You’ve picked out the perfect plant for your space, now you can pot it into that old planter you’ve had in the back of the closet, right? Hold on for a bit. That plant pot might not be a good fit for your plant or for you. While you obviously want a plant pot that fits naturally into your home and decor, there are other considerations to take into account before you make your final decision. Drainage, size and material all impact the health of your plant. We outline below what you need to consider before picking out your next plant pot.
The size of the plant pot will depend largely on the size of the plant (and the roots in particular). It is important to realize that your plant is a living thing and is growing everyday. The planter you buy today is not the permanent home for your plant. Just as you grew out of that romper as a child, your plant will outgrow it’s first pot.
In case there is any confusion, when talking plant size we are almost exclusively talking about the diameter of the pot and by extension, the root system. So if you see a plant listed as a 10” Bird of Paradise, this is referencing the size of the nursery pot it is in, not the height. Plants can vary greatly in height while having a similar sized root ball. As the plant grows taller, the roots also grow to support the plant, both to keep it upright and to absorb more nutrients and water to keep it healthy.
A typical rule of thumb when choosing the pot size is this: For plants in pots under 10” in diameter, choose a pot that is 1” - 2” larger. For instance, if you buy this 6” Sansevieria, a pot that is 7” in diameter will be a good fit. If it is 10” or bigger, choose a pot that is 2” - 3” larger in diameter. It is time to change pots when you see roots growing out of the drainage hole on the bottom of the pot or along the surface of the soil.
Having a pot with a drainage hole greatly simplifies care of your plant. A drainage hole protects the plant against overwatering by allowing the water to flow freely and gives the roots access to air. This cuts down on the risk of mold growing in the soil and root rot developing, both of which have a huge impact on the health of your plant. While most pots with drainage come with a tray to catch excess water, if yours doesn’t be sure to allow the water to drain completely before placing it back on the shelf or you’ll have a mess to clean shortly!
Sometimes the perfect pot doesn’t have a drainage hole. If this is the case, adding a layer of leca clay balls to the bottom of the planter prior to potting can be an alternative. The clay balls offer space for excess water to drain while also promoting root health by allowing oxygen to get to the roots. It is important to note that adding leca to your pot isn’t going to save your plant from overwatering. While the leca will provide a place for excess water to sit, it isn’t leaving the pot. Consistent overwatering will result in a pooling of water that will reach up to the roots and could still lead to root rot. You should be confident in your watering and plant care ability before using plant pots without drainage.
What your plant pot is made of will affect how you care for your plant, particularly where watering is concerned. Less porous materials like plastic or metal will retain moisture longer, so if you tend to forget to water your plants, this can be a good option for you. Most commonly ceramic is used. Ceramic pots are porous which means they will draw moisture out of the soil. While it may sound scary, as though the pot is sucking precious water away from your plant, it can actually be beneficial, particularly if you tend to overwater your plant. Terracotta pots are the same, but because they are most often unglazed, tend to draw water out at a greater rate. It is not uncommon to see terracotta pots have large wet spots on the side after watering your plant.
This is really a matter of personal taste. You are most likely going to choose a plant pot based on your tastes and decor. At Plant Society, we tend to favour plant pots that are understated and let the plant be the star of the show! We prefer natural materials like ceramic and terracotta over metals and plastic. Adding more natural materials to your household provides a greater connection to the natural environment.
While the material the pot is made of is an important consideration when it comes to watering, knowing how it affects water absorption will allow you to compensate. Drainage and size are much more important considerations when it comes to choosing the right plant pot because they will have a direct impact on the overall health of your plant and will give you the greatest chance of success.