When planning your commercial, residential, or hospitality landscape project, expenses add up. And, when budgets get tight, it’s only natural to think about cutting costs.
Although commercial planters might be one of the higher-priced line items in your budget, cutting costs here could be detrimental to your plants. And that could cost you more money in the long run.
As they say, you can either buy it nice or buy it twice. And while sacrificing quality for price might seem like an effective strategy right now, over time, you’ll spend much more than if you had invested in a high-quality commercial planters right off the bat.
This article will help you determine if purchasing a lifetime product is your best bet. We’ll examine various planter materials and, for each material, you’ll read about:
- Price in comparison to other materials
- Durability rating in comparison to other materials
- Optimal applications
Here’s everything you need to know.
What Qualifies as Durable?
Durability: it’s an easy term to throw around, but how can you actually qualify it?
At PureModern, we see durability as your return on investment when purchasing planters. Durability helps you assess upfront costs associated with a lifetime planter versus what it would cost you in the long run if you buy something cheaper.
Think about durability in three ways:
Material strength for weather resistance: How well can a planter’s material stand up to everyday wear-and-tear, heat and cold, water exposure, and more?
Aesthetic durability: How many years will a planter continue to look its best?
Maintenance costs over time: Over the planter's lifetime, how much will you spend on maintenance between time and labor?
The most durable planters can withstand the elements and look great over time, all while requiring minimal maintenance and upkeep.
But which planter material is the most durable?
Custom Modular Planter at Roosevelt Parc in Jackson Heights, NY
Powder-Coated Aluminum Planters
There are no two ways about it: powder-coated aluminum planters come at a higher price point.
But in this case, you get what you pay for. And powder-coated aluminum planters are the epitome of a lifetime product:
- Heavy gauge 5052 marine-grade aluminum is used to ensure optimal durability in all weather conditions.
- We use a bonded powder coat on the marine-grade aluminum with TIGER Drylac® Series 38 architectural-grade powder inside and out to create a durable hard shell on the aluminum planter.
- Our powder coating is free of the VOCs (also known as “volatile organic compounds”) commonly found in building materials. VOCs can sometimes be unstable and emit unhealthy gasses that can negatively impact people and the environment.
Little known fact: this grade of aluminum is used for ships and airplanes and the type of powder coating is often used in military equipment and communication towers.
Price point: $$$
Durability: 5 out of 5
Optimal applications:Powder-coated aluminum planters can be used both indoors and outdoors and can be customized with lights and other design add-ons.
Powder-coated aluminum is fabricated to order in typically less than four weeks, so it is never out of stock. With this type of aluminum, we can easily make your planters in any size and support large scale commercial projects with hundreds of planters.
Limitations: Powder-coated marine-grade aluminum’s only limitation is how much its shape can be customized. While it can be made into round shapes, it can’t be made into unique shapes like fiberglass planters can.
COR-TEN Weathering Steel Planters
Not only are COR-TEN Weathering Steel planters uniquely beautiful, they’re also interesting from a fabrication and durability standpoint.
Over time, these planters develop a natural and visually appealing patina that becomes the planter’s own organic protecting layer, strengthening it and acting as a protective mechanism.
This means that COR-TEN weathering steel planters actually look better as they age. When the planter first arrives, it looks like raw steel with grinded edges. But over time, as the planter is exposed to the elements, you’ll begin to see it evolve toward its final form.
Durability: 5 out of 5
Optimal Applications: COR-TEN Weathering Steel planters are perfect for outdoor projects where you’re looking for a very unique mix of industrial design and organic aesthetics.
Limitations: One of the challenges with COR-TEN Weathering Steel is that its thick gauge makes it heavy and more cumbersome to move than powder-coated aluminum or fiberglass planters. And, unlike all of the other planter materials we’ve talked about, COR-TEN Weathering Steel is finicky in where and how it can be used. For example, these planters can only be used outdoors because the patina they form can discolor the surrounding areas. They also can’t be used in coastal areas because salt water and sea air can damage them.
When it comes to top-tier aesthetics and design flexibility, fiberglass planters may be the perfect fit for your project. But it’s not just the look that makes fiberglass planters incredible—they’re also extremely durable.
