The Pot Makes A Difference - How To Choose The Right Pot For Your Plant
Updated: Aug 2, 2020
Planters come in a range of sizes and materials. It may be tempting to place your plant in a certain pot for a "look," but choosing style over function could compromise your plant's health. Even in the right growing conditions, the wrong pot can stifle a plant, and a suffering plant is never cute, no matter how great the pot is.
Different pots affect the way your plant absorbs water. If you understand how each type alters the growing environment, you can use it to your advantage. Choosing a planter is not only a style choice, but a maintenance strategy.
Terracotta, plastic, and ceramic are the three most common types of pots. Terracotta, ("baked earth" in Italian), is made of a chalky clay and comes in earthy colors like, amber, gray, and taupe. You can buy them smooth and unscathed, or distressed and calcified.
The big difference between terracotta pots and other pots, is that terracotta is semi-porous. When you water your plant, excess liquid seeps into the pot instead of stagnating in soil, potentially drowning the roots. You can see this in the video below.
Think of terracotta as a “quick dry” planter. It's a great option for succulents and plants that like to dry out between waterings, but not optimal for tropical, moisture-loving plants, unless you don’t mind watering frequently.
On the other end of the spectrum, you have plastic nursery pots, which don't breathe at all. What I love about these low cost containers is that they usually have lots of drainage holes in the bottom. Extra water exits immediately, but the soil stays damp. This means you can wait longer between waterings than you would with terracotta.
Choose plastic pots for moisture-loving plants, like pothos and philodendrons, and they become a time saving strategy.
Nearly weightless, they are easy to move around and switch out - especially when you're handling a larger plant. Plain plastic pots look best when used as an insert for cache pots, like the one in the photo above (right).
Glazed ceramic pots always look beautiful. You can find pretty much any color and style. The downside is that they don't have as many drainage holes, and the larger pots can be heavy!
The sparkling glaze creates a waterproof seal. Like plastic pots, they retain moisture and work well for tropical plants, but since drainage is limited, you'll need to be careful not to overwater.
Combination pot/saucer planters have the least amount of drainage. One or two VERY small holes hide on the bottom sides between the pot and saucer. Only a small amount of water can escape through these holes compared to fast-draining plastic nursery pots.
Here's an extreme example - a ceramic pot with a catch space, but no holes. It's a deceiving design. Watch how the water stays inside in the video below.
So when you choose a pot for your plant, consider how often your plant needs water and whether or not the pot you choose will help retain it or dissolve it faster. There’s no right or wrong here, just consider the amount of time you want to spend on maintenance. Hopefully the pot will not only look great, but set your plant up for long term success.
Plant lovers tend to have strong preferences about pots, and I would love to know about yours. Drop your thoughts in the comment section below, and as always, thanks for reading!