How to Choose Vertical Stackable Planters
Vertical stackable planters are popular growing systems for home gardens and indoor growers. They can be very decorative, but stackable vertical planters also save space when growing berries and other fruits, vegetables, flowers, herbs and similar plants.
Published: April 24, 2019.
Such planters come in various sizes, shapes, designs and before buying, it is important to know what to look for.
There are many ready made vertical stackable planters that can be purchased on-line or in any garden center.
People who like DIY, can make their own version using various materials like wood, clothes, growing bags, smaller plastic pots, PVC tubes, concrete elements etc. The only limit is the gardener imagination :)
However, buying ready-made containers is the easiest and the fastest way to make your own vertical garden, just be sure to consider few things before actually buying them.
Available Space and Sunlight
Available space and sunlight dictate the actual size of the vertical planter that can be positioned on desired location and type and varieties of plants that can be grown on such position.
If the planter is too close to the wall, tree, other vertical planter, there is a great chance that lower tiers receive less sunlight than upper tiers. Thus in that case, if possible, on lower tiers plant plants that doesn't require full sunshine and that tolerate partial shade and use upper tiers for planting plants that require plenty of sun to grow properly.
Planters should be made using 'food grade safe' materials, not some cheap plastic loaded with chemicals. Also, such material should be strong, flexible, durable and lightweight.
However, there are some exceptions, of course - some people prefer to improvise (or buy ready made) terracotta vertical planters. Terracotta as material is anything but flexible and lightweight - but, it is strong, durable and due to its weight, such planters are very stable and resistant to strong wind. Also, pets and kids have 'issues' with tipping over such vertical planters due to their weight.
Unglazed terracotta pots are porous, leading to faster moisture loss. However, these leads to well aerated root system, avoiding root rot in most cases - very important for sensitive plants.
Glazed terracotta pots can be very decorative and in many cases can be used just as plastic vertical planters, just be aware of their weight and brittleness - if you drop them on hard surfaces, they will shatter or in the best case - crack.
Personally, plastic vertical planters is the way to go, but if you like terracotta, why not ...
Maximum Number of Tiers
Most vertical planters have maximum number of tiers in the 3 to 10 range.
Some models allow the gardener to get started with, 3-5 tiers and then with time, add more tiers if required.
Note that stacking tiers vertically has certain limitations - most planters in the 3-5 tiers range don't require any additional support in the form of central rod or bar which increases stiffness of the planter to wind or similar lateral forces that can tip over the planter - again, people with pets and kids know what we are talking about :)
Overtime planted berries, flowers and other plants will increase stiffness of the planter by spreading roots between the tiers, but this is NOT something that should any gardener rely on.
Note that the mass of vertical planter can be significant, especially terracotta planters filled with the soil and watered can be very heavy. So be sure to place them on a permanent location, protected from wind - although they are relatively heavy, due to their eight, strong wind gusts can tip them over.
Number of Pots per Tier
The number of 'individual' pots per tier varies, but it is usually between 3 and 6, with the 4 pots per tier being very common. Such 4 pots per tier systems are very stable, they allow enough room for roots and plants, but also allow larger number of plants per tier.
In most cases, gardeners grow one plant per pot, but when growing smaller plants, it is possible to grow 2, 3 or even more plants per single pot. For example, strong, vigorous strawberries require larger pots and are often grown one plant per pot. On the other hand, several smaller alpine strawberries or pineberries can be planted in every single pot, increasing the number of plants per tier/planter.
How to Choose Potting Mix
In general, using containers for growing plants has huge advantage of letting the gardener choose proper potting mix for the plants planned to grow in every particular container.
This is very important for areas where garden soil doesn't suit certain plants that the gardener wishes to grow.
In most cases, fill the vertical planter with slightly acidic, good flower/garden potting mix, rich in organic matter and some sand that drains well, holds the moisture well and is well aerated.
Watering the Vertical Planters
Watering the vertical planters depends on their design.
Some systems are designed with so-called 'Flow Through Design' - the gardener has to water only the top tier and the water/moisture will eventually reach the lower tiers. Although this sounds great, be sure to observer the plants on the lower tiers and if required, water them directly.
Self-watering vertical planters usually have grid in every pot, preventing the roots to be immersed in water directly, but enabling the soil to be moist for longer period of time without additional watering.
In any case, be sure to choose vertical planter that requires watering only the top tier, or you will spend plenty of time watering every individual pot/plant.
How to Fertilize Vertical Planters
Adding fertilizers will help the plants grow strong and healthy and to bear tasty fruits.
First of all, chose good potting soil mix. In the late winter be sure to add some compost or humus and NPK fertilizer with gradual release of nutrients.
During the most intense growth season, liquid fertilizers can be added when watering the flowers.
Mulch should be add to protect the soil and to prevent moisture loss. Also, as the mulch decompose, it feeds the plants with low, but constant stream of nutrients. Mulch also regulates pH of the soil.
