Planter Selection

Planter Selection not only takes into consideration the location of the planter and the requirements of the plants that it will hold, but selection should also consider the quality and environmental impact of the materials and construction details relative to your price-value expectations, and visual aesthetics.

Our goal for planters above grade in commercial and residential buildings is to avoid potential structural damage created by poured-in-place concrete planters or penetration of roof and terrace membranes.

After reading this comprehensive blog you will be able to select the right planter for your project, aware of how various planter designs, materials, and functions make it simple to choose the best solutions. If you’re a landscape professional, architect, general contractor, condo manager, or purchasing agent, this will help you avoid expensive and embarrassing career mistakes. Here is a link to some of the blue chip companies with whom we have worked to help overcome their challenges.

A shorter, less detailed article on Choosing a Garden Planter can be found by clicking here. To skip straight to the solutions we have created for our projects and thousands of others, go straight to the DeepStream Designs website.

Don’t bother reading this blog if you’re looking for cheap pots for short-term use that will quickly be thrown away. It will be a waste of your time. DeepStream Designs’ goal is to produce the lowest cost product over time for both our customers and the environment, which requires an upfront investment on our customers’ part and customer solutions with a Lifetime Structural Warranty and easy to replace parts on our part. We and our American craftsmen refuse to be part of the throwaway society created by planned obsolescence.

Overview of how rooftop planters can shade a building in Miami, preventing it from adding to the urban heat island.
Rooftop planters shade a building in Miami, preventing it from adding to the urban heat island, while reducing energy consumption at the same time. The penthouse with the roof deck jungle documented an 18% electric bill drop in the summer.

As we have seen in the tragic July 2021 collapse of the Surfside condo here in the Miami area, to achieve the benefits of green space on roofs, large planters must avoid the structural damage to commercial and residential buildings created by poured-in-place concrete planters.

In July, 2021, the planter selection comparisons found in this blog were substantially updated with long-term tests, new products, and new materials. The goal of this blog post continues to be allowing readers to make an informed choice when selecting planters by providing a detailed comparison of these factors from my experience as a planter designer and manufacturer, environmentalist, and my own customer as a building developer and general contractor.

As developers, avoiding structural damage to our building with poured-in-place concrete planters which can lead to expensive remediation was one of the main reasons we founded DeepStream in 2006 to make rooftop deck planters for our own condo building in Miami. The other goal was to minimize the total cost of planters over the lifetime of the building, as the wasteful short lifetime of carpenter-built wood planters requires a regular, costly replacement process.

To achieve this goal DeepStream products incorporate deceptively simple, aesthetically-pleasing, timeless design, which minimizes environmental impact through material selection, rugged construction, and replaceable parts using principles of Sustainable Design to maximize durability.

As I was developing a condo building in Miami, where my wife and I still live 15 years later, I wanted to create a livable rooftop with lush landscaping. Frustratingly, in 2004, we were unable to convince the city building department that green roofs were insulation in and of themselves, so we were unable to have a grass roof as you can now. 

I realized, however, that the roof surface area of a condo tower was a much lower percentage of the building surface area than the walls themselves.  Therefore I began a search for large lightweight planters that had a high ratio of surface area to weight to use both on the roof and on balconies.

As buildings settle, and all buildings do over time, cracks appear and then water runs along the lines of steel rebar used in poured concrete construction rusting them and causing the rebar to expand up to 20 times their original size, creating an effect called “spalling,”  cracking the concrete. Correcting spalling is a very expensive and disruptive process.  Stand-alone planters avoid this.

Major structural failure of a poured in place concrete planter
Major structural failure of a poured-in-place concrete planter
Major structural failure of a poured in place concrete planter
Structural failure of a poured-in-place concrete planter, even without tree root pressure. Now imagine this happening horizontally in a concrete slab where the damage is not visible or exposed for remediation without demolition!
Hairline vertical crack developing in concrete poured in place planter
Hairline vertical crack developing in concrete poured-in-place planter.

If you do have poured-in-place concrete planters leaking through a slab and along beams that can be reached from below, planter liners may not the right solution. There is a warranted solution that can remedy this that does not require digging up the mature landscaping in the planter and resealing the planter and then having it fail again in a few years. Though not inexpensive, it is far less expensive and less of an interruption to the residents than the first option.

We have used the services of Seal Wizard, which uses a patented process to remediate a leaking slab for a parking apron and pool deck. The company uses a special compound injected using a high-pressure pump and special hydraulic fittings that are drilled into the slab to intersect the crack from beneath the slab.

The two-part compound flows through cracks under pressure, displacing water until it reaches the top of the crack, filling voids along rebar and displacing the water upwards and out. Afterward, the fittings are removed and the small holes are patched, leaving the bottom of the slab or beams as new. Please contact Sheila at DeepStream for a referral at (305) 857-0466.

The issues with poured-in-place concrete planters aside, equally important for homeowners, restaurants, hotels, and commercial properties when selecting a planter is to find properly designed planters that avoid the very real costs incurred when landscaping dies, or planters fail in just a few years, wasting money, time, and effort, and disrupting operations. Perhaps even more important, dead plants and dilapidated pots or planters, being so highly visible to potential customers, look shabby and detract from your business or brand.

Modern Planters in slate grey no-maintenance recycled plastic lumber and anodized aluminum control access to a modern clubhouse outdoor lounge with long white curtains pulled back around a ceiling shade grid open to the bright blue sky.
Modern Planters by DeepStream crafted in wood, aluminum, and plastic are all custom, so tall, square, rectangular, or long planters like these sleek modern recycled plastic lumber planters, are created to meet your specific need without custom fees, design fees, or wait times. Unlike fragile fiberglass planters, these high-quality modern outdoor planters constructed with no-maintenance recycled plastic lumber with a hidden structural aluminum frame will last for decades and are backed by a Lifetime Structural Warranty, not the 2–3-year warranty you get with a fiberglass planter. Separate waterproof liners are raised off the deck for easy cleaning, preventing health code violations, and hiding labor saving drip irrigations system and wiring for lights.

I write this blog through the lens of being my own customer, as we started building planters for our projects and have a long-term interest in creating planters with the lowest cost of ownership for our own projects, our customers, and the environment. Providing the optimum growing environment reduces landscaping, watering, and associated labor costs.

On top of those considerations was a desire to create a planter system that was more than a “just a planter,” one that avoided wasting valuable tropical hardwood with carpenter-built techniques that fall apart in just a few years, so that our planters could better meet the needs of and provide flexible solutions for our customers’ challenges.

To achieve those goals, my search led me to design unique planters using several materials and techniques to overcome issues I found with existing planters:

Click link to DeepStream website for more planter information
DeepStream’s commercial wood planters are a complete landscaping system system with a hidden aluminum frame, waterproof food-safe plastic linera, advanced drainage, and Lifetime Structural Warranty. The Mariner wood planters shown here are crafted with tropical hardwood planter boxes. While our wood planters will last for decades, recycled plastic lumber will last for at least 50 years, look better over time, and are more eco-friendly, saving the rainforests for future generations and creating a commercial market for plastic recycling.

The Mariner Commercial Planter is a complete 3-part engineered landscaping system that incorporates proprietary anodized aluminum structural extrusions with an internal aluminum frame that supports an outer planter box of wood or maintenance-free, eco-friendly recycled plastic lumber, and a rugged 100% recycled plastic waterproof liner with advanced drainage.

In addition to promoting drainage, liners prevent the wooden boxes from rotting and prevent solar gain from steaming the root ball. They also hide labor-saving drip irrigations systems and wiring for lights.

Top view of a DeepStream Waterproof Liner inside Wood Planter with a hidden aluminum frame.
A square Mariner wooden restaurant planter shows how a separate waterproof liner, supported by a hidden structural aluminum frame, prevents soil from contacting the wood and the sun from heating the root ball. It’s hard to overemphasize the importance of the separate waterproof liner to DeepStream’s uniquely engineered 3-component planter system’s adaptability and longevity.
A Modern Planter hand made from cumaru wood to custom specification by American craftsmen, shown unplanted with a waterproof planter liner inserted inside that his held by a hidden structural aluminum frame. Behind this front Modern Planter is a larger Modern Planter hand crafted from natural slate that holds a trellis covered in a green vine with bright red flowers that acts as a privacy screen blocking the view of air conditioning equipment behind it on a tropical roof deck.
A Modern Planter handmade from Cumaru wood to custom specifications by American craftsmen, shown unplanted with a waterproof planter liner inserted inside that is held by a hidden structural aluminum frame. Behind the front Modern Planter is a larger Modern Planter handcrafted from natural slate that holds a trellis privacy screen that blocks the view of air conditioning equipment behind it.

DeepStream’s Mariner planter integrates accessories that are engineered into the planter by design, not as an afterthought. These options include:

Click this picture to see more information on DeepStream's website about screen wall and dog park enclosures
Mariner Planters anchor glass and wood screen walls, without penetrating the existing roof membrane, to create a convenient roof deck dog park atop a historic warehouse converted to a residential community.
42 inch high tall commercial wood planters, in maintenance free recycled plastic lumber, feature casters for mobility allowing privacy between massage tables on the pool terrace of a Waikiki waterfront hotel.
42-inch high tall commercial wood planters, in maintenance-free recycled plastic lumber, feature caster wheels for mobility that create privacy between massage tables on the pool terrace of a waterfront hotel in Waikiki.

HDPE Food-Safe Planters, new for 2020, are a lower cost planter than fiberglass, and since they do not require molds, they can be built to any size you need. HDPE, like recycled plastic lumber, is the same material as milk bottles and cutting boards, so it is easily recyclable at the end of its long lifecycle.

It’s also more flexible than fiberglass, so it won’t crack. Since the material is a solid color throughout, it doesn’t show chips and dings in the same way as fiberglass. It is also resistant to graffiti, as it repels paint and can be cleaned with many paint strippers or sanded. Hidden aluminum caster wheel bases can be built in for mobility.

Click this picture for more information on DeepStream's website about HDPE food-safe planters.
Perfect for restaurants, commercial buildings, and homes, HDPE Plastic Planters are food safe and less expensive than fiberglass. They are more flexible and won’t crack like fiberglass. The material has a solid color throughout that is impervious to UV rays, so they don’t show scratches the same way as fiberglass or have a finish that will chip. They resist graffiti paint and you may use paint strippers on them or even sand the finish. Since they don’t require forms to manufacture like fiberglass, they may be cost-effectively crafted to the exact custom size you need. The HDPE planters by DeepStream Designs have the option of a hidden caster wheel base for mobility, as shown on the two planters at right above.

Commercial Marine Aluminum Planters are also new for 2020. DeepStream’s unpainted 5086 aluminum planters are the same marine grade as that used to build ocean going ships and yachts. This alloy is chosen for its ability to withstand years of commercial use in the ocean’s corrosive salt water. 

