What kind of pot should you use for your plants? And how big should the pots be? These are simple but very common questions every plant owner will ask themselves when buying or choosing a container for their plant.
To help you out, this article will discuss everything you need to know about plant pot types and sizes, including how to choose he best pot or planter for different plants.
Pot Types & Sizes
Houseplants need containers. This is one of the things that make them different from those you grow in your garden.
This means that you need to decide “where your plant gets to live”.
Often, the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to buying pots or containers is how they look.
And, that’s great.
After all, most houseplants are there for aesthetic reasons above all.
But, for them to grow properly and stay healthy, you do need to consider other things besides how the container looks.
Here are some of the factors that you’ll want to consider.
From a gardener’s point of view
- Pot size
- Material the pot or container is made of
- Time or work involved
I’ll discuss them in more detail below.
From a homeowner’s point of view
- Cost. Here’s where your budget will come in. Pots, like most things, vary significantly in price. Some are cheap, others expensive. And, you can make your own as well. It all depends on how much you’re willing to spend and how many you’re going to buy.
- Lifespan. Will it be used just for a short period, ie. before you up-pot or transfer the plant somewhere else? Or, is it something that’s meant to be used for the long term.
- Space. How much space does it take up? And, how much room does your home or a specific area have? Containers that are taller and have small bases save space. Similarly, you can find pots or baskets to hang if you don’t have floor space.
- Design (color, shape, looks). How does it match your home or the room you’ll place it in. Does the color, size, shape and design suit your needs? In some cases you want your houseplant to wow your guests. In other cases, it’s a secondary or tertiary aspect of a room.
- How they affect the environment. The material the container or pot is made of affects what resources were used and how they can or cannot break down in the future.
That said, most plants you purchase come in plastic containers. As such, you can use them as-is.
In many cases, they are very simple and cheap. And, they may not match your home’s design.
That’s when it’s time to decide to get a new pot or container.
Here’s what to consider.
Pot / Container Size
If you don’t like to measure or estimate, you can take your cue from the pot that your plant comes with. The size will give you a basic idea of how big a pot you’ll need.
But, do be careful with this method.
In many cases, the plant you buy will still grow. As such, it may outgrow that initial container. If that’s the case, it may be a good idea to get something that’s meant to be temporary.
Basically, the size of your pot depends on the type of plant you’re growing.
Below is a plant/flower pot conversion chart. It shows you the pot sizes in inches and the equivalent volume in gallon, liters and cubit feet.
This will help you find the perfect pot for your plant
The Size of the Plant
Simply put, the size of your plant ultimately determines how big a pot you’ll need.
However, it is important to consider a few things.
- Will the plant still grow? If so, you may want to choose a bigger pot to accommodate future growth.
- Is the plant growing quickly? If so, it will need a pot that’s about 2-4 inches wider in diameter compared current container. This will give it the extra room it needs before you need to repot again.
- If it’s a slow grower, you can opt for something that’s around 1-2 inches bigger (in diameter).
For example, below is a chart that lists indoor plants that are perfect for large decorative containers.
You can put this in your living room, patio, deck or garden.
If the Pot is Too Small
Putting a plant in a pot that’s too small increases its risk of falling over. As it grows, it becomes unbalanced.
It also forces you to move the plant to a bigger, which is extra work you can avoid from the get-go.
There’s also the problem of soil drying out faster than normal. The small pot means it can only hold so much water. So, you’ll be watering your plants more frequently.
Finally, small pots stunt the growth of your plants.
If the Pot is Too Big
An oversized pot offers lots of extra room. But, it also means you’ll spend more on it.
Additionally, bigger pots take up more space. Depending on how much extra room you have at home, this may or may not be a problem.
Also, bigger pots will hold more soil and water. Thus, making them heavier to move if you need to do so.
Last but not least, pots that are too big cause the soil to dry slowly.
Most plants don’t like sitting in water or too much moisture. As such, it increases the risk of root rot.
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How Much Space Does Its Root System Need?
Some plants need a lot of room for their roots to grow. In these cases, you’ll need to get a pot that’s deeper and wider to accommodate proper growth.
So, it’s important to know your plant before deciding a permanent container for it.
