Houseplants are decorations that liven up any indoor or outdoor space. While some plants are able to survive out of the soil, most plants need some type of earthen medium to grow. If you want to grow a plant anywhere but the ground, you’ll need some type of plant pot to hold the soil, water, and nutrients your plant needs to thrive. It sounds simple enough, but there is a huge variety of plant pots to choose from that can serve many different purposes. Aside from pure aesthetics, the type of plant pot you get will determine soil drainage, durability, and many more variables that are important for your plant.
This beginner’s guide to plant pots will give you a basic rundown of different types of pots and what to consider when choosing one for your plant!
Plant pots will often have one or more holes at the bottom to help with drainage. Holes are necessary to prevent the soil from retaining too much water, which will prevent roots from growing. Overwatering is actually one of the most common causes of houseplant death! More often than not, you will want a plant pot with at least one hole at the bottom for good drainage. If a pot doesn’t have a hole, it often indicates it’s a “cachepot”, and shouldn’t house a plant directly. Instead, place a slightly smaller pot (with a drainage hole) inside the cachepot and elevate it just a bit so water doesn’t accumulate at the bottom of the smaller pot.
For plant pots with holes, you will usually need some sort of saucer below the pot itself. The saucer collects extra water and soil that seems out so it doesn’t get all over the place. Tip: put a coffee filter at the bottom of a pot to allow water and air to pass through the drainage hole, but no soil!
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It’s important to choose a size that’s just right for your plant. A pot that’s too small will inhibit root development and stunt your plant’s growth. A pot that’s too big will look awkward and make it hard for your plant to get water that is held in all that extra soil.
A general rule of thumb is a plant pot should be about half the height of your plant. It should also have at least an inch between the top of the soil and the top of the pot itself. If your plant is getting too big for its pot, it may be time to move it to another, larger pot. Check out this guide to learn how to repot plants!
The material a plant pot is made out of determines its durability, weight, and perhaps most important, aesthetic. After all, you want your plant pot to look good, right? We’ll go over the pros and cons of a few common materials.
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Perhaps the most classic type of plant pot is the terracotta pot. This timeless receptacle is cheap, versatile, and one of the most popular types of pots out there. Terracotta is Italian for “cooked earth” and stems from the fact that this material is made from baked clay. Iron in the clay turns red when oxidized (part of the baking process), and gives terracotta pots their classic red color.
One of the biggest strengths terracotta has is its ability to allow air and water to pass through. Terracotta is very porous, so water in the soil is able to seep through tiny holes in the pot itself. This means the soil can dry fast and overwatering the plant is rarely an issue. Terracotta is especially good for plants that like arid conditions like cacti and succulents. Likewise, air is able to penetrate from the outside into the soil to ensure the soil is well aerated. Terracotta pots are super inexpensive as well, keeping costs low when you want to add some plants to your living space.
Terracotta isn’t a perfect material though, and there are a couple of important things to keep in mind. First of all, they are not very durable. Terracotta can crack or break quite easily when mishandled, especially in the cold. Be careful when moving these pots around, because a slight bump into a hard surface could be its demise, especially outdoors.
Another weakness is that terracotta pots can actually cause the soil to dry out too fast. Although allowing water and air to pass through is generally a good thing, the soil can dry out faster than you realize. To help prevent this, try soaking a terracotta pot in water for at least an hour before using it. This will “hydrate” the clay, and prevent the pot from stealing too much water from the soil. And of course, it’s good to be diligent about checking the soil moisture in these pots.
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When purchasing houseplants at a store, they are often kept in plastic pots as the default material. This is because plastic pots are cheap, durable, and light. You can find plastic plant pots at any gardening or plant store and are often the safest choice to make when deciding on material.
Aside from the low price tag, plastic pots are durable. They are usually hard to break and can survive extreme temperatures in the outdoors. For this reason, they are great for outdoor potted plants. Plastic pots are also made in a variety of colors, shapes, and textures, making them extremely versatile when choosing a specific aesthetic. Oftentimes, they are made to resemble other materials like terracotta or ceramic, while having very different properties.
Plastic pots are also very light, which makes them a perfect choice for a plant you want to suspend from the ceiling. However, their light weight means they can fall over easily when they have a large or topheavy plant in them. For heavier plants, consider a material with a little more weight. Plastic also doesn’t allow for any air or water exchange and will trap water in the soil. Plants do need water, but too much moisture can lead to root rot and kill the plant.
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There are tons of other materials out there, but we’ll just finish with a couple more popular types. First, stone plant pots. Stone pots are usually very attractive, often adorned with ornate designs. You can see them at botanic gardens, museums, estates, etc. They are extremely durable and can last for centuries. But, stone pots are very expensive and extremely heavy. Stone isn’t the best choice for indoor houseplants that you may want to move around from time to time.
Ceramic is another type of plant pot material that is becoming increasingly popular for indoor houseplants. Ceramic pots are sometimes the most aesthetically pleasing choice, due to the many shapes, sizes, and colors artisans make. Often made by hand, they can end up being a bit expensive. They have similar durability to terracotta but don’t exchange water and air quite as well.
Hopefully, you’re now ready to choose a pot that’s just right for your plant!