Pots made of natural materials and in neutral colors are popular and don’t distract from the beauty of the plants.

Gardeners of all ages and experience levels rely on pretty pots and practical planters to bring gardening potential to any size porch, patio, yard or home.

“As lifestyles become more urban, the scale of container gardening is one-size-fits-all. Whether young people are renting or older people are downsizing, everybody can have a container,” says Debra Prinzing, founder of Slow Flowers and slowflowers.com, an online directory of florists and growers committed to sourcing American blooms. “It accommodates any type of gardening, so it’s become a great entry point for people to embrace gardening – even people who don’t consider themselves gardeners.”

Whether people are buying pots to plant flowers, foliage, herbs or edibles — indoors or out — the demand for stylish containers is on the rise. Is your garden center adjusting to changing tastes by stocking the latest container trends — or is your pottery selection feeling passé? Dress it up with these five container trends we’re seeing in IGCs this year.

1. Sleek, modern minimalism

Bulky, ornate planters are out, and sleek, modern styles are in, says Rose Kelly, whose parents, Kevin and Mary Beth Hughes, started Rosie’s Gardens in Indianapolis in 1982.

“We’re seeing a trend toward a more modern look,” says Kelly, who has worked there full-time since she graduated college in 2005. “Very sleek lines, lots of matte black, gray and white, in very geometric shapes.”

Many of these modern styles tend to be lightweight, she says, which is also an increasingly important trait that shoppers ask for — whether they’re potting houseplants indoors, growing rooftop gardens, or just getting tired of moving heavy pottery around as seasons change.

Rosie’s Gardens is bringing in more modern, lightweight containers this season, and displaying them indoors with houseplants. After record-setting houseplant sales through winter, Kelly expects small, lightweight pottery to sell quickly, as well.

Lightweight containers featuring interesting, geometric shapes are popular with consumers.

2. American made

For years, Prinzing has been promoting locally grown blooms, what she calls “slow flowers.” In her annual Floral Insights & Industry Forecast for 2018, she identified “slow pottery” as the next emerging trend, as florists and floral retailers are partnering with artists to design custom vases. For example, Chicago-based floral studio Field & Florist commissioned a ceramicist to create a convertible vase, with a large opening for full flower arrangements and a lid that creates a smaller opening to display just a few stems.

Custom design is a high-end option that can be too expensive for the average retail customer, but as consumers grow more concerned about sourcing things locally, retailers can expect increasing demand for domestic pots.

“The trend in general retail is to try to buy more local and American-made [product], but there aren’t that many offerings for American-made pottery,” Kelly says. “It hasn’t been a big hang-up for very many people, but when people have a desire to buy American made, we steer them toward cast concrete containers, because those are made in America.”

3. Heavy-duty materials

Recently, at the Northwest Flower and Garden Festival in Seattle, Prinzing said the crowd flocked toward a trio of wood-trimmed, galvanized aluminum planters from Gardener’s Supply Company. The grouping showcased three sizes — a long horizontal box, a cube-shaped container, and a taller vertical one.

“That was a product I’d never seen before,” Prinzing says. “Those really caught the imagination of the audience because it showed them how to group three pots together, giving customers a turnkey set. Round nesting pots are kind of old and passé, but this grouping of angular metal containers is fantastic.”

Prinzing adored the corrugated finish, as she’s seeing more galvanized metal in gardens. “People are buying agricultural watering troughs from feed supply stores and converting them into raised beds or edible gardens,” she says. “Because of that, new products are coming out in this galvanized steel or corrugated finish, which I absolutely love.”

Bobbie Schwartz, a landscape designer and garden coach who owns Bobbie’s Green Thumb near Cleveland, doesn’t see as much metal in the Midwest. “The angular metal containers seem to work better with contemporary houses out west,” she says. “Here in the Midwest, if you put metal out, it’s going to rust unless you put it away for the winter. That’s why resin pots are so wonderful, because they’re virtually indestructible.”

Cast concrete containers, as well as lightweight lookalikes made of resin, are trending from coast to coast. These materials are popular for their durability in all climates, as well as the earthy, natural palette they bring to a garden or patio.

“Natural is definitely having its day,” Prinzing says. “The colorful glazed pots are always going to be eye-catching, but they limit you in the garden, whereas these natural materials don’t.”

Galvanized aluminum planters are popular on the West Coast but a harder sell in the Midwest, as the region's weather makes them more prone to rust.

4. Neutral, muted colors

It’s not surprising, then, that neutral colors are dominating containers.

“For a few years, the atomic colors were really popular — super bright red, yellow, orange and green,” Kelly says. “I don’t think you’ll ever see them go away, but they seem to have faded in popularity a little bit.”

She sees customers gravitating toward basic shades like black, white, gray and gold. Besides neutrals, the one color that seems to stand the test of time is cobalt blue.

“When we started carrying glazed pottery, the cobalt blue glaze was the most popular color,” Kelly says. “We comment every year that we don’t think that’s ever going to change. People love that cobalt blue pottery, because all the plant colors just pop in it.”

Planting houseplants in modern containers may increase the price point, but it can also encourage sales.
Although neutral colors are trending, one color that has not faded in popularity is blue, especially cobalt hues. Having a wide selection that appeals to many customers has been a successful strategy for retailers.

5. Rustic and rusty

Besides the sleek modern style, Kelly says the other big trend right now is a rustic look. Depending where you are in the country, this trend manifests in different ways.

The Northwest Flower and Garden Festival dedicated an entire section to the idea of repurposing what some would consider rusty old junk into treasured garden art. Pine Creek Farms & Nursery showcased several examples of this “shabby chic garden antique aesthetic,” as Prinzing calls it, by planting in weathered metal colanders, perforated locker drawers and other old farm and kitchen implements.

“People’s imaginations are just amazing,” Schwartz says. “Old wheelbarrows, sinks, drain tiles — I never cease to be amazed at what people use as planters. The recycling movement is as strong as ever across the country.”

Of course, rusty farm implements seem more appropriate in rural gardens — while in metro and suburban regions, the rustic trend comes through in colors and finishes that look aged and antiqued.

In Indianapolis, for example, Kelly sees more unfinished pots made from ironstone, a dark chocolate clay, as many consumers choose earthy tones over bright, shiny glazes.


In the end, variety wins

Most customers mix and match pots among these trends, rather than swapping out their entire pottery collection to match each season’s style. “You can be way more eclectic in the garden with mismatched things,” says Prinzing — who has glazed pots and raised cedar beds in her backyard, galvanized agricultural buckets in her front yard, and a gabion bench made from a repurposed metal cage.

Regional trends, climates and personal tastes impact consumer preferences for planters, so variety is essential to any successful container department. Kelly says customers are amazed at the vast selection of pottery when they take a golf cart back to the covered area that houses the container “warehouse” at Rosie’s Gardens. To make it less overwhelming, they display a small collection of containers at the front of the store, featuring the latest colors and styles.

“Most people buy from the front displays, unless they’re looking for something particular or they need a larger quantity,” Kelly says. “It’s hard keeping up with displays in the spring, but that would be my biggest advice: Keep your displays fresh and rotate new products in as they sell.”

No matter the trends, customers value variety and selection when it comes to containers.

Brooke is a freelance writer living in Cleveland and a frequent contributor to Garden Center magazine and other GIE Media publications.