Paint or powder coatings will fail in 3 to 5 years and flake off, requiring sanding or media blasting before being refinished. While more expensive to produce with a flawless exterior finish than painting, the natural sanded finish of the unpainted planters will develop a soft gray to dark oxide patina that actually protects the aluminum below. Bare aluminum can be refinished by sanding, but it’s actually better to let the oxide patina naturally as it provides a protective finish.

Click this picture to see specific details on DeepStream's website about commercial aluminum planters
Slightly more expensive than painted aluminum planters initially, the flat natural oxide finish that develops on unpainted marine aluminum protects it so there is no expensive, messy paint or powder coating to replace when it fails in 3-5 years. Unlike fiberglass or HDPE planters, they will resist the tremendous pressure exerted by plants with aggressive root systems like bamboo or the Clusia, shown here, which will grow 8-10 feet tall and split lesser pots and planters.

Planter Design driven by customers’ operational challenges and response to environmental imperatives.

We did not set out to become a manufacturer, we just wanted to fulfill our needs for our new condo project. Then one visitor wanted some of our planters, one thing lead to another, and ultimately we became a custom manufacturer.

To keep things simple, and our connection with our customers, we only sell factory-direct with volume discounts that represent our reduced setup costs. There is never a design fee, as we love to solve challenges for our customers, whether it’s a single one of our many custom fixtures for a rooftop deck dog park, restaurant, or pool deck, or hundreds of fixtures for hotels, apartment buildings, and theme parks.

15 years later, we find that there are even more urban gardeners, hotels, restaurants, commercial buildings, and condo boards that are truly interested in making high-density urban environments more beautiful, more private, and more eco-friendly with low-lifecycle-cost sustainable green roof, living wall, patio, and balcony projects.

Rooftop planters shade a building in Miami preventing it from adding to the urban heat island
Rooftop planters shade a building in Miami preventing it from adding to the urban heat island while reducing peak electricity use by 18%. Like Solar, green roofs pay for themselves many times over while improving the environment, cooling the earth, producing oxygen, and sequestering carbon.

Residential and office condo towers are increasingly prevalent in dense urban and coastal areas, and contribute to the formation of “heat Islands” and global warming by adding heat-retaining surface area, unless they can be landscaped.  

According to the American Institute of Architects (AIA), buildings are the leading source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. According to estimates in the AIA’s Architects and Climate Change report, buildings represent 48 percent of carbon dioxide emissions, with transportation and industry representing 27 percent and 25 percent respectively.

The Green Roof movement is great, landscaping our penthouse roof lowered our electricity bill by 20%. However the ratio of wall-to-roof area is much greater on high-rise buildings. If Architects designed balconies with drainage and water spigots built into their clients’ high-rise buildings, it would make it easier for residents and offices to help offset their impact to a far greater degree, both in terms of cooling and exchanging oxygen for carbon, and absorbing other pollutants.

While lots of great looking pots exist, large surface area planters were scarce. Also, as I was soon to learn, pots had serious drawbacks for use up on windy buildings, especially on sunny south and west facing exposures due to solar gain of single skin pots and planters stressing roots.  As I proceeded through the sourcing process, I eventually assembled a list of attributes that I felt was important in these planters:

  • Large surface area
  • Aesthetically pleasing
  • Variety of dimensions and materials
  • Durable, with a low lifecycle cost
  • Low impact on the environment
  • Lightweight
  • Thermal protection for roots
  • Drainage control
  • Stability in high winds
  • Easy to water

Ultimately, I could not find what I was looking for, so I started my own design and manufacturing company to create customizable planters and created nine proprietary marine-anodized aluminum extrusions, no paint or powder coating to fail, including the Mariner leg used as our trademark, to address all these issues.

Our extrusions save valuable tropical hardwood and rain forests by containing the tremendous forces created by the endless wetting and drying cycles that wood planters go through outside. They also allow for the use of recycled plastic lumber (RPL) as our extrusions allow for the linear expansion and contraction of RPL created by temperature change. Our engineering and proprietary trademark marine-anodized aluminum extrusions are designed to make it possible to offer a Lifetime Structural Warranty when fiberglass planters only offer 1-3 years, and carpenter-built wood planters only last 3 to 5 years here in Miami.

Studio photo of DeepStream Proprietary Trademark Mariner L and T marine anodized aluminum extrusions.
DeepStream Proprietary Trademark Mariner L and T marine anodized aluminum extrusions.
Studio photo showing a Mariner Structural Architectural Aluminum Frame System L corner extrusion holding two wood panels of a planter at 90 degrees to for the corner of a wood planter.
The Mariner Structural Architectural Aluminum Frame System L corner extrusion is used to join two mitered tropical wood or recycled plastic lumber plank panels at 90 degrees to form a large commercial wood planter box.
DeepStream Proprietary trademark Mariner T marine anodized aluminum extrusion used to join 2 modular planters to create long planters.
DeepStream proprietary trademark Mariner T marine anodized aluminum extrusions are used to join two modular planters to create cost-effective long planters of any length. DeepStream Mariner Extrusions are engineered to mount an internal frame to hold a waterproof liner and hide drip irrigations systems and provide an structural attachment to mount privacy and security screens, trellises, gates, and caster wheels.

On major projects using the services of a Landscape Architect is highly recommended to shortcut the process of creating a pleasing space integrated with your lifestyle and goals. The fees you pay a Landscape Architect on a medium to large size job site will save you money in the long run and your installation will look better from the start..

Keep in mind that, as in any profession, many practitioners have found what they consider to be tried and true practices and may not have kept up with changes in the industry, so you need to be informed. A true professional will welcome your respectful input because the ultimate goal should be your satisfaction. Don’t be intimidated; share your ideas and feedback with them.

Ultimately many architects, developers and general contractors don’t understand the long-term cost of planters as they design, develop, spec, build, and walk away, leaving condo boards or owners with the true long-term costs of their decisions that will show up after the warranty period for their part of the project has expired.

Every month we turn down offers from contractors to quote projects that architects or engineers have designed that we know will quickly fail and tarnish our good name. If we can’t talk directly to the person responsible for the planter selection about the issues we see with their design or material, we have no other choice.

We built our company on solving challenges, not building disposable products that cost more in time, labor, mess, and the frustration of doing it over again. Build it right, build it once. If you don’t have the budget for what you need to achieve, then our considered advice is to cut back on the scope of the project, or don’t build it at all.

If you’re a homeowner, you may be unfamiliar with many of the resources I list, as they are sources used by Landscape Architects; however, the quality of products found using these resources are of a professional grade, and thus the impact on the environment, and the lifetime cost of these products is far lower than many “consumer” products that literally define planned obsolescence and a harmful throw-away society.

Planter Selection Challenges and Solutions:

Foremost among the problems I faced in sourcing large planters with substantial surface area was finding any large planters at all, let alone contemporary planters in a variety of styles and sizes that provided protection from soil overheating on south-and west-facing exposures, water drainage control, stability in high winds, ease of watering, and portability.

Large surface area:

Large planters, especially attractive ones, were surprisingly hard to find. While there are lots and lots of pots of various sizes, they really do not provide the large surface area to plant trees, hedges or vines necessary for the shade and privacy screening that I wanted for larger areas and rectilinear balconies.


Each type of material used in construction has its advantages and disadvantages, which vary greatly with construction and design.

Planters that I found with large surface areas looked more institutional or commercial in design and were more appropriate for a parking lot. They simply did not possess the appropriate design attributes of architectural planters for a residential project. Restaurants building sidewalk cafes and even expanding into their parking lots use our high-quality, easy-to-maintain products to reflect on the quality of the food and atmosphere that they are serving up inside.

Variety of dimensions and materials: 

Again, none of the ready-made large planters that I was able to find were available in custom sizes or material to fit all the niches and variety of areas that I needed planters for. That’s why we set up our shop so that our craftsmen can efficiently build to any dimension an never charge a design or custom fee for a customer’s solution — whether it’s one planter for a home owner or 100 for a major development. Due to the modular nature of our design and short lead times there are no expensive change orders at the end of the project when the as-built dimension don’t match the architect’s drawing, preserving budgets and reputations.

While there may have been a choice of color, there really was not a choice of materials that would impart varying but compatible looks as one finds in pots. In Landscape Architect terms, these large planters fall under the “site amenities” category and are really more appropriate for streets, parks and parking lots.

Fiberglass can crack and only comes with a 3-year warranty at best. Ceramic and concrete are not waterproof, and some concrete planters have steel re-bar at their core. Steel, which expands to 20 times its size as it rusts, cracks the cement, leading to complete failure. If a concrete planter is appropriate for your project, ask the manufacturer to add Xypex®, as used to repair dams, to the mix before construction to retard this process for as long as possible.

If you do have built-in, poured-in-place concrete planters leaking through a slab and along beams that can be reached from below there is a warranteed solution that can remedy this that does not require digging up the mature landscaping above. Feel free to contact Sheila at DeepStream for a referral to Seal Wizard. (305) 857-0466.

Issues with Concrete Planters

Concrete planters, while great as security crash barriers outside a building, are very heavy to take up elevators and stairwells, and they are just as much work to remove. You may need a crane.

There are some relatively lightweight concrete planters on the market now, though still heavy, that may do a better job if they can be adequately waterproofed.  Avoid planters with interior steel armatures and only buy cement planters that are reinforced with glass fiber in the mix known as GFRC planters. A detailed article with more information on glass reinforced concrete planters (GFRC) can be found here.

The ratio of surface area to weight, and lack of controlled drainage limits large concrete planters to the ground.  Light color cement planters of great mass offer some protection from solar gain, although they hold heat well into the night.

4 foot high large spalling white concrete planter on a sidewalk that loos ok from far away but upon closer inspection it has a long vertical crack.
The crack in this large concrete planter is not visible from a distance yet.
close up photo of a large white concrete planter with a vertical crack.
A closer inspection of the same large concrete planter reveals a large vertical crack.
A large white concrete planter on a city street showing massive cracks in pattern that reveals the steel armature used to strengthen the concrete is rusting creating spalling as the expanding metal cracks the concrete from the center of the planter wall both inward and outward.
Eventually a cracked concrete planter allows water to enter the porous concrete, rusting the steel armature which then expands to 20 times its original size, cracking the concrete.
cement planter on a city sidewalk showing the issue with drainage in a concrete planters leaving a messy streak down the planter from a side hole drain and a dirty puddle beneath the immovable planter.
Cement planter drainage is messy, and the planters cannot be moved to clean.
cracked concrete planter on a city sidewalk
Cracked concrete planter
close up photo of a cracked concrete planter on a city sidewalk
Upon closer inspection, the crack in this concrete planter is evident.

