When it comes to plant pots there are lots of choices. And, sometimes, your container choice can affect your plant’s health.
So, it’s important you know a little about the different types of plant pots.
In this article, we’ll delve into the most common types of plant containers. We’ll look at the pros and cons of each, so you can choose the best pot for your plant.
Why Do I Need A New Pot?
Before we dive into different pots, let’s take a look at why you might need a new one.
There are really two main reasons.
First, plants are usually sold in thin, plastic nursery pots. Most people want their plant displayed in something more decorative.
Second, if your plant has outgrown its current container, you’ll need a new pot.
The following are signs it’s time to re-pot your plant.
- The roots are visibly growing out of the bottom or top of its current pot.
- If the plant is disproportionately large compared to the size of its container, and there’s no surface area for it to grow.
- If the soil is dry and hardened, or water is running straight through the pot without wetting the soil, this indicates your soil has deteriorated. In this case, if the plant has not outgrown its current pot, you can just re-pot it with some fresh soil in the same container. Otherwise, if has outgrown it’s container, it’ll need a new pot.
Re-potting can be a traumatic event for a plant. So only re-pot when necessary. To learn more on how to re-pot a plant, take a look at this article from ProFlowers.
Plant Pots – Picking the Best One for Your Plant
Plant Pot Options – What to Consider
Now that you know why you need a new pot, let’s look at your choices.
Planter options and designs are practically limitless. It’s easy to become overwhelmed. But, if you keep the following in mind, you’ll help narrow down your choices.
- the size of your plant and its current pot
- where your plant will be located
- your budget
- your aesthetic
Let’s break these down just a bit.
There’s a common myth that the larger the pot the larger the plant will grow. This is not true, especially when it comes to houseplants.
When placed in too large a pot, roots can’t draw water from the soil quickly enough. This means the soil can be left too wet for too long, which can lead to an overwatered plant.
Plus, when a pot is too large, your plant may spend its energy on root development instead of growing bigger.
On the other hand, if the container is too small your plant will quickly outgrow the pot or become rootbound.
With size, the first thing to do is eyeball your plant’s current container.
Take a look at my jade plants here. As you can see, the three little guys in the huge green pot are not growing at the same pace as the others. This pot is really too big for these jade cuttings, so it’s going to take them longer to grow.
At this point, I’m not going to replant them into a smaller pot. My jade recently went through a difficult period and these guys have been through enough for right now. But, down the road, they’ll be heading into a new, smaller pot.
With houseplants, when it’s time to re-pot, go up one pot size – two sizes at the most. For example, if the pot is 4” (measured from the pot’s opening), move up to a 5” – 6” pot.
Outdoor plants are a bit different. For potted perennials and evergreens, you’ll want to think longer term, picking a size with a depth that allows for a couple of years’ worth of root growth.
My post on container gardening delves deeper into outdoor pots and plant types.
Location is particularly important when planting outdoors.
Exposure to the elements will play a role in the size and type of pot you choose. For example, if the area gets a lot of wind, a tall, narrow pot may not have enough stability. So this may not be the best container choice.
Indoors, weather is not a concern. However, if your plantis sitting by a window with high sun exposure, heat transfer and colour fading may come into play.
Whether indoor or outdoor, think about the weight of your pot once it’s filled with moist soil.
If you’ll be moving your plant around, pick a lighter pot, or use a mobile plant caddy.
Pots not only come in various sizes and designs but there is also a wide range of price points – anywhere from a few dollars to several hundred dollars.
As you’ve likely guessed, the larger the pot, the higher the price, but the material and design will also affect the cost.
Lastly, look at the pot’s shape, color, and design. Ask yourself,
- Is it pleasing to the eye?
- Does it fit with your overall garden scheme or your home’s decor?
Types of Plant Pots – A Look at the Pros & Cons
A quick peek around a garden center gives you an idea of the number of planter choices available. However, it’s not only the design you need to consider but also the material the pot is made from.
Porous materials are more “breathable”. This means moisture and air move through them more freely. Because of this, excess water draws out more easily, letting the soil dry more quicker.
With porous materials, there’s less chance of your plant sitting in soil that’s too wet. But, it also means watering more frequently.
If you’d like to learn more about watering houseplants, I’ve written a guide on how to water indoor plants. You’ll find it helpful.
Other materials are heavier and can add significant weight to the pot.
Further still, some materials can leach chemicals into the soil – something to keep in mind if you’re planting edibles.
Regardless of the material, you’ll want to look for a pot with drainage holes.
This is particularly important when you’re talking about outdoor pots. You can’t control the rainfall. So a plant sitting outdoors with no drainage can easily become waterlogged. I’ve seen it happen.
And drainage is just as important for houseplants. This is especially true for new plant owners or someone with a history of overwatering.
