How to Choose the Best Half Barrel Planter
If you want to add some character to your garden, a half barrel planter is a great choice. Not only do these make the perfect home for shrubs, flowers and herbs, they’re also eye-catching features in their own right (and they can often be used as mini ponds too!).
Choosing the best half barrel planter will depend on the size of your garden, the size of your plants, how concerned you are with authenticity, and your budget. The following information will help you make an informed decision.
When choosing a barrel planter there are two types you can go for: plastic, or wood. Wooden half barrel planters tend to be upcycled from real storage barrels used for holding alcohol (such as wine or whiskey) in stockrooms.
Plastic barrel planters are generally designed to mimic the appearance of a wooden barrel.
Here’s a more in depth look at each type of planter, to get a feel for their pros and cons as well as whether they’d be the right choice for your garden:
Authentic, Upcycled Wooden Barrels
As mentioned, planters made from wooden barrels have often had a previous life storing wine, whiskey or some other liqueur. They tend to be made from oak, although could be constructed from other types of wood as well.
Depending on the age of the wooden barrel, the rusticity of its appearance can vary. Some look relatively new, whilst others have been darkened by age or show signs of rust on the metal rings holding them together. To some, this is aesthetically desirable, but others may prefer the structural reassurance of no visible rust.
If you want an authentically rustic barrel planter, with history and charm, you may be swayed towards a wooden option.
Most wooden barrels are watertight, although they may not be instantly watertight on arrival. If the wood is very dry (as is often the case when the barrel planter arrives), it will have shrunk and there will be gaps for water to leak through. After a couple of weeks of holding water, the wood should expand and seal any gaps. This is worth remembering if you’re aiming to use the half barrel planter as a mini pond or water feature.
They tend to be more expensive than plastic barrels, so might not be as suitable for those on a tight budget. Some maintenance is required as well, such as treating the wood against rot, which should be done yearly. Most people find their wooden barrel planters can last at least 20 – 30 years if looked after well.
Replica Plastic Barrels
Plastic barrels can look surprisingly like the real thing, especially from a distance. They are often made from resin, or another type of plastic, and are moulded to look like wooden barrels with metal belts.
These barrels are watertight and can be used as small ponds and water features, or they can be used as planters. Much like with wooden barrels, if using as a planter you will likely need to drill holes in the base for drainage – they don’t tend to come pre-drilled.
They are very lightweight (generally weighing around 1 – 2 kg) and require no maintenance. Plus, if the plastic used is UV-resistant then the barrel should not fade in the sunlight and will maintain its colour over the years.
Plastic barrels tend to be cheaper than wooden ones, but naturally they don’t have the history or charm of being a real storage barrel. They are, however, very durable and won’t rot. Also, it’s possible to find plastic half barrel planters made from recycled plastic, which is something to look out for.
Half barrel planters are usually very large, often with a volume of up to 100L. The depth and diameter are the main indicators of the size.
Larger barrels, with a diameter of approximately 70 cm, are perfect for shrubs and small trees. Smaller barrels, with a diameter of approximately 50 cm, can be used for herb gardens and flower beds.
Keep in mind that the larger the barrel, the heavier it will be. This is particularly true for wooden barrels. Plastic barrels are significantly lighter than wooden barrels, no matter their size.
If you have a small garden, or want to use the planter inside, you should carefully measure how much space you have available. It seems that particularly wooden planters, that are upcycled from real barrels, are often larger than customers expect.
If you’re looking to use your half barrel as a planter, you’ll need to make sure it has drainage holes. Most half barrel planters don’t come with pre-drilled drainage holes, regardless of whether they are made from wood or plastic.
Of course, if you want to use the planter as a watertight pond or water feature, you must double check that the holes definitely aren’t pre-drilled!
It’s straight forward to drill holes in either wooden or plastic planters. This is usually possible using an electric drill and a drill bit.
Drainage holes are important for growing plants as they stop water stagnating at the bottom of the barrel. If water pools at the bottom of a pot with no escape it can cause the plant’s roots to rot. It can also become a playground for bacteria which can transmit disease to the plant via the roots.
Half Barrel Planter FAQs
How big is a half barrel planter?
This depends on the barrel, but the volume is usually not larger than 100 L. Small barrels are perfect for herbs, whilst large barrels (with a diameter of around 70 cm) can be used for shrubs and even small trees.
How long do half barrel planters last?
The lifespan of your half barrel will depend what it’s made from (as well as how well you look after it).
Plastic barrels are lightweight and tend to look very realistic. They are long lasting and fully weather resistant. There’s no need to treat plastic, and it can be left outside in all weathers.
Wooden barrels are more high maintenance. However, provided they are looked after properly, they can also last for several decades. Wooden barrels will need to be treated approximately once a year, and they should ideally be covered up in very bad weather.
Will I have to drill my own holes in a half barrel planter?
For the most part, the answer is yes. Some barrel planters come with holes already drilled, but this isn’t the norm – regardless of whether they’re made from plastic or wood. Although it might not sound like it, this is actually a good thing. If a barrel planter doesn’t already have holes drilled before arrival, you’ll be able to use it as either a water feature/pond or a plant pot.