Planters that have no means of drainage control leave a mess.

Issues with Ceramic Planters

Large ceramic planters have some of the same drawbacks as concrete, although thinner walls make them lighter and more fragile, at least they do not have steel at the core.  While they provide some protection from solar gain through evaporative cooling when wet, more than a couple of hours of sun will dry them out.  There are no large surface area ceramic planters that I am aware of.

Ceramic planter on a sidewalk in front of a restaurant with peeling paint.
Ceramic planter with peeling paint is not a good invitation to enter your restaurant.
Ceramic restaurant planter with peeling paint.
Another restaurant looking shabby by using painted ceramic planters and armature frames.
Ceramic restaurant planter with peeling paint..
Do you think this restaurant’s kitchen will look any better than their planters out front?

Ceramic planters should not be painted, as they will peel immediately.

Issues with Carpenter-Built Wood Planters

Initially I was drawn to the wood planters you see at street cafés all over Europe, but every planter I saw was falling apart. With my experience in yacht maintenance and rebuilding, including classic plank-on-plank varnished hull wooden sailboats, I could see that existing wood planter designs were not built to last for more than a few years. DeepStream was in fact created by a sketch of a wood planter that I did while enjoying espresso at a sidewalk cafe in Milan that was delineated by this typical decaying wood planter that you see all over Europe.

Long wood planters using modular construction make custom adaptation very economical, so I was determined to engineer a system that would overcome any shortcomings. Furthermore, given the need for lightweight planters for rooftop gardens with a beneficial weight-to-volume and strength ratio, nothing beats wood except recycled plastic lumber.

Available wood planter construction techniques fastened wood to wood, and planters would tear themselves apart with the expansive forces that wood exerts through repeated wet and dry cycles. Think of a wooden floor when it gets wet and buckles; that’s the wood expanding across the grain.

I engineered DeepStream wood planter’s trademark Mariner marine-anodized aluminum corner extrusion to contain the forces of the wood as it expands and contracts and allow it to move vertically within the slot, not split.

DeepStream Wood Planters with hidden structural aluminum frames: click link for more information on DeepStream Mariner Planters
DeepStream’s Commercial Mariner Wood Planters have a hidden extruded structural aluminum frame as one part of an engineered three-component planter system backed by a Lifetime Structural Warranty. The anodized aluminum legs hold the wood planter box, while the frame supports a waterproof inner liner with advanced drainage and serves as structural attachment point for various options.

For centuries, wood dowels have been inserted into holes drilled into rock, then soaked with water. The expansion force of the wood is thus harnessed to crack blocks off marble and granite for construction, even though the blocks are hundreds of times thicker than the thin wooden dowel.

Since every wooden plank is cut from a different part of the tree, maybe even different trees, it has its own differential rate of expansion and warping when wet.  This makes dimensional stability using standard wood-on-wood construction in two dimensions impossible to maintain over time, and shipbuilding techniques are far too costly for planter construction. In addition, most wood planters lack adequate isolation from the soil and the deck or sidewalk, which promotes fresh water rot.

Rickety carpenter built wood planter
Rickety carpenter-built wood planter

New wood planters constructed by traditional carpenter methods are already rickety and falling apart. This does not reflect well on this restaurant, and they replaced it with ceramic pots a year later which, since this was the sunny side of the building, killed the plants with solar gain and this branch of a chain restaurant ultimately failed.

Carpenter built wood planter details
Carpenter-built wood planter details showing cracks, although almost brand new.

Traditional carpenter-built construction warping after just a few months.

Carpenter built wood planter details
Carpenter-built wood planter details

Horizontal to vertical separation pulling fasteners out, panels separating.

Carpenter built wood planter details
Carpenter-built wood planter details
Carpenter built wood planter details
Carpenter-built wood planter details

Raw wood feet on deck absorb water.

Carpenter built wood planter details
Carpenter-built wood planter details
Carpenter built wood planter details
Carpenter-built wood planter without a waterproof liner makes an unsightly mess

Vertical wood grain splits, warps, & rots

Carpenter built wood planter details
Carpenter-built wood planter without a waterproof liner makes an unsightly mess

Vertically exposed end grain, and non-tropical hardwood quickly succumbs to rot and splitting, even using heavier bolted construction

Carpenter built wood planter details
Carpenter-built wood planter details. This is no way to draw attention to your restaurant. I applaud your intentions, but you are better off not using planters at all.

Unsupported and exposed liners are problematic and unsightly. They clearly do not attract the attention to quality that you want your restaurant or business to stand for. You are better off having no planters at all.

While wood will go grey over time, just like your teak garden furniture, unless you spend time oiling them often, never varnish wood planters. Tropical hardwoods have been used for centuries for shipbuilding, boardwalks, docks, etc. If you like the character that time imparts to wood, as I do, a planter constructed using my techniques can last for decades and not waste this valuable and diminishing precious resource.

DeepStream Wood Garden Planter with Trellis
DeepStream Wood Garden Planter with optional Trellis as a privacy screen

DeepStream Designs horizontal planked tropical hardwood planters are a complete system constructed with trademark marine-anodized aluminum legs, no paint or powder coating to fail. An aircraft aluminum inner frame supports the waterproof inner liner equipped with advanced drainage solutions and anchors accessories like a trellis or casters. The replaceable HDPE plastic feet isolate the aluminum from wet decks and soil.

The rugged waterproof liners are 100% recycled food-safe LLDPE plastic, properly supported, easily watered, with advanced drainage.  DeepStream planters can look good for decades providing the lowest cost of ownership over time; in fact, they have a Lifetime Structural Warranty

Aged Deepstream wood planter
Aged DeepStream wood planter do not fall apart with time as they are held securely by trademark proprietary marine-anodized aluminum extrusions, no paint or powder coating to fail. Wood is separated from the soil with waterproof, food-safe, 100% recycled plastic liners with advanced drainage.

DeepStream’s commercial wood planters with their strong aircraft aluminum inner frame are highly adaptable and perfect to anchor rooftop screen walls, without the need to penetrate the roof membrane, for privacy and wind breaks in urban areas. They allow you to add protective glass screen walls and gates to control access, quiet noise, and extend the outdoor dining season for restaurants with patios.

A studio photo looking straight down into one of DeepStream’s Commercial Wood Planters showing how the hidden structural aluminum frame is attached to the proprietary trademark marine anodized aluminum legs to hold a waterproof planter liner and accessories.
DeepStream uses the principles of Sustainable Design to engineer its Commercial Wood Planters with a separate tongue and groove wood planter box held inside the slots of our trademark structural extruded anodized aluminum legs without fasteners. This allows the wood to expand and contract through endless wet and dry cycles without tearing itself apart, as will happen with carpenter-built planter techniques. The legs attach to a hidden structural aluminum frame that holds a waterproof planter liner and accessories. Lifetime Structural Warranty with no paint or powder coating to fail. All parts are replaceable. Commercial Wood Planter, extruded aluminum legs, aluminum frame designed to hold waterproof liner.

You can see how easy it is to refinished DeepStream wood planters in this detailed blog article.

Commercial Planter Anchored Screen Wall and Enclosures
Lightweight Mariner Commercial Planter-Anchored Screen Wall adds natural colorful privacy to roof decks without requiring problematic roof membrane penetration.
Click for more Info: DeepStream's large Mariner Commercial moveable Restaurant  Planters to anchor glass screen wall.
DeepStream’s moveable Mariner Commercial Planters anchor glass screen wall for a fine dining restaurant adding space, controlling access, and extending the outdoor season on a city plaza by meeting local codes preventing “permanent” structures.

Issues with Plastic, Fiberglass, and Foam Pots

Plastic and resin can be excellent materials if the materials incorporate UV stabilizers. High-quality fiberglass resins should be able to last for at least 10 years, but even then the surface will get chalky over time. Fiberglass can be waterproof if the proper marine resins are used or a barrier coat has been applied, but like resins and plastic, it will develop a chalky surface over time.

Proper marine resins and barrier coats are very expensive. If a Fiberglass pot is cheap, it will not last — but just because one is expensive does not mean it is well made. Fiberglass is brittle and prone to cracking as roots push out. The best warranty for commercial Fiberglass Planters in the industry is only 3 years. Personally, I really like the ones that incorporate materials such as copper in the epoxy resin so that the patina improves over time.

cracked plastic pot from a home store chain
Cracked plastic pot from a home store chain

The major problem with all these pots in a sunny location is the lack of protection from solar gain, even more than than size, shape, and longevity.

cracked plastic pot
Cracked plastic pot from a home store chain at a sidewalk cafe gives a poor appearance.

While there are many cheap plastic pots from home stores, I have never seen one large enough to be called a planter, and I can’t resist a word of caution. All of those cheap pots are too thin, contain no UV filters, and they quickly get brittle and break down. Many have painted exteriors that will soon fade and peel.

cracked plastic pot
Cracked plastic pot

One particular series of plastic pot found at a national home store chain actually has a two-part construction that can fool you into thinking that they are of higher quality than they actually are. After a couple of months, they separate and the thick top rim falls off. Others are constructed of cheap foam covered with other materials, which quickly break down, and fall apart.

Tap root cracked plastic pot
Tap root cracked a typical plastic pot from a home store chain in less than a year. Note the roots growing through the drain holes splitting them apart.

While okay if shaded, another shortcoming of plastic pots, aside from a short life, is that available pots are too small for larger plants and the taproot grows out of the hole on the bottom, ripping the pot and making it unstable.  Note the surface degradation of the foam core plastic pot, even in the shade.

peeling plastic pot
An expensive yet peeling plastic pot

Just getting some of the plastic and foam core pots from the large home store back home without breaking proved impossible. Their design and construction was totally inadequate, sacrificed in the quest for the lowest initial cost to lure in suckers like me!

When I calculate the time and effort expended to select, buy, return, buy, return for credit, and then start the process over again, the cost of that lesson was very high indeed. And that is without all the hassle and mess of planting and unplanting. So much for value at the low end of the spectrum.

peeling plastic planter
Peeling plastic planter

More examples:  relatively expensive foam core pots, above, show typical surface degradation in just a few weeks.

If you are looking for an attractive, lower cost planter that will stand up to the hard knocks of life on the streets, whether for use at home, your restaurant, or commercial business, DeepStream’s customizable HDPE Food-Safe Plastic Planters, think cutting boards and recycled milk bottles, might be just what you are looking for.

Click this picture for more information on DeepStream's website about HDPE food safe planters.
Perfect for Restaurants, commercial building and homes, HDPE Food-Safe Plastic Planters are food safe and are less expensive than fiberglass. They are more flexible and won’t crack like fiberglass and have a solid color throughout that is impervious to UV rays so they don’t show scratches or chip the same way as fiberglass. They resist graffiti and you may use paint strippers on them or even sand the finish. Since they don’t require expensive molds they may be crafted to the exact custom size you need. They also can incorporate hidden caster base options as shown on 2 of them at right above.

