 12cm and 15cm.
Tech from TEKU
The TEKU VCG and VCH plant-pot ranges recently introduced by Poppelmann have been expanded to include most pot sizes in both ranges. In addition to the 10.5cm pot, the VCG pot range now includes 12cm, 17cm and 19cm versions, while the VCH range features the same sizes plus a 13cm pot. VCH pots are taller to offer a larger substrate volume.
According to sales manager Arno Zerhusen, the most important feature of the new range is the edge. "It ensures that the plant pots run reliably in all depots. The wide and U-shaped edges ensure that adequate lateral stability and the pot is not deformed under lateral pressure, while the patented tile edge helps to ensure that the pots can be easily unstacked," he says. The wide edge also helps when pots are carried on rakes and means they are suitable for Space-O-Mat processing.
The base has a multi-hole profile for watering and draining, as well as aiding stability on conveyor belts.
H Smith Plastics has added the Teku Classic range of more rigid pots to its offering. These injection moulded pots come in five sizes, from 9cm to 13cm, each having a multi-holed cross bottom to provide irrigation on three levels.
A 19cm growing-medium container from Desch Plantpak has a height of 17cm. A new 11-litre square container and a 6.7-litre tree container have been introduced by Aeroplas.
New Danish trays from Desch Plantpak include a 15-cell tray for 10x10x10cm pots, a 14-cell tray for 11cm pots and 10-cell, eight-cell and six-cell trays for 12cm pots. In the A-tray range, a tray is available with 12 cells for pot sizes 12cm, 5 degs and 12cm, 8 degs.
Aeroplas has expanded its catalogue to include three new carrying trays, new promotional trays and three different bedding trays.
Sankey Premium Self-Watering Troughs are available in green or terracotta with lengths of 60cm or 80cm. Respective RRPs are £10.99 and £12.99.
At Glee, held at Birmingham's NEC in September, Stewart Garden introduced a strawberry/herb pot designed with space in mind. Measuring 33x25cm, the pots are stackable, making them suitable for small gardens, and are manufactured in plastic in a scratch-resistant terracotta stone effect. The new oak-effect Blenheim Half Barrel Planter from Stewart Garden measures 61x40cm, making it suitable for larger plants, herbs, fruit and vegetables or even a small tree. It can also be used as a garden or patio water feature.
Also launched at Glee, Stewart Garden's Piazza decorative planter comes in three sizes and two design colours, granite and marble green. RRPs range from £14.99 for the 34cm square planter to £19.99 for the 35cm-tall one.
The Hadlow Trough from Chilstone is an elegant, classical shape by mould maker Tim Vidal. It is available in two sizes with bases of 33x33cm or 104x33cm and a height of 40cm. Its Kensington Planter was commissioned for Kensington Palace to replace 22 16th century Pulhamite planters. Base width is 26cm, top width 33.5cm and height 28.5cm.
Also from Chilstone is the Victoria Box Planter, a large panelled planter on ball feet. Described as "perfect for topiary", the planter is 49.5cm square and measures 59cm tall when mounted.
New to the Haddonstone collection, the Lagoon Planter is designed to add style to private gardens or commercial projects. Weighing 857kg, it is 157cm wide and stands 60cm tall.
Haddonstone's Bay Planter measures 185cm across and 40cm tall and weighs 690kg. Its Chimney Pot Planter is 55.7cm tall and is produced without a base.