Fiberglass planters are UV-resistant, they’ll never rust, and they require minimal maintenance. From time to time, simply wash them with a non-abrasive cloth and dish soap and then apply the same wax you’d use on your car.
At PureModern, our fiberglass planter manufacturing process also helps to ensure durability:
- We only use materials suitable for commercial settings, including automotive-grade paint.
- After the fiberglass is fabricated, sanded, and primed, we paint it in a paint booth, similar to the way you’d paint a car, because it ensures that no stray hair, particles, or dust will be present or stick to the finish.
Price Point: $$
Durability Score: 4 out of 5
Optimal Applications: Much like aluminum, fiberglass is an all-purpose material. Fiberglass planters can be used both indoors and outdoors, but they do have some limitations. For instance, while you can bolt aluminum planters onto walls and floors to ensure wind resistance and stability, the same can’t be said for fiberglass because fiberglass doesn’t have enough tensile strength to hold other items such as lights. And, since it doesn’t have enough tensile strength, post-production integral shelves aren’t feasible.
Limitations: Fiberglass planters dent more easily than their aluminum counterparts and are also more susceptible to weather over time. However, you can refurbish and refinish your fiberglass planters to ensure they remain timeless forever. Your choices are somewhat limited with fiberglass planters by predetermined sizes and shapes and stock in the warehouse that’s currently available for shipping since they are not made to order.
Plastic Resin Planters
If you’re looking to buy a lifetime product, plastic resin planters aren’t the way to go.
A planter’s color can often fade with time. In addition, plastic resin won’t hold up well against harsh weather conditions and wear-and-tear, such as being bumped or nicked in high-traffic areas.
When designers seek to cut costs, they often purchase plastic resin planters because it eliminates the sticker shock of buying a higher-quality material. But, as a result, they also often find themselves having to quickly replace these planters, incurring additional costs, creating extra waste, and spending labor and time to swap out and repot plants.
Price point: $
Durability Score: 2 out of 5
Optimal Applications: If you decide to go with plastic resin planters, they’re best used in temperate climates. Given their lack of fortitude with the elements and wear-and-tear, we’d recommend using them indoors or in covered outdoor spaces in temperate climates. In addition, plastic resin planters are limited by predetermined sizes and shapes and what is currently available in the warehouse to ship and are not recommended for commercial use.
Stainless Steel Planters
Stainless steel planters are one of your most durable options in terms of structural integrity. But they’re a lot less durable in terms of aesthetics. So, just be sure to weigh that durability against a few common pitfalls:
- As a material, stainless steel tends to pit, so it needs to be buffed out often and carefully maintained.
- The time and energy required to fabricate stainless steel planters means they’re quite costly.
- Stainless steel planters scuff easily and show marks.
Price point: $$$$$
Durability Rating: 4 out of 5
Best applications: Stainless steel planters are a great option for indoor spaces. They offer a glamorous appearance, but they need to be carefully maintained. So, the ideal location for stainless steel planters is low-traffic areas where they won’t be impacted by harsh weather conditions, the elements, or bumps and nicks.
Limitations: While their structure, durability, and chic, high-shine look are nearly unparalleled, stainless steel planters don’t quite fit the criteria of a lifetime product due to the significant labor and expense necessary to maintain them.
Modern Elite Tapered Square Planter at DoubleTree by Hilton in Orlando, FL
Which planter material is the right one for you?
When we speak with our clients, one of the most common questions we hear is this:
Budget aside, which one should I choose?
The answer depends on how much you’re willing to invest in your planters and how long you want to use them:
If you want your planters to last a least 10 years, opt for fiberglass.
If you want your planters to last more than 20 years, opt for COR-TEN weathering steel, stainless steel, or powder-coated aluminum.
Planters are a fundamental design element of any commercial, residential, or hospitality project. But they’ve also got to withstand significant wear-and-tear.
When planters break down or deteriorate, they compromise the visual appeal of your space and you’ll undoubtedly spend more in the long-run. So, whenever possible, opt for the planter that lasts 20 plus years rather than compromising on long-term quality for short-term savings.
If you’ve got questions about how to purchase a lifetime planter, get in touch with us today. Our team of experts is here to help.