Less expensive, softer, stronger, and more flexible than fiberglass planters, they come with the same 3-year warranty. Unlike fiberglass, they are also environmentally friendly in that HDPE planters can be recycled again easily at the end of their long life.

Click to DeepStream's website to see more commercial HDPE planters
Commercial Food Safe Plastic Planter with wheels on a stiff aluminum base.

HDPE is a solid color throughout so Food-Safe Planters do not show scratches in the same way fiberglass or painted metal planters do.  You can use a random orbital sander to effortlessly create a unique new finish.

Click to reach DeepStream's website for more information about HDPE Planters. liners, and drainage
Food-Safe Plastic Planters can be built with support straps to hold liners which will improve drainage, and eliminate root ball heating from solar gain while eliminating the need to fill the entire planter with planting medium and soil.

Issues with Fiberglass Planters

Fiberglass planters are brittle, without looking closely you can't see the vertical cracks that are developing
Fiberglass planters are brittle: without looking closely you can’t see the vertical cracks that are developing that will lead to total planter failure in just a short time.
Fiberglass planters are brittle, corners and middle section are the first to go.
Fiberglass planters are brittle; corners and middle section are the first to go. The top flange is what stiffens them and once they crack it leads to catastrophic failure. This is why even the best fiberglass planters only have a 3-year warranty. Scratches show easily, but fiberglass is easy to repaint, although you really need to repaint the entire planter to blend colors as they fade rapidly.
Fiberglass planters are brittle, looking closely you can see the vertical cracks that are developing
Fiberglass planters are brittle. Looking closely you can see the vertical cracks that are developing along the edge in the center of this planter’s stiffening flange as the roots push out. Once the flange goes, it leads to a catastrophic splitting failure. This is why even the best fiberglass planters only have a 3-year warranty.
Fiberglass planter cracked by expanding roots
Fiberglass planter cracked by expanding roots
An expensive damaged fiberglass planter
An expensive damaged fiberglass planter

Contrary to popular belief most fiberglass construction is very prone to breakage.

damaged fiberglass planter
Damaged fiberglass planter

While most fiberglass planters are light, at the expense of strength, they may not be durable enough for certain location.  Currently most fiberglass planters manufacturers are competing on price, with Indian and Chinese imports skimping on materials. 

NOTE: Most of the fiberglass planters built in India, China, and even the US only carry a warranty of 1 to 3 years. DeepStream has a Lifetime Structural Warranty on the planters built with wood or recycled plastic lumber.  

More information on quality Fiberglass Planters can be found in this article.

Not an isolated incident, another damaged expensive fiberglass planter
Not an isolated incident, another damaged expensive fiberglass planter
Details of a damaged fiberglass planter showing the thin wall of fiberglass
Details of a damaged fiberglass planter showing the thin wall of fiberglass

In addition, fiberglass planters are almost all single-walled and prone to solar gain. White or light-colored ones would be better in sunny locations.  They do not have drainage control, nor do they hide drip irrigation lines.  The large expensive ones above are installed in Miami’s downtown area, and while shaded by buildings, they are not really rugged enough for the streetscapes in which they are installed, nor do they have much surface area.  Believe it or not, these planters are just 1/8″ thick painted skins of chopped fiberglass sprayed into a mold.

Issues with Metal Planters

Metal planters have various issues depending on the metal and the design.  There are very few large surface area metal planters, and many forms inappropriate for windy locations. All metal passes solar gain rapidly and is not appropriate on long sunny south and west exposures unless there is a separate liner inside. 

tippy leaking metal planter
Tippy leaking metal planter
Details of tippy leaking metal planter
Tippy leaking metal planter leaving rust stains

Metal planters leaking with rusty seams and rust through pin holes

Steel, iron and all forms of ferrous metal rust, including stainless steel. Corten steel looks great, but can leave stains as it ages.  Cast aluminum and bronze can have great longevity depending on the alloy, but painted or powder coated they look terrible within three years.  Zinc and copper patina nicely, but the seams will soon leak if there is no liner. Again, there are very few large surface area metal planters, as the metal is thin and non-structural.

3/16″ or 1/4″ marine grade 5086 or 5083 aluminum welded from the inside with proper rod, are incredibly strong and long lasting. Aluminum is the best choice of metal if its silvery finish works for your design criteria.

Click photo to link to DeepStream's Commercial Marine Grade Aluminum Planters
Modern commercial 5000 series marine aluminum garden planter with a random orbital sanded natural finish

DeepStream builds custom aluminum planters to any rectilinear dimension using yacht building techniques. While the natural random orbital finish is a little more expensive, as it must be blemish free, it lasts for decades and is easily refinished.

Click this picture to see specific details on DeepStream's website about commercial aluminum planters
Slightly more expensive than painted aluminum planters initially, the flat natural oxide finish that develops on unpainted marine aluminum protects it so there is no expensive messy paint or powder coating to replace when it fails in 3-5 years. Unlike fiberglass or HDPE planters, they will resist the tremendous pressure exerted by plants with aggressive root systems like bamboo or the Clusia shown here which will grow 8-10 feet tall and split lesser pots and planters.

While aluminum is easily painted or powder coated, be aware that, like fiberglass and every painted metal, scratches will show and you will have to blast and repaint them at least every 5 years if not sooner which is a lot of work since you need to replace and replant to do so properly.

Thermal Protection

From the plants’ point of view, thermal gain is as deadly as over- or under-watering. Pots, and most existing planters, also lack insulation qualities to protect the soil from solar gain. On a sunny 80º day, the sun can heat a dark single-layer pot to a surface temperature of 120º, and on a 90º day, the surface temperature can measure 140º or more, with the soil measuring 110º+ on the sunny side of the pot.

A woman is ussing a thermal gun to measure Thermal gain by taking the temperature on the outside of large planters filled with palms and flowering vines on a sunny penthouse rooftop deck in tropical Miami.
Measuring Thermal gain by taking the temperature on the outside of a planter on a sunny 80-degree day. With DeepStream’s liner-within-a-planter-box design the roots never get warmer than the air temperature.
The temperature reading on a thermal gun shows a reading of 125 degrees fahrenheit for the outside of a planter on a sunny 80 degree day.
Thermal gain is indicated by a reading of 125 degrees fahrenheit for the outside of a planter on a sunny 80-degree day. For a single wall planter or pot, this means that the roots will be negatively impacted.

Within minutes of moving a fiberglass pot into the sun, the surface temperature climbed to 125 degrees on a 84-degree day, while the “liner within a planter” concept in the wood planter behind it keeps the soil no warmer than the temperature of the air.

No matter how much water we gave plants with hot soil, they didn’t do well. Pulling a plant out of a dark pot I found that the roots were literally being steamed! Unless there is a thermal break between the wall of a planter and the container for the plant, the solar gain is transferred to heat the soil. A proper thermal break will keep the soil no warmer than ambient air temperature and prevent both thermal shock and steaming the root system.

dead palm stem in plastic pot on the sunny side where thermal gain killed it
Thermal gain steam roots in single wall planters and pots as you can see in this picture
Palms exhibiting thermal stress
Palms exhibiting thermal stress

These newly planted palms already show signs of stress in limited morning sun. The edges of the leaves turn brown and overwatering rots the heart out of the palm closest to the sunny side so it is lost.  Sea Grapes are much heartier, but will eventually succumb.

Palms exhibiting thermal stress
Palms exhibiting thermal stress

Only true low solar gain Low-E glazing, which is expensive, can block solar gain. Tinted glass is not enough on south- and west-facing exposures as you can see from these plants dying on a balcony and on the streets.

Palm in plastic pot exhibiting thermal stress
Palm in plastic pot exhibiting thermal stress
Palm in a plastic pot exhibiting thermal stress
Palm in plastic pot exhibiting thermal stress

Even the browning palm (above top) in the ceramic pot, which has some measure of evaporative cooling when wet, suffers heat stress.  The Robellini palm (above bottom) had no chance of survival.  It has lost the two east facing trunks even though the fiberglass pot is in the afternoon shade of the parapet wall.

If you are using a single wall planter in an exposed sunny location and not getting good results then try to place it behind a barrier to solar gain as you see in this picture.

shaded ceramic dish planter with the plant doing well as its  shielded from solar gain
Shaded ceramic dish planter with the plant doing well shielded from solar gain

In the photo above you are looking southwest, so the building shades the planters in the morning, then full sun for about two hours, and then the low parapet shades the planters all afternoon.

Drainage control

Drainage control is important for several reasons:

  • If planters do not drain properly, plants drown or develop root rot.
  • If drainage is too easy, then water is wasted, which can be problematic when faced with water and/or time restrictions and nutrient wash out.
  • Very few condo, converted loft or apartment buildings have drainage built into the balconies for planters or pots. We build trays to catch overflow that will evaporate without staining the deck. Having dirty water overflow from balconies and run down the side of the building or drop onto unsuspecting pedestrians and autos is usually not an option, and may be a violation of your condo rules as well as local city codes.

Condo Boards and building management are understandably reluctant to let residents have more than a pot or two outside on a balcony that can be brought in when it rains. While rooftops generally have drainage, it’s not usually where you need it, so they too have issues when creating a landscaped or green roof, even on a limited scale. We make planters on hidden casters that can be easily moved in under the balcony roof if your expecting torrential down pours we get here in Miami.

Drainage that is limited to a hole on the bottom, even covered with drain board and filter geotextiles, is especially prone to quickly repeated blockage that requires a lot of effort to restore. Good drainage starts with selecting the proper soil or planting medium. 

For more detailed information on Planting Mix Vs Dirt read this article.

DeepStream addresses the issues with a 3-part drain pad that helps prevent roots and loose soil from blocking the drain holes and waterproof plastic liners have a threaded drain hole to attach drain hoses to direct water to a desired location.

DeepStream Designs advanced 3-layer drain pad created with drain board, filter fabric, and Biobarrier
DeepStream Designs creates an advanced 3-layer drain pad out of drain board, filter fabric, and Biobarrier for you so all you have to do to maximize drainage is to place the pad over the DeepStream linner sidewall drain port and hold in place with the appropriate material to slow the flow of water to the drain.
Rugged food safe 100% recycled plastic waterproof planter liner with drain
Rugged food safe 100% recycled plastic waterproof planter liner with drain
Planter drain attachments fit DeepStream's liners threaded ports to control drainage
Planter drain attachments fit DeepStream’s liners threaded ports to control drainage

For more detailed information on how to best install planter drainage click on the following link for much greater detail:  Garden Planter Planting Instructions.

