The Genuine ArticleGood-looking enough to go indoors, glazed ceramic pots often come in bright colors, which provide the perfect accent for subtly hued leaves. The porous material lets roots breathe, while the glazed finish conserves moisture. This Vietnamese glazed ceramic container (shown, far left), which stands only 12 inches tall, weighs about 20 pounds empty. (Unfortunately, this container is no longer available.)
The Flattering ImitationThe 16-inch-tall Provence Planter (shown, left), a 2½-pound polypropylene look-alike from Gardener’s Supply, is a fine option for someone who wants to move plants around. (Unfortunately, this container is no longer available.)
Experts SayThe fake fooled four out of five experts―and the fifth wavered. “This fake is convincing, especially when it's filled,” says Naomi Blumenthal, a garden designer in Alford, Massachusetts.
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Cast Stone Planters
The Genuine ArticleThe preferred material for the landscapes of popes and emperors dating back to the 12th century, cast stone earns its garden cred over time: the mossier, the better. If you want to break in your own, try the 115-pound Bowl on Pedestal from Charleston Gardens (shown, far left; $275, charlestongardens.com). This 21-inch-tall planter drains, so you can leave it out all winter.
The Flattering ImitationIf portability is important, choose the 15-pound, frostproof Fiberglass Urn from Lexington Gardens (shown, left; $325, 212-861-4390). It's 14 inches tall and compensates for its considerable cost with an uncanny likeness to the real thing.
Experts SayThe fiberglass replica fooled everyone. "The color and texture mimicked naturally aged stone," says Lenny Wilson of the Delaware Center for Horticulture.
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The Genuine ArticleThe terra-cotta pot is as iconic as the white picket fence of Main Street, U.S.A. Its breathable―if brittle―walls, which allow moisture in and out, provide excellent aeration for plants. Even the most basic 18-inch-tall, 30-pound Italian terra-cotta pot (shown, far left; about $50 at garden centers) can be pricey.
The Flattering ImitationMolded from a traditional Italian planter and made of a polyethylene resin, the Vaso Italiano Planter (shown, left; $50, plantcontainers.com) is 18 inches tall and weighs seven pounds. It won't fade, crack, or chip with exposure to the elements―but it also won't breathe or age to a ruddier color like the real thing.
Experts Say"This one looked the most obviously fake," says Wilson. Since the resin version convinced only one of our experts, you might mix this in with other planters.
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The Genuine ArticleThe most durable versions are made of a rot-resistant wood, such as cedar. No matter how strong the wood, most have to be replaced in 5 to 20 years.
The Flattering ImitationAs anyone in a house with a wood-paneled rumpus room knows, simulated wood is a far cry from the real thing. That said, the best of the bunch is the 18½-inch-tall all-weather Terrazza Square Planter ($80, gardeners.com) from Gardener's Supply, which weighs 11 pounds.
Experts Say"The white plastic boxes will never age nicely or become less glaringly white and fake looking," says Blumenthal. All the pros agreed, however, that the faux could pass for real if amply filled.