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Characteristics of plastic pots
Plastic pots are always chosen more frequently by those who have to repot a plant. The reason for this preference is explained, first of all, by the unbreakable nature of this material, which makes it possible to keep plants away from risks, bumps and accidental blows. On the other hand, the plastic is also very light, which means that the pots can be moved from one side to the other, dragged or removed without problems, under the banner of practicality and manageability. A third positive element must be identified in the economic aspect: the plastic vases cost much less than those in earthenware or terracotta. It is clear that these advantages compensate for a characteristic which must be reckoned with, that is to say the poor transpirability that distinguishes it. Plastic, in essence, is not always able to satisfy the needs of plants from the point of view of the oxygenation of the roots and of the air circulation: a lot, however, depends on the species with which one is dealing. As for the duration over time, the plastic is undoubtedly subject to greater wear compared to terracotta (on the other hand, the price difference between the two materials is considerable): for this reason, it is recommended in especially for those plants that need frequent repotting, annually or at most once every two years. In short, for and against, in the use of plastic pots, they balance both economically and practically (without forgetting, of course, that there are different plastics, of different quality and reliability). Even the aesthetic aspect, however, deserves to be taken into consideration: well, regardless of personal tastes, no doubt a wooden or terracotta vase has a different visual impact, both in terms of elegance and in terms of its ability to adapt to the context in which it is located, compared to a plastic vase.
Comparison with terracotta vases
From the historical point of view, the plastic vases appeared for the first time in the late fifties, after centuries in which the plants, from leaf or fat, were placed in terracotta containers. Currently, visiting a garden center or a normal supermarket, you can easily see how the plants for sale are all placed in plastic pots, and only in some specialized shops there are terracotta pots. Even the latter, however, have advantages and disadvantages that must always be taken into consideration. The first factor to be assessed is constituted by the porosity of the walls, which determines an ease of evaporation (of the water and minerals it brings with it). So terracotta requires more constant watering than plastic, which consequently turns out to be suitable for people who, for different reasons, cannot cure a plant every day. Not only: the terracotta vases hold the soil with less ease, and for this reason the earth sometimes on the surface, due to a higher concentration of minerals, becomes whitish, with an aesthetic effect that is not always pleasant.
Advantages of plastic
Plastic, on the other hand, has an overestimated but fundamental advantage over terracotta: it is much less fragile, and if dropped on the ground it does not break. The nurserymen, in particular, prefer containers made of polythene, which are appreciated for their manageability and lightness. In any case, regardless of the material chosen, it must be remembered that the difference between plastic and terracotta not only affects human action (practicality, comfort, visual impact, etc.) but above all the life of the plant: in short, if we water a plant in a clay pot with the same frequency with which we water a plant in a plastic pot, the second will risk dying due to excess water (it should not be forgotten that plants suffer much more than water excesses compared to deficiencies). For the same reason, soil mixtures will be different, since the plastic requires a light soil, which then dries faster. On condition that the characteristics of the materials are respected, however, the plants live without problems both in plastic pots and in terracotta pots, provided that they ensure an excellent drainage of the soil and the flow of water is not too slow (to avoid water stagnations that lead to rot). Finally, it is worth mentioning another advantage of plastic, compared to terracotta, that is that the latter must cope with a loss of nutrients (due to the aforementioned process of water evaporation through the walls, but also to the washing away of the earth caused by the most frequent watering) that does not occur instead with plastic.
Practical benefits: versatility and comfort
From a practical point of view, a more substantial loss of minerals translates into the need to fertilize more frequently: plastic, therefore, favors a considerable saving of time and money (because, however, fertilizers are priced). In short, practical, economical, light, resistant, easy to handle but also aesthetically unpleasant: plastic pots are increasingly used to contain plants, also because they are sold in different sizes and shapes: ideal both for repotting a new born succulent plant that for a shrub of imposing size, they are appreciated precisely by virtue of their versatility.