Ease of watering

This challenge is more complicated than it initially appears but easily solved with DeepStream planters, liners, and drip-irrigation:

  • First there is the issue of meeting watering schedules imposed by many municipalities, which may include watering at night.
  • Watering large planted areas, or a great number of planters, with a hose is very expensive in terms of time.
  • Many large planters can be landscaped with plants that have varying root depths.
  • Planters that have a reservoir system only water to one depth, so planting flowers or bushes to surround trees is impossible without additional water sources. Even then the deeper-rooted plants can be over-watered and drown without great care in watering and plant selection.
  • There is also the challenge of providing automatic watering systems without interfering with the aesthetics of the overall project. None of the planters designs shown above have a way to hide drip irrigation lines except DeepStream planters.

Low lifecycle costs, low impact on the environment:

These two issues really go hand in hand. Most developers want to create a “look” without costing a lot of money because the object is to sell the project for the most money while spending the least amount of money delivering that “look” so that profit is maximized. Resident owners may be limited by their budget but are, in general, looking for the lowest possible cost over time.

Quality almost always delivers the lowest cost over time. A well-made product that costs more, but last three times as long costs less money over time and exacts less of a cost on the environment. It also takes far less effort on the purchaser’s part, reducing acquisition and delivery costs, as well as freeing up resources for other uses. The decades longevity of our planters makes our them especially popular in urban areas like Manhattan where getting condo or co-op permission once is hard enough.

Often the cost of the product is confused with quality. The quality-cost equation comprises not only materials and construction, but also thoughtful design, careful purchasing, manufacturing, distribution, and sales cost. While two planters of equal aesthetic appeal and surface may cost the same amount, to truly evaluate value you need to compare the longevity of the design and material.

The lifecycle cost of a product greatly affects its environmental cost. Every material used in construction exacts a toll on the environment. I’ll not argue the relative merits of plastic over fiberglass, or concrete over wood, or aluminum over steel. Figuring out the true costs of the energy used by each process, the damage to the earth, and the recyclability of each material is beyond the scope of this forum.

In general terms, products will have a lower impact on the environment if:

  • They are aesthetically pleasing, but not trendy, so that you can enjoy them for a long period of time;
  • They have a modular design, constructed with replaceable parts so that they can be easily repaired instead of discarded should they suffer a mishap;
  • High-quality, long-lasting materials appropriate for the intended environmental conditions are used in construction;
  • They are made from distinct materials that can each be easily separated and recycled. You can get more information on Recycled Plastic Lumber and the Environment in this article.
  • They use materials from renewable resources;
  • The company you purchase them from invests more back into conservation than it takes from the environment.

According to the Yale School of Forestry, while estimates vary, it is thought that between 30 and 50% of all certified Tropical Hardwood shipped into the United states has been “Greenwashed,” meaning that shipments have been provided with falsified and counterfeit documentation. In some countries like Peru, it’s estimated that 90% are illegally logged, devastating their Amazon watershed. For more information click here:  “Greenwashed” Timber and FSC certification

DeepStream makes it easy and cost effective to go Green and stop contributing to climate change. By selecting recycled plastic lumber for your order, you will be preserving the world’s rainforests, the cooling lungs of the earth, while creating a sustainable market for post-consumer and post-industrial plastic waste.

Please discuss saving this diminishing resource for future generations with clients that specify tropical hardwoods. Our recycled plastic lumber requires no maintenance and lasts for decades without fading, saving your clients money while looking better over time than wood ever will.

If you do order natural hardwood, unlike carpenter-built planters, with DeepStream’s trademark anodized aluminum extrusions, you know that your purchase will last for decades and not waste this precious resource.  Carpenter-built tropical hardwood planters here in Miami last just 3 to 5 years, while DeepStream’s original planters are 15 years old and will last decades more. If your in the area drop by and see them on our penthouse roof deck, post-Covid of course!

Trees for the Future. Click for more info

For every product DeepStream’s American craftsmen create for our clients using wood or recycled plastic lumber, we plant between 50 and 100 trees in their honor through Trees For The Future.  As of mid-2020, DeepStream’s customers have planted over 450,000 trees through the Forest Garden program which has has many positive benefits for the earth and its people, in addition to planting trees.  For more information follow this link:

Trees for the Future’s Forest Garden Program is a simple, explicable and scalable approach with proven success. They train farmers over a four-year period to sustainably revitalize their land. They provide all of the training, seeds, tools, and materials. The farmers come prepared with their own land, ready to change their family’s life. Through the Forest Garden Approach, farmers plant thousands of trees that protect and bring nutrients back to the soil. This helps farmers grow a variety of fruits and vegetables. Forest Garden farmers gain increases in income and food security, even in the first year. These grass roots farmers become the teachers in a virtuous cycle, their success attracts others to whom they can sell or give seedlings.

Separate from the environmental concerns about using real tropical hardwoods, we highly recommend RPL Wood Planters, especially in locations such as shopping centers and parking lots, locations serving food and drinks which stain natural wood and make a mess, or anywhere sanitation and easy maintenance are a concern. Because DeepStream’s trademark planter legs are anodized, not painted or powder coated, RPL planters can be pressure cleaned and kept looking brand new with little effort.

All natural tropical hardwood planters will turn a light gray color and show stains and mold spots if not treated with a waterproofing and UV protector several times a year. This treatment will make all wood darker over time.

Given the time and expense necessary to keep natural hardwood looking good, and the damage done to the rain forests to harvest it, versus the “set and forget it” ease of using recycled plastic lumber, you should give serious thought to which you will select for your project. RPL comes with a 50-year manufacturer’s limited warranty, and DeepStream’s aluminum frame makes up for the fact that is non-structural. To see the available colors and wood grains: Click Here


Many of the large surface area planters I found were made of concrete, which may be too heavy for balconies, and even for roof loading, at the expense of soil depth required for the bushes and trees we wanted to plant.

Form is key to stability in high winds

While the weight of concrete has an advantage here, proper design can greatly increase stability. Many planters and pots are not appropriate for outdoor use because the bases are smaller than the top and the surface of the soil may be so high that they are top heavy. If they are blown over, many may break or worse. In many locations, wind can routinely be in excess of 20 mph and may well exceed 70 in gusts. You need to consider: If my planter is blown over will it blow off my roof or balcony?

planter form affects stability
Planter form affects stability

Even light gusts tip tapered planters and pots.

Planter Selection Solutions

2 DeepStream Square Modern Audubon Slate planters flank one in Copper
Two DeepStream Square Modern Audubon Slate planters flank one in Copper

All in all, finding lightweight, attractive, large volume planters with drainage control that provide a thermal break with an appropriate design aesthetic in a variety of sizes proved to be impossible, let alone planters that would also stand up to the test of time and the rigors of the property maintenance team.

Existing Solutions

I started landscaping my building in 2004 with the SeaCrest series of large planters from Tournesol Siteworks as a good plastic planter solution but unfortunately they no longer produce it. Every planter available at the time had some compromise, so despite the institutional look imparted by the roto-molded plastic construction, they answered most of the other challenges.

I ordered and installed more than a dozen of the 48” round and 72” rectangular planters for the rooftop, where we were able to engineer in the load capacity to hold their fully wetted weight of at least 2,300 lbs for the cylindrical planter and 1,500 lbs for the rectangular planter. We planted the round planters with 6’ high 3-stem Robellini palms.We planted two Jatropha bushes in the rectangular planters.

While the SeaCrest planters were designed with self-watering reservoirs, we found that it was better to put them on drip irrigation (more about that later), but the double-wall design for the reservoir planter provided just the thermal break that has allowed our plants to thrive despite the baking Miami sun and gave me the idea for my liner-within-a-planter design.

The drainage in the SeaCrest was always iffy. One other issue with the long 72” rectangular planter that arose is that the middle of the planter tends to bulge from the heat of the sun combined with the pressure from the soil, which creates a “creep” in the plastic. I think that “creep” could be a problem for almost any single wall planter made from non-rigid material like plastic, resin, and even fiberglass as the thickness required without a “web” for large planters is cost prohibitive. We have now encased them in our environmentally friendly recycled plastic lumber Mariner planter facades for a modern look.

A New Planter Concept

Since I found that there were really no planters on the market for the balconies and rooftop deck on my project that fit the demanding criteria for large modular planters, I created DeepStream Designs to create commercial planters of a Landscape Architect grade that would meet the complex design criteria I listed above.

I’m not going to recreate the commercial DeepStream website here, but since a picture is worth a thousand words so you may want to give site a quick review so that the information below has some context. You may notice that at this point I have only designed rectilinear forms.

Ultimately, to create planters with the large surface area and aesthetics that I was looking for, along with an unlimited variety of dimensions and materials, I had to create two different planter systems:  The Mariner Planter for the special challenges of wood and the Audubon Planter that allows planters to be constructed using any other material suitable for outdoor use. Both designs rely on the science and engineering of DeepStream’s “Liner within a Planter” concept for the ultimate health of the plantings, while providing the lowest life-cycle cost for the planters.

Mariner Wood Planters

Designed exclusively to overcome the challenges of constructing wood planters that will last decades while showcasing my favorite material. This is a modular system that allows the wood to expand and contract within the slot of a heavyweight marine anodized aluminum leg without destroying the structural integrity of the planter box. The planking is free to expand, but held at the ends by the legs.

Mariner rectangular wood planter
DeepStream’s trademark Mariner marine anodized aluminum extrusion, no paint or powder coating to fail, make a lifetime Structural Warranty possible. They prevent the wood planks from pulling themselves apart as they expands and contract with humidity.

Mariner wood planters constructed with DeepStream’s proprietary aluminum extrusions allow for many custom options such as Restaurant Planters with Windscreen or Garden Planters for Privacy, that incorporate features not available for other planter types.

Audubon Planters

DeepStream’s unique modular frame system that allows planters, or façade systems of any size, to be made from panels of any suitable material.

The Audubon extrusion allows any material to be used to make a rectangular planter. The planer shown here is using 3form Tigergrass Eco Resin.

Modern Planter with 3Form Bear Grass UV filtered resin panels

Audubon modern planter aluminum-leg
Audubon extrusion is a modern planter aluminum leg that accepts slide in panels

DeepStream’s unique frame system allows the use of any appropriate material

Audubon modern square slate planter
Click link to DeepStream website for more info on Modern Slate Planter with Trellis
DeepStream’s Modern Audubon Slate Planter with Trellis act as a privacy screen on a Miami roof deck. Lifetime Structural Warranty.
modern copper planter detail
DeepStream’s modern copper planter detail shows how expensive copper can be backed by an inexpensive waterproof backing, then captured by exclusive U-channel to save customers money and the earths resources with it’s panel technology.

Copper or any appropriate metal or laminate can be used.

