What every container garden needs – pot feet

Pot feet – made from many creative materials – have a number of benefits for container gardens.

Photo courtesy of Mary-Kate Mackey.
All containers need a little elevation.
Photo courtesy of Mary-Kate Mackey.
Pot feet curb water stains, increase air circulation.

Some of the most overlooked effects of watering containers are the ugly stains that happen beneath your pots after a season or two of resting on a porch, deck, or patio.

It’s a pain to have to scrub this off or continue to look at black rings of container-water residue. That whole process can be averted with the use of pot feet.

Yes, I know, you rarely see pot feet in lush magazine spreads on container gardening, but adding elevation in some form — and there are many — cuts out a whole garden cleanup chore.

Pot feet benefits

Raising containers with pot feet not only makes your job easier, the practice can prolong the life of wood decks, porches, and steps. Air circulation under a container also contributes to the health of the plant’s roots. So, even on stone, tile, or concrete, where you’re not concerned about rot, lifting your pots a few inches is important.

Although I haven’t tried it, there’s also a copper-coated pot foot from Britain that’s supposed to stop slugs and snails from entering pots — that would be quite a benefit here in the rainy, sluggy Northwest.

If you have containers in your garden beds, the use of pot feet in the form of bricks or stones is vital. I lost a lovely nine-foot Norwegian weeping spruce that grew in a large container resting on soil. It kept wilting and dying back. I kept watering it, never knowing that the pot bottom had formed a seal with the soil. I basically drowned my tree.

So raise your containers with something, anything. And, right now, if you have plants sitting directly on the ground, go outdoors and check to make sure they’re loose by lifting one side of each container.

Go on — it’s that important — I’ll wait.

A pot feet panoply

OK, what materials can you use for pot feet? I have made quite a collection over the years. If you like the floating look of no pot feet showing — excellent for contemporary styles — look for plastic rings or wedges of various sizes that can elevate the container about a half an inch. That’s enough to do the trick. And because the plastic is out of the sun, the risers last a long time. One brand is Potrisers.

I prefer to let my pot feet show. Over the years I have collected sets — three feet per pot — made out of terra cotta, concrete, and high-fire glazed ceramic. Some are plain, and some are whimsical. If your containers are permanently on display, make sure the feet are as frost-proof as the pot itself.

On soil, I use concrete bricks — because they’re cheap — that form a triangle the pot can rest on. On occasion, I’ve found similarly sized river cobbles that can do the same job. Just make sure they don’t sink into the ground. The feet come in all sizes, so I try to match container and feet.

For stability under containers that hold water and water plants, I usually use two sets, or six pot feet. In high-wind areas, you may want to do the same. While three feet will usually be enough, the use of pot feet can make containers slightly more susceptible to being knocked over in a strong gust, so it’s better to use another set if you think you might need it.

Have you found creative materials that will work for pot feet? Let me know what has been successful for you. In the meantime, raise those containers up for happier plants, and the decks, porches, stairs, patios — and garden beds — that hold them.

Mary-Kate Mackey, co-author of “Sunset’s Secret Gardens — 153 Design Tips from the Pros” and contributor to the “Sunset Western Garden Book,” writes a monthly column for the Hartley Greenhouse webpage and numerous articles for Fine Gardening, Sunset, and other magazines. She teaches at the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism & Communication. She writes about water in the garden for Diggin’ It. 

Editor’s note: To read more by Mary-Kate, check our blog archive. Gardening articles on a variety of topics can be found at the Monitor’s main gardening page. Also see our RSS feed. You may want to visit Gardening With the Monitor on Flickr. Take part in the discussions and get answers to your gardening questions. If you join the group (it’s free), you can upload your garden photos and enter our next contest.

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