Pot / Container Material
In addition to the size of the pot, you’ll also need to decide what kind of material it’s made of.
For one, the material affects how the container looks, including its color, texture and shape. Just as importantly, it also affects how your plant grows, how much water and air it gets.
So, here are some of the common materials used for plant containers. And, for each of them, I explain how that material affects you and your plant.
Terra Cotta, Clay
These are the common red-brownish colored pots you see in many peoples’ backyard including your own. They’re your traditional flower pot.
These are popular because they look very beautiful in the garden. And, their earthy color matches those of plants.
Additionally, they’re porous as well. This helps keep the soil aerated while reducing excess moisture. As such, they work well for most plants, especially succulents, orchids and bromeliads that like dry, aerated conditions.
Just as importantly, they’re very durable. Unless you drop and break them, they’ll easily last for decades. So, you get your money’s worth.
On the downside, they’re heavy.
And, the bigger they are the heavier they’ll get. Add to that the weight of the soil and plant, and you’ve got a little bit of lifting to do.
These are very popular because they’re cheap, lightweight and come in many colors. They’re likewise available in all shapes which lets you choose the look you want.
The downside is, they’re not the best looking, at least when compared to some of the other flashier looking containers. And, they’re not as sturdy, so don’t expect them to last as long as clay pots.
When it comes to plastic pots, do check for drainage holes. These aren’t porous, so if they don’t have pre-built holes, there’s no way for excess water to escape.
Many plastic pots come with holes in the bottom. But, that’s not always the case.
Additionally, color also matters.
- Light-colored pots, easily adapt to the weather. That is, they heat up and cool down fairly quickly. That’s a good thing
- Dark-colored plastic pots heat up faster. That’s because the color absorbs the heat and offers little insulation. Thus, they’re better off placed under the shade and away from the sun.
Wood containers often come in the form of planter boxes. You’re less likely to see many pots made from wood simply because it takes more work to make round dimensions using this material.
That said, wood is beautiful to look at. And, it blends well with the outdoors.
Indoors, it works pretty much like hardwood floors in that in either makes you your more cozy or elegant depending on how you use them.
Due to the variety of wood that’s available, you also get to choose the textures, styles, and colors. This makes them very appealing.
Wood also absorbs excess moisture and provides good heat insulation to protect your plants and its roots.
On the downside, wood can rot over time. They can also spit which makes your pot vulnerable.
Finally, if you plan to use wooden planters for your edible garden, do check how the wood was treated. Most wood go through some kind of chemical treatment so it’s good to know whether they’re safe for your food before using them.
You’ve probably come across some of these containers. These are made of stone. Thus making them very sturdy.
But, the material and size makes them expensive and very heavy as well.
That said, many people still use them because they’re very beautiful. Also, they’re pretty much unbreakable unless you hit them straight on with a lot of force, a power tool or a sledgehammer.
There are, however, newer stone containers that are made from lightweight material.
These are made using fiberglass and limestone. Thus, they’re durable yet lightweight.
If you like to add an industrial look to your home, metal pots and containers work very well.
They’re among the most durable because they won’t rot, chip or break.
You also don’t have to worry about aging as metal looks good over time, even when it changes color.
That said, they do heat up fairly quickly. Metal is a conductor so you’re not going to get much insulation from the heat with them.
Additionally, do consider drainage. The good news is, it’s easy to drill holes at the bottom to allow excess moisture to drain.
Also, do take note of the kind of metal that’s used. You don’t want lead, especially if you’re planting herb or vegetables in them.
Pot / Container Drainage
Never forget to check for drainage. Most pots will have some kind of hole at the bottom. This allows air to come in. And, just as importantly, it lets excess moisture drain out.
The majority of your houseplants don’t do well in standing water. As such, it’s important to make sure that your pots allow extra water to drain.
Since they’ll drip (dirty) water, It’s important to place something underneath the hole to catch the moisture. This way, it doesn’t mess up your home’s wood flooring or carpeting.
If you do decide to go with plastic pots or decorative ones that don’t have any drainage hole, it’s essential not to overwater them.
As such, erring on the side of caution is always better than loading your plants with too much water. Over time, you’ll get a good feel of how much water each plant needs.