Shared Design Features

In theory, only the length of available wood planks for Mariner planters and panel material for the Audubon planters would limit planter size; however, with intermediary legs, the size of either system can be expanded to infinity with DeepStream’s modular prefabricated multi-section commercial planters.

In practicality, the size of a single Mariner or Audubon planter box is limited to 72” in any one horizontal dimension. Dimensions over 72” require that a planter box become a facade that hides a planter liner, or a series of liners, which rest their weight on the building instead of being suspended by the planter box legs. Practical considerations include not only available wood plank lengths, or material sheet size and stiffness for the Audubon planter, but also available planter liner sizes and the combined weight of the soil and plantings.

DeepStream’s two-part “Liner within a Planter” design is not only a solution to solar gain and planter longevity, it is also a key component in drainage control while making watering easy, efficient, and attractive. Every liner can be fitted with an optional drainage system that uses a fitting placed through the liner wall about an inch-and-a-half above the bottom, a filter, a valve, and a hose that can be hooked up to a variety of drainage systems.

Rugged Waterproof Liner and Wood Planter Box
A DeepStream planter is a complete system: using a sturdy aluminum frame, no paint or powder coating to fail, to support a rugged waterproof food safe liner, and contain tropical hardwood’s expansive forces, or add structure to eco-friendly non-structural recycled plastic lumber.
Commercial grade recycled plastic liners with drain well and threaded outlet
DeepStream’s Commercial grade recycled plastic liners with drain well and threaded outlet that accepts hose barbs or other drain fittings.

The threaded drain, fitted to the wall of the planter liner, is more protected from blockage common for bottom-mounted drains.  Although seldom required the drain can be fitted with a valve to provides space for water to accumulate in dry periods to reduce water use and promote plant health. It is a water storage space that can be increased by closing the valve during dry seasons or periods of watering restrictions. The valve allows the drain to be opened during heavy rains to prevent dirty water overflowing from the top of the planter. During heavy rains, the rain will wash away filtered water even without a drainage system hooked into the building’s storm drain system.

Rugged Waterproof Liners constructed from food safe, 100% recycled Linear Low Density Polyethylene (LLDPE) are a key component of DeepStream’s planter design. The separate planter liner is a critical design component, providing a thermal break between the planter box, which absorbs solar gain, and the roots, thus ensuring that the soil is never warmer than the ambient air temperature. This design feature is crucial for plant health on rooftops and southern exposures and cannot be overemphasized or duplicated by single wall planters or pots.

Click for more information on DeepStream rugged waterproof recycled LLDPE food safe plastic liners with advanced drainage and easy to replant tapered design.
DeepStream rugged waterproof recycled LLDPE food safe plastic liners, with advanced drainage, have a tapered design makes them easy to replant and economical to ship.

Planters with reservoir inserts may be mandated by existing building design in some public areas due to complexities of providing a water source but they are far from an optimum solution. Drip irrigation, with a moisture sensor, timer, and rain sensor, along with DeepStream’s drainage control system, which eliminates drowning the deeper-rooted plants, has proven to be the best way to water plants on our building.

The liner rests on an aluminum frame attached to the aluminum leg, this keeps the edge of the liner below the top of the planter and allows air to circulate and keeps leaves or dirty water from collecting. Drip irrigation lines can be attached to the frame keeping it out of sight and run up to the planter hidden between the liner and the exterior planter box.

The separate waterproof liner also is the key to preventing contact between wet soil, wood, and metal. This design feature ensures greater durability of all materials, thus providing the longest product life, the lowest possible lifecycle cost, and the lowest impact on the environment.

Planter liner aluminum support frame
Planter liner aluminum support frame

Drip irrigation provides a natural top-down watering of the soil using a combination of drip emitters, spray heads, and misters that are best for simple and complex plantings with roots systems at different soil depths. Drip irrigation systems can be run off a low pressure “rain barrel” or the building’s high-pressure water system. Unlike single wall planters or pots, DeepStream’s two-part “Liner within a Planter” design hides drip irrigation lines that must run visibly up the outside of single wall planters or pots.


Durability, modular design with replaceable parts, low lifecycle costs, and minimizing impact on the environment all go hand in hand. To ensure that planters are durable enough to last for decades DeepStream manufactures its wood planters using recyclable marine-grade anodized aluminum and stainless steel fasteners assembled with a special dielectric paste to prevent electrolysis between the dissimilar metals. Aluminum is the world most abundant mineral and it also uses the least amount of energy to be recycled.

The feet on DeepStream’s planters keep the wood from the wet deck, preventing rot induced by wood resting in standing water. They are made from HDPE, a recyclable marine plastic that will not scratch decks and will not absorb water. Our planter liners, constructed from Linear Low Density Polyethylene, are made from 100% recycled plastic and recyclable.

Tropical hardwoods have been used for centuries in shipbuilding, dock, boardwalks, railroad ties and other extreme outdoor uses because their oil content makes them insect- and rot-resistant.Even so, these tropical hardwoods are not rot-proof and they can warp, twist, check and split, which to my mind adds character that is missing in today’s mass products. Our system will minimize all these aspects and contains the wood planks in a structural package for decades. If a plank should need replacing, the modular design means any plank or part of the planter can be replaced.

All of our wood is purchased here in the US so that it meets all environmental import source standards. Additionally, for every planter DeepStream sells, regardless of the construction materials, we plants 50 trees in Brazil.This is done in the name of the customer through a donation to  Trees for the Future. With that being said we encourage you to specify recycled plastic lumber instead as even certified wood has likely been “green-washed” and the depletion of the tropical rainforests is leading climate change.

Recycled Plastic Lumber (RPL)  In keeping with our mantra “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,” DeepStream has been offering Commercial Planters & Recyclers built with HDPE planks made from recycled milk jugs.

We stock 5 colors of this Green material and it is growing into a major part of our business due to its low maintenance and the 50 year warranty by its manufacturer.  Unlike wood RPL is non-structural and DeepStream has pioneered special construction methods to ensure that structural integrity of large planters is maintained. For more information on how Recycled Plastic Lumber makes a Planter Green read this article.

Click for DeepStream's Large square Commercial Wood Planters for Trees which use maintenance free recycled plastic lumber inside thier aluminum frames
DeepStream’s Large square Commercial Wood Planters for Trees use maintenance free recycled plastic lumber inside thier aluminum frames to hold rugged liners planted with trees in the forest clearing of the Longhouse Reserve in the Hamptons.
Click for more information DeepStream's Commercial Recycled Plastic Lumber Wood Planters
DeepStream’s Commercial Recycled Plastic Lumber Wood Planters are maintenance free and have a strong aircraft aluminum frame supporting waterproof plastic liners with advanced drainage. Marine anodized legs, no paint or powder coating to fail. Lifetime Structural Warranty

Almost any other materials can be used in the Audubon Planter system and each has its own characteristics, longevity curves and environmental impact.For instance, there are fantastic looks in new UV-resistant resins from 3form and Reynolds Polymer, just to name a few, that use natural material in the design and can be recycled. The primary laminate backing material for translucent resins is recycled and recyclable expanded PVC.

modern marble planter
Audubon modern marble planter

Tried and true marble or stone of any type, which can last for centuries, is given a new twist when we laminate it to ultra-stiff lightweight honeycomb aircraft aluminum panels so that a 42” planter box is lighter than wood, weighing in at about 52 pounds instead of hundreds of pounds. This allows marble planters, even with 18” of soil, to be used on a balcony or roof project. Even our largest 72” Mariner wood planter weighs only 112 pounds with a 16-pound liner. All of our planters can be shipped assembled and still go up an elevator or stairway easily, or they can be shipped flat and assembled in about 20 minutes with a Phillips head screwdriver.

Stability in high winds is a function of form, height and leverage.In high-wind situations, a square planter has better stability than a rectangular one, and a low planter has better stability than a high one. Of course, a low bush is going to impart less leverage than a tall thick clump of bamboo, while a high palm may allow the wind to just blow through.

Planter Dimension Considerations, although we often get requests for high planters our standard leg heights are 21″, 31″, and 42″ plus a 1/2″ for the foot. This height allows for the standard height of the liner to accommodate 16-17” of soil, plenty for most plantings, while keeping the center of mass low. Aesthetically, it also allows the plant to be the focus of attention, instead of creating a wall of top-heavy looking planters. Lower heights also keeps costs down. If the intention in adding height is to screen a large space, our modular design includes a trellis accessory that combines rugged aluminum uprights and rustproof stainless steel mesh that will stand up to hurricane force winds, yet is not top-heavy.

Here in Florida, it is not possible to bring all the planters in off our large roof deck when a hurricane approaches. We have clips that can be mounted to the fasteners that hold the feet in the legs thus allowing the planter to be bolted to the deck. Many people, however, want to have the ability to move them about, or have rules or conditions that do not allow them to be bolted down so in extreme winds they may be blown over.

Because of these hurricane conditions, I have designed the planter liner to rest on aluminum straps suspended within the planter box. These not only ensure there is no funky accumulation of dirt or water to soil the deck under a planter, but if a planter should blow over and the planter liner blow out, the planter will not sail off the roof as it would if it had a solid bottom.

Call Sheila at DeepStream Designs, 305-857-0466 for a 32 Point Checklist to ensure that your project is successful and help you solve any technical issues your project may encounter ahead of time.

Additional Resources:


Roof Gardens: History, Design, and Construction
Theodore Osmundson (FASLA)
W.W. Norton & Company, 1999.
“A wonderful resource for large green roofs in general and waterproofing, with a table of information about weights of materials  (p. 296).”


Fantastic sources of professional landscaping resources:Landscape Architect and Specifier News (

Landscape Architecture (magazine of the American Society of Landscape Architects –

Garden Design (


DeepStream Designs Drain Pads with Biobarrier root protection

Variflow Technologies, Inc. ( Multi-Flow professional drainage systems with very good information on drainage and preventing blockage using coarse grain sand. Their products are great for large drainage areas.

High-quality GFRC concrete planters

High-quality FRP fiberglass planters

High-quality aluminium planters

Drip Works Irrigation

Recycled Plastic Lumber makes a Garden Green

The Ultimate Recycling Statement

DeepStream Designs’ mantra:  “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,” is evident in recycled plastic lumber planters and recycling bins created to reduce human impact on the environment.  As I pointed out in a blog on Plastic Lumber Planters  more and more customers are making the switch to recycled plastic lumber reducing environmental impact at the same time as maintenance costs.

Recycled Plastic Lumber is perfect for clients that are working on projects striving to integrate sustainable design into their projects.  Using Recycled Plastic Lumber (RPL) for planters not only reduces tropical rainforest deforestation but it also greatly reduces maintenance for you saving you time, money, and effort.