If you find a pot you love but it doesn’t have drainage holes, you can either drill a hole yourself in the bottom or double pot the plant. In other words, put your plant in a pot with drainage holes, then put that pot inside the decorative pot.
Let’s take a look at some of the different types of pots and their pros and cons.
You’re likely familiar with a classic terra cotta planter. Terra cotta, which can be glazed or unglazed, is very popular, and you’ll find it in various shades, shapes, and sizes.
- is porous, so it’s great for plants that like dry feet, such as succulents, or for the person who tends to overwater. One thing to note, glazed terra cotta is not porous. (terra cotta saucers should be glazed to prevent water from seeping through onto furniture)
- is very easy to paint or decorate. So, if you have an artist’s heart, or want to try your design skills, it’s a great material to work with.
- colors tend to be neutral and pair well with any plant.
- you may need to water more frequently, especially if in a sunny location.
- is fragile and will likely break if dropped.
- can crack with hard frosts and cold temperatures.
Plastic is a great, all-around option. If you’re considering placing your pot inside a cachepot (a decorative pot without drainage holes), then plastic is probably the best plant pot choice.
- is economical, being one of the cheapest plant pots around.
- comes in lots of different colors, shapes, and sizes.
- is lightweight, so makes a great option for hanging baskets, balcony railings, and wall shelves.
- not likely to break if dropped.
- retains water, so less watering is needed.
- colors can fade in the sun.
- water retention can be a double-edged sword. Even though you need to water less, the soil may become too saturated if the pot has no drainage, or if you have a tendency to overwater.
- not as environmentally friendly.
Ceramic pots offer a wide variety of pot options, from simple, solid colored vessels to ones with intricate designs and textures.
- is a good, sturdy material that’s ideal for top-heavy plants.
- holds up well in windy locations.
- comes in numerous designs, shapes, and colors.
- can be quite heavy, especially larger sized pots.
- can be expensive.
- there’s the potential for breakage if dropped or knocked over.
Wood is a very attractive option and can give your garden that rustic, homey feel. Cedar is probably the most popular, as it lasts longer and is pest resistant.
- has a lot of character.
- easy to paint to not only extend its life but to add your own flair to the design.
- provides good insulation to your plants.
- if treated, wood is not suitable for edibles.
- will eventually deteriorate, even if painted. (putting in a plastic liner will help extend its life)
- may require some maintenance to maintain its appearance.
Fiberglass & Resin
Fiberglass and resin pots are really good choices. And, in fact, might be one of the best plant pot options for your outdoor planters. They can mimic the look of other materials without the disadvantages of those materials.
- lightweight and come in a variety of styles and shapes and colors.
- look very much like the material they are imitating.
- are weather and UV resistant.
- don’t need any special storage during winter.
- aren’t as sturdy in windy conditions.
- can chip or flake.
- are more expensive than plastic.
Metal pots, such as copper or cast iron, can lend a garden or indoor décor a unique feel.
- metal is a sturdy material, that holds up well in extreme temperatures.
- ages well and weathered metals often have that great, distressed look to them.
- usually lasts many years.
- inability to insulate your plant. (one of the biggest drawbacks)
- easily transfers heat and cold. Even houseplants, if planted in the direct sun, can feel the effects of the heat more strongly in a metal pot.
- may need to add a layer of insulation, such as bubble wrap, or use your metal with another pot, to keep your plant from experiencing the effects of weather fluctuations.
Concrete & Stone
Concrete and stone can add beauty and elegance to any garden and indoor décor. However, due to its weight, this is not the type of planter you want to be moving around frequently, so think about putting these guys in a long-term spot. That said, if you’re looking for a heavy-duty, sturdy vessel, this can be your best plant pot option.
- extremely durable materials that handle the elements very well.
- great for windy conditions.
- can give a wonderfully classic feel to a garden.
- very heavy and difficult to maneuver, especially once planted.
- can be pricey.
Grow bags are a unique option, particularly for edible plants.
- are lightweight and flexible.
- made from breathable fibers that provide good drainage.
- they fold right up for easy storage in winter.
- a good option for vegetables.
- not aesthetically pleasing.
- aren’t meant as a permanent home.
Make It You!
Don’t hesitate to be creative and whimsical, or even humorous when it comes to your best plant pot. I think we’ve all seen an old toilet bowel turned into a front yard planter
With that in mind, let’s end with a few items you can repurpose into containers. And if the list below doesn’t quite inspire you, here are a few additional DIY plant pot options.
- an old colander can be planted and inserted into your decorative pot
- muffin tins can be used for seedlings
- turn an old teapot or metal pot into a planter
- line a wooden chest or old wine box with cocoa liners or plastic to create a beautiful, natural looking planter
- turn an old wheelbarrow into a showpiece.
- let your imagination run wild!
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