In the late summer or early autumn prepare the plants for wintering by adding more organic matter like humus or compost - they feed the plants, but total amount of nutrients is less when compared with NPK fertilizers.
Adding nutrients depends on the planted plants, so be sure to adjust the fertilizer type and amount according to the actual needs.
There are many vertical stackable planters on the market and the most popular are given in the following list:
Mr. Stacky 5-Tier Strawberry Planter Pot
Mr. Stacky 5-Tier Strawberry Planter Pot is a five tier vertical planter.
When assembled, it's dimensions are (LxWxH) 12 x 12 x 28 inches (~30.5 x 30.5 x 71 cm).
Each tier has four 'individual' pots, providing space for 20 medium size plants (most strawberries, some herbs and flowers, dwarf tomatoes and similar).
Total capacity is 24 quarts (~22.7 liters) of soil - 1.2 quarts (~1.13 liters) per pot.
It is possible to plant more than 4 plants on the top tier - there is enough room in center of the top tier for at least one more plant.
It is also optional to use this planter as hanging planter on suitable place using strong chain.
This planter is of freestanding design, or it can be used to create grow towers off the ground using 3/4" pipes/rods. Also, stacking more than 5 tiers is possible, but be sure to use some sort of additional support to prevent any accidents.
Watering: Mr. Stacky 5-Tier Strawberry Planter Pot is of 'Flow Through Design' design - it is enough to water top tier pots and the moisture will reach lower tiers, too.
During summer heat be sure to observe plants in lower tiers and if required, water them directly.
For more reviews and recommendations, check Mr. Stacky 5-Tier Strawberry Planter Pot Amazon link (link opens in the new window).
Nancy Janes Self Watering 3-Tier Stacking Planter
Nancy Janes Self Watering 3-Tier Stacking Planter is very popular self watering stacking planter system that can be used as free-standing or hanging vertical planter.
Also, it can be mounted on the central pipe/rod with more than 3 tiers on a single pipe/rod.
Every tier comes with three pots and every pot has soil separation grid, water reservoir with overflow drainage, protecting the roots from rot.
Each tier is ~6 inches (~15 cm) high, and total width is 12 inches (~30.5 cm). When 'only' three tiers are used, it is very stable vertical planter.
Note: it is also very compact planter, suitable for some flowers and herbs and, for example, medium sized strawberries. If you plan on growing larger plants, go for larger vertical planters!
For more reviews and recommendations, check Nancy Janes Self Watering 3-Tier Stacking Planter Amazon link (link opens in the new window).
Mr. Stacky 5-Tier Large Vertical Planter
Mr. Stacky 5-Tier Large Vertical Planter is of very similar design as Mr. Stacky 5-Tier Strawberry Planter, but the most important difference is its size.
Mr. Stacky 5-Tier Strawberry Planter dimensions are 12 x 12 x 28 inches and capacity is 24 quarts.
Mr. Stacky 5-Tier Large Vertical Planter dimensions are 18 x 18 x 38 inches (~46 x 46 x 97 cm) and its capacity is 64 quarts (~60.5 liters) - that is 3.2 quarts (~3 liters) per individual pot.
This is very impressive planter, suitable for many plants including various berries, herbs, flowers etc.
Small to medium size plants can be planted in groups of 2-4 plants per individual pot, increasing the number of plants to 40-80 plants per single 5-tier planter.
Note: fully loaded planter like this can be heavy, so positioning it on a garden tray with wheels is highly recommended, especially if you plan on moving the planter indoors during colder days.
For more reviews and recommendations, check Mr. Stacky 5-Tier Large Vertical Planter Amazon link (link opens in the new window).
Akro-Mils 3-Tier Stack-A-Pot Vertical Planter
Akro-Mils 3-Tier Stack-A-Pot Vertical Planter comes in two dimensions: 14 and 30 quart (13.2 and 28.4 liters) planters and two colors: brick and chocolate.
This vertical planter is crafted from durable, U.V. protected plastic and it has 'only' 3 pots per tier. However, due to its design, pots have large capacity (1.55 and 3.33 quarts; ~1.47 and 3.15 liters per pot), considering the size of the planter.
Akro-Mils 3-Tier Stack-A-Pot Vertical Planter is self-standing and very stable planter. If more tiers are added, stability is decreased, but it is still one of the more stable designs.
Should you choose to increase number of tiers, consider adding a central pipe/rod for increased stability.
For more reviews and recommendations, check Akro-Mils 3-Tier Stack-A-Pot Vertical Planter Amazon link (link opens in the new window).
There are other stackable vertical planters on the market, but these are some of the most popular ones.
Note: be sure to read the instructions carefully and use these planters as intended.
Also, there are other vertical planters on the market, but generally, they are not stackable: vertical wall planters, vertical tower planters and similar.
Long Story Short: if you would like to grow more plants on limited space, especially indoors, go for vertical stackable planters - they are affordable, come in various sizes and shapes, they are very flexible in terms of garden planing and design and in the end, can be very decorative.