The color of Recycled Plastic Lumber Planters Vs the color of 3 year old tropical hardwood planter like teak

For 10 years now, DeepStream Designs has been building planters with the same sophisticated design as the  wood Mariner planter using HDPE plastic lumber made from 100% recycled milk jugs and also planters from Phenolic resin and 100% recycled cardboard.  Recycled Plastic Lumber (RPL) combined with our trademark marine aluminum extrusions and aircraft aluminum frameless design is a no-nonsense “set and forget it package” perfect for restaurants, commercial installations, and residential projects where minimal maintenance is as important as aesthetics.

As with all planters, the plants themselves help cool the earth,  cleaning the air by producing oxygen as they convert and trap carbon.  In addition, RPL planters crafted by  DeepStream reduce man’s impact on the environment because:


– Using recycled plastic lumber or cardboard and phenolic lumber planks eliminates the cutting of trees and uses far less energy to ship and manufacture.

– The plastic lumber DeepStream uses is made from recycled HDPE (high-density polyethylene) from milk jugs and other polyethylene packaging that might otherwise be destined for landfills.

– The planter and recycle bin liners are also both made from  LLDPE ( low–density polyethylene).

– Aluminum, the world’s most available and abundant mineral, legs and straps, along with plastic components are 100% recyclable.

  • Maintenance Free!

– Uses no energy, chemicals, or materials to maintain.

– Recycled plastic lumber  never needs to be painted, oiled, or stained and won’t rot, splinter or split an in DeepStream’s marine anodized frame with no paint or powder coating to fail it can be pressure cleaned.

5 HDPE Recycled Plastic Lumber standard color options Ipe Brown, Tropical Hardwood, Aged Hardwood, Concrete Grey. and Weathered Teak
5 HDPE Recycled Plastic Lumber standard color options
3 samples of tropical hardwood options Ipe, Jatoba, and Cumaru
3 Tropical Hardwood Options

– Proprietary extruded legs of 6063-T5  aluminum are finished with a durable etched marine anodized finish and HDPE non-scuff feet.

– Stainless steel fasteners are installed with dialectric paste to prevent corrosion.

– Modular design facilitates easy repair should a product be damaged.   Recycle the damaged piece and receive a replacement piece at DeepStream’s manufacturing cost, using their Core Replacement Program.  Don’t throw away that valuable product!

  • RPL Colors won’t fade – Ultra-violet stabilizers used in the lumber ensure colors look as vibrant decades from now as they do today.
  • Cost EffectiveWorking with 100% recycled plastic lumber and cardboard phenolic lumber not only reduces production costs, but it also requires NO MAINTENANCE, reducing the life-cycle-cost of ownership over time compared to wood Garden Planters.

While the 100% recycled plastic lumber specified for DeepStream is still full 3/4″ thick tongue and groove planking with a simulated wood grain, and only a few cents a square foot less than natural hardwood lumber, several aspects of Commercial LEED Garden Planters and Recyclers reduce the manufacturing cost without cutting quality so that DeepStream can pass along the savings to its customers:

  • Planter Boxes and waterproof liners with drainage are stocked in specific sizes to eliminate waste.
  • Planing, sanding, and hand-rubbed finish are eliminated taking hours off of production time and saving energy.

Optional drain attachments with overflow control on the liners allow  planters to be used in any interior or exterior installations.

Planters with liners ship fully assembled, just add dirt, or they can be disassembled for shipping or flat storage in 15 minutes.

DeepStream's 100% recycled cardboard Phenolic lumber
DeepStream’s 100% recycled cardboard Phenolic lumber
RPL Tropical Hardwood Grain
RPL Tropical Hardwood Grain
Ipe Brown 100% RPL on top of natural Ipe
Ipe Brown 100% RPL on top of natural Ipe
RPL Aged Hardwood Grain
RPL Aged Hardwood Grain

“Ipe” Brown RPL planters

DeepStream LEED 100% Recycled Plastic Ipe Brown Planter
DeepStream LEED 100% Recycled Plastic Ipe Brown Planter

“Ipe” Brown RPL planters

DeepStream' LEED 100% recycled plastic and aluminum garden planters
DeepStream’ LEED 100% recycled plastic and aluminum garden planters

Phenolic, cardboard and resin, planks look like leather and thrive in the harshest conditions.

Shown here with aluminum Zephyr banding separating the planks on a 36″ cube Mariner planter and stock liner.

DeepStream planter made with 100% recycled cardboard lumber
DeepStream planter made with 100% recycled cardboard lumber

For more information on Sustainable Garden Planter Design click here.

Planting Mix vs Dirt

DeepStream Designs knows from projects with Landscape Architects across the country how important using the appropriate planting mix is when growing perennials, trees, and bushes.

DeepStream large commercial planters with screen wall and the fight soil mixture grow colorful flowers on this urban roof deck oasis

Replanting these heavy items with complex root systems will be problematic.  Getting it right the first time is well worth the effort.

Often clients use their “Landscaping Contractor” for this work. This may be a good solution if the contractor has extensive experience with container gardening and knows the value of selecting the correct planting mix. Otherwise it could be a mistake.

DeepStream rugged waterproof recycled LLDPE food safe plastic liners with advanced drainage and easy to replant tapered design. Click for info
DeepStream rugged waterproof recycled LLDPE food safe plastic liners with advanced drainage and easy to replant tapered design.

Why?  Many Landscapers are not familiar with using a planting mix as they are usually planting in the earth. By using “dirt” or “soil” it may make the planter too heavy for the load on a roof or balcony.

Dirt, or an improper planter mix, will prevent drainage if it contain clay fines that can block drains, may hold too little or too much moisture. Additionally, dirt might not contain the correct PH and initial nutrients for the plants that you’re going to use.

There is no universally correct planting mix, as area microclimates must be taken into consideration.  Selecting a planter mix requires an intimate local knowledge of the complex relationship between all the competing factors for beneficial plant growth and maintenance.  Therefore, it is essential to ensure that you have a reliable source for your planting mix.

DeepStream's tapered liner with advanced drainage and the components of the 3-part drain pad with Bio-Barrier to prevent root blockage
DeepStream’s tapered liner with advanced drainage and the components of the 3-part drain pad with Bio-Barrier to prevent root blockage

We have posted a blog on the long-term cost benefits of using a Landscape Architect for even small commercial projects but you still need to ensure they have container gardening experience.  Another reliable source may be the nursery where you are sourcing the plants.

Whatever you do, don’t assume that your Landscaper or other source has the knowledge necessary to provide the planting mix.  Before starting, ask about their experience with container gardening and what mix they propose to use.  Vague or generic answers should be your clue that you need to investigate further before proceeding.

Paver Base or similar mediums slow water flow improving planter drainage
Paver Base or similar mediums slow water flow improving planter drainage

By all means, make certain that whoever does the planting follows DeepStream’s instructions regarding planter drainage using drain pads and filter material.  Many “old timers” fall back on gravel and holes in the bottom which will soon clog.

A large installation of Custom Welded Waterproof Planter Liners on a roof top are compartmentalized to isolate drainage problems
A large installation of Custom Welded Waterproof Planter Liners on a roof top are compartmentalized to isolate drainage problems. Drip irrigation lines are inserted through the top of liner walls below soil level. Quick draining planting medium and drain p[ads are essential ingredients to the long term success of this extensive project.

Remember that most of DeepStream’s stock planter liners come with just one threaded drain hole. This is only the minimum, since some installations are inside and require the hole to be plugged or drain pipes attached.   One hole means one point of failure with no backup.

DeepStream will drill additional drain holes required by your installation at no charge.  Tell us where you want additional drains installed, and we will do it before shipping.  You may also add them in the field with a hole saw.  Deepstream can supply screw together flange fitting to add straight or 90 degree hose barbs to new holes you add.

Choosing Garden Planters

There are several issues to consider when choosing a garden planter.  Start with aesthetics, how it functions, and the cost value relationship.

In some difficult situations such as high winds where stability is paramount, or south and west facing locations with intense sun where there needs to be a air gap between the planter box and the liner to keep the root ball from overheating, you will have less options when choosing a garden planter.

Choosing a garden planter Large Wood Sidewalk Cafe Planter: click this link for a more detailed comparison of materials and design criteria.
When Choosing a garden planters function is as important as aesthetics. Self contained Cafe Planter such as these, with waterproof liners and advanced drainage, allow for cleaning underneath preventing pests and health code violations and the narrow design doesn’t take up valuable space. Another option is full dept planter boxes on casters.

You also need to determine the types of plants you want and what their soil, drainage and watering requirements are. Local Landscape Architects, landscape maintenance companies, or your local nurseries can give you good advice.

Choosing a garden planter Large Rectangular Wood Restaurant Patio Planter with glass windbreak: click for more details.
Choosing a movable DeepStream commercial restaurant planter with glass screen wall provides a windbreaks, controlling access, quieting noise, expanding social distancing space while extending the outdoor season.

When choosing a garden planter remember that it will affect your choice of plants which is determined by soil volume as well as sun and watering requirements All these consideration directly influence the planter liner depth and width so that your plants grow well as they mature and will not require a lot of extra maintenance.

If you’re thinking of planters that require a waterproof inner liner, pick a planter with a stock molded liner size first, otherwise you may find yourself limited to more expensive custom-welded liners. While all wood planters require a seperate waterproof liner not all wood planters are alike.

Wood planters built with carpenter techniques will fall apart in 3-5 years while DeepStream’s 3-component wooden planter systems have a Lifetime Structural Warranty. Longevity is provided by a hidden structural aluminum frame mounted to proprietary trademark anodized aluminum legs, no paint or powder coating to fail, which are engineered to contain the woods countless wet and dry cycles over decades. The systems has a separate waterproof liner with advanced drainage to prevent contact between the wood and planting medium while also providing an air gap to prevent solar gain from overheating the root ball, the gap can also be used to hides drip irrigation lines and electrical conduit for lights.

Another consideration should not be just the initial cost of the planter, you should consider the lifetime cost of the planter in terms of maintenance, replacement, and plant health. DeepStream’s planters have been designed and constructed using the principles of Sustainable Design to provide the lowest cost of ownership to both the customer and the environment over time.

DeepStream's Large Lightweight Wood Planter System
DeepStream’s Commercial Wood Planters with a Lifetime Structural Warranty are lightweight self-contained engineered system comprised of a wood planter box, structural aluminum frame, and waterproof planter liner with advanced drainage.

Follow this link to review the comparative attributes of the various planter types to consider when choosing a garden planter, including wood, fiberglass, concrete, metal, ceramic and plastic:

DeepStream's Large square Commercial Wood Planters for Trees use maintenance free recycled plastic lumber inside thier aluminum frames: click for more info
DeepStream’s Large square Commercial Planters made with recycled plastic lumber are strong enough to hold trees thanks to their hidden structural aluminum frames and plastic planter liners.

Functional considerations for choosing a garden planter and plants, to name but a few, include:

  • What are the dimensions of the space you have for planter placement?
  • Do you need long planter runs or individual planters?
  • Will the planters be placed on the ground, or on a building level that has weight restrictions?
  • Will they be placed on a hard or soft surface?
  • Will they be in a sheltered or windy location? Stability is a function of form.
  • Will you be planting annuals or perennials? This will affect your choice of planting medium.
  • What is the planting volume (liner size) required for the plants to thrive?
  • How will you water your plants, by hand or drip irrigation?
  • Drainage: what happens when they drain or overflow? If they are used outdoors, the size quantity and placement of drainage holes depend on heaviest rainfall amounts in your area. Indoors or on a balcony your planters may require plugs in liner drains, “directed” drainage, or drip trays.
  • Will the planters be located where they are easy to install and maintain, or will you be moving everything through lobbies and elevators where permission will be required and other residents inconvenienced by your installation and repeat installations should your planters need to be replaced in a few years?
  • Will you want to add accessories like a trellis, windbreak, or casters?
  • Are sustainability, replacement parts, and a Warranty important to you?
  • Delivery time
Large Rectangular Wood Planter
Large Rectangular Wood Planter

For assistance in choosing a garden planter, or answering these and any other questions you might have, feel free to call Sheila at DeepStream, 305 857 0466 and we will walk you through our 32 point check list designed to save you time and money or go to

Click for more information on planter liners and drip trays
A rugged waterproof planter liner with properly designed tapered sides and a threaded drain hole for directed drainage attachments or a plug. When used indoors or on a balcony the liner sits inside a drip tray that will be hidden by the outer box. The drip tray is proportioned to catch overflow and evaporate it rather than stain decks or floors.

Which ever planter you decide to go with take these considerations into account as they will greatly affect the success of your garden and gardening experience. More detailed information on the key aspect of successful container landscaping can be found on these additional subject pages:

Irrigation for container gardens

Planter Drainage

“Dirt” vs Planting Mix

Garden Planters for Privacy

Garden planters for privacy on rooftops and balconies can also hide unsightly objects and provide a windbreak.

DeepStream, your planter expert, sells Garden Planters for Privacy factory direct and back them with a Lifetime-Structural-Warranty.  DeepStream’s planters use trademark proprietary marine anodized aluminum extrusions that accept wood planks, aluminum slats, plastic panel, or even glass for screen walls that set up quickly.

Click for DeepStream's solutions website for more information on the differential height aluminum frame of these commercial wood planters that create a privacy screen wall and support an integrated trellis with colorful flowers
DeepStream’s trademark marine anodized aluminum frame integrates differential height legs to create this commercial wood planter-anchored privacy screen wall.

Using DeepStream’s large wood garden planter for privacy screen, and matching wood trash bins, these owners have made a cozy Manhattan rooftop patio that will endure for decades.

Using DeepStream's large wood garden planters for privacy, and matching wood trash bins, these owners have made a cozy Manhattan rooftop patio that will endure for decades.
Using DeepStream’s multi-section wood garden planters for privacy, and matching wood trash bins, these owners have made a cozy Manhattan rooftop patio that will endure for decades.

DeepStream Mariner planters are a 3-part engineered system for maximum longevity and landscaping health. Trademark marine anodized aluminum extrusions provide the structure for a hidden aircraft aluminum frame that contains the tremendous forces of the wood as it goes through an endless cycles of wetting and drying, expanding and contracting, that tears apart carpenter built wood planters,.

The frame is engineered to mount options like gates, casters, and planters with trellises which make colorful screen walls for privacy.

DeepStream Wood Garden Planter with Trellis
DeepStream Wood Garden Planter with Trellis as a privacy screen

The wood, or recycled plastic lumber, planter boxes protect the roots in the liners from over heating due to solar gain as can happen in single wall fiberglass, metal, or plastic planters and pots.

The rugged waterproof plastic liner with advanced drainage protects the wood planter box from the soil and the plants from drowning.  Drip irrigation lines can be hidden between the liner and the planter box.

16 sizes of rugged waterproof stock planter liners and custom welded liners to any size: click the picture for more information
Lightweight wood planters need liners to prevent them from rotting. Here you see 16 stock sizes of rugged waterproof, food safe, plastic planter liners with advanced drainage Custom welded planter liners are available in any size.

Long runs of planter anchored screen wall are easy and cost effective to erect even on urban rooftops.  Modular design allows each section to be set up in 10-15 minutes, all you need is a Phillips screwdriver and a 7/16″ wrench.  All parts are replaceable at direct factory cost should a part ever be damage.

DeepStream Designs lightweight complete modular multi-section planter system with maintenance free recycled plastic lumber, installs quickly, reduces maintenance labor saving and lasts for decades
DeepStream Commercial Multi-Section planters are perfect for urban roof decks where its expensive to maintain and replace planters standard planters.

Because the planters are pre-assembled using an inner frame and legs of marine anodized aluminum there is no messy installation as with carpenter built wood planters and less materials have to be moved to your roof or balcony.

Large Garden Planters with rugged waterproof plastic liner
Large Garden Planters with rugged waterproof plastic liner

The modular design also mean that you can use the elevator or even stairs to move your planters to the roof, not cranes.

Using DeepStream's large wood garden planters with privacy screen, and matching wood trash bins, these owners have made a cozy Manhattan rooftop patio that will endure for decades.
Using DeepStream’s large wood garden planters with privacy screen, and matching wood trash bins, these owners have made a cozy Manhattan rooftop patio that will endure for decades.

Condo owners with a balcony can also use planters for privacy by anchoring a full screen wall.

DeepStream planter for privacy on balcony
DeepStream planters anchor a 3form screen wall for privacy on balcony

Planters with an integral glass windbreak can be used to reduce street noise and create an inviting space for dining and drinking, extending the outdoor season and drawing in customers. 

Large Wood Planter for privacy created with a glass screen wall
Large Wood Planter with glass windbreak

For more information go to DeepStream Design’s solutions website at or call Sheila at (305) 857-0466.

Sustainable Garden Planter Design: Adaptability

A key component of sustainable garden planter design is adaptability: good design allows for the replacement, or reworking, of components to preserve the value and materials of an earlier design when a situation requires it.  Even if that situation arises early in the life cycle of a design.

Nowhere is the need for the design adaptability aspect of sustainable garden planter design more apparent than when an error has been made on large complex projects. Simple miscalculation between initial measurements and “as-built” dimension means that components ordered months earlier in a project do not fit when finally installed.

You can see in the example of sustainable garden planter design adaptability below, exactly how DeepStream’s modular planter design allowed us to cut down the lengths of planks in the middle section of a multi-section planter to accommodate an unrecorded change in dimensions at very little cost in dollars, labor, or materials.

While the wood will take a week or so to fade to the match the color or the original wood, the same design feature allows for replacement of parts, or further adaptation, for the decades long life of the planter.

sustainable garden planter design modular rectangular wood planters
Ooops! Sustainable Garden Planter Design allows for low cost corrections

Was it an error on the plans or an installation variance?  It won’t matter who was to blame when the adaptability of DeepStreams sustainable garden planter design makes it quick and easy to make even major changes.  DeepStream is American craftsmen hand building custom planters that reduce your stress and allow for a successful project to come in on budget and on time.

sustainable garden planter design modular rectangular wood planters
Sustainable Garden Planter Design                                         modular rectangular wood planters joined by a new infill section

As an experienced condo developer and GC, we designed our products to make it easy for you to specify our sustainable garden planter designs.  Just call Sheila at (305) 857-0466 and enjoy a successful stress free out of your garden planter, screen wall, or custom fixtures.  As the hands-on president of Deepstream, with thousands of product installations, Sheila and her team are a vast wealth of current industry knowledge and resources.

Sustainable Garden Planter Design waterproof plastic planter liner inside wooden planter box
Sustainable Garden Planter Design: rugged waterproof liner inside wooden planter box contained by trademark aluminum legs

All of DeepStream’s sustainable garden planter designs use a rugged waterproof plastic liner inside of the planter box, resting on marine anodized aluminum frames and legs, to ensure that planters last for decades.  There is no paint or powder coating to fail.

Unlike carpenter built planters DeepStream planters  carry a Lifetime Structural Warranty and all parts are replaceable and available at factory cost under DeepStream’s unique “Core Replacement Program”.

This type of liner inside of a wooden planter box, sustainable garden planter design also prevents solar gain from overheating the planter root ball which affects any single wall planter or pot. This design also creates a space to run drip irrigation lines and directed drainage.

measuring planter solar gain
measuring solar gain on the exterior of a planter

To find out more about how the principal of Sustainable Garden Planter Design can work to make your project stress-free and successful go to

Landscape Architects Help You Avoid Expensive Mistakes!

DeepStream large commercial planters with screen wall and the fight soil mixture grow colorful flowers on this urban roof deck oasis

Using Landscape Architects will save you money as you choose the proper plants for your site specific micro-climate. As you consider the integration of watering, nutrition, PH, soil weight vs depth and drainage it creates a complex matrix of possibilities that can make your head spin.

Roof top planters create a jungle that cools a building saving the penthouse 20% on electricity
Roof top planters create a jungle that cools a building saving the penthouse 20% on electricity

Believe me when I say: make a conscious decision not to use a Landscape Architect for larger projects because you WANT to go through the learning process, or because you have already been through the school of hard knocks, not because you want to save money.

While I acknowledge that I’m the type of person who wants to know “everything” and research the “double hell” out of everything I do, there are many things I either don’t have time for or don’t have enough interest in to get down to the really fine details about.

Having said that, probably like you since you’re reading this, when I do the research I want to buy as direct as possible and with DeepStream you are buying factory direct.

Mother nature’s miracle is making overwhelmingly complex systems naturally simple and available.  However, an extensive container garden or green roof is a totally artificial environment vs a backyard.

You need to pick the right planting medium for your plants, planters, environment, and drainage conditions.
There are many starting options as you create the right planting medium for your plants, planters, environment, and drainage conditions.

You are trying to mimic nature and chances are that over the long run you won’t save money on larger projects without using the services of a  Landscape Architect.  I don’t want you kicking yourself later.

As in back-country powder skiing and mountain climbing, you don’t get all the information from a book.  It takes years of experience to understand local conditions and seasonal changes to stay alive. The same is true for your plants.

When property owners and customers of DeepStream Designs contact me about large planter projects directly we make a conscious effort to have you at least consider the services of a Landscape Architect.

Landscape Architects large recycled plastic planter for trees
large recycled plastic planter for trees

Believe me, if you have even a medium-size project, the slight mark up Landscape Architects may put on products in addition to their fee is money well invested if you, or your project, are the type that can’t live with expensive and time consuming false starts.

Click here for more information on Landscape Architects

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