There are so many things to consider when comes the time to choose the best pots for plants. Types and numbers of plants to grow, where the plants will go, the soil, the watering, the timing, daydreaming about how beautiful they’re going to look..! But that’s okay, we’re here to guide you through it all!
[dropcap]W[/dropcap]ith all of these aspects to consider, it may be easy to look over one of the basics: the actual containers. They are the foundation of (yes it’s in the name) container gardening. While it may not seem like one of the more important aspects, as many plants are quite happy in anything you throw them in, a little thought can go a long way.
Size is the most important factor when considering the best pot for your plant, as it can directly affect the happiness of the root system.
You also need to consider the pot’s material. Partly for plant health and partly for the attractiveness factor (if you care about that). There is a large amount of variation in materials and this is where it can be fun to get creative (growing flowers in a boot anyone?).
Size, materials, a balance of function and aesthetics, it really is like picking out some real estate for your plants. Just like us! We could get by with the most basic house out there, but we might be a little happier and healthier in one that is consciously handpicked. So here’s to some happy plant house hunting!
The right size: choosing the best pot for plants to stay moist.
Roots can be sensitive. Soil health has gained a lot of attention especially in recent years. Indeed, it has a large impact on the roots and overall health of plants. If you don’t have healthy soil, you usually will not have a healthy plant. The size of the pot is not going to affect the makeup of the soil, what nutrients and minerals it has. However, it will affect the moisture level and how effectively the roots are able to grow.
Size of the pot
The best pot for your plants is too big rather than too small. The only downside if it is too big is the possibility of the soil never drying out, which some herbs like rosemary, thyme, and oregano need. For the majority of plants, however, it is okay, even beneficial, if the soil is consistently damp. On the other hand, if the container is too small, the soil will dry out quickly and the roots will get cramped (eventually choking themselves to death). If you buy a potted herb from a nursery, it is safe to assume you need to repot in a pot that is double the size of the one it started out in.
Herbs usually do not need to be repotted if you give them a big enough pot to start out with, but other plants like tomatoes, cucumbers, and some flowers will benefit from the gradual increase in pot size. In general, a plant should be the same height as the height of the pot, so changing pots when you notice that relationship will be advantageous. Certain herbs like basil and parsley have large root systems that need a deep pot, (at least 30 cm).
Space in your home
It is also important to plan for the space in your home, on your balcony, etc. Before going out and blindly buying pots that seem large enough for your plants, try to think about how they will fit and look in the space you have. Take some time to draw out your space and experiment with the placement of containers. You will ensure a focused shopping trip, and it will then be fun to see the planning come to life in an organized fashion. You will eliminate the potential of having to sadly make returns of pretty pots that just don’t quite fit!
A good consideration to make is if you want multiple plants in one container. Sometimes, it can end up looking better and actually taking up less space than a lot of smaller containers. Herbs in particular can do well arranged next to each other in one pot. Your artistic side can come out when thinking about what would look good in what position!
Materials: some benefits and drawbacks
This traditional reddish-brown material is made out of an iron-rich clay. It is the go-to for many plant growers. Terracotta is a porous material which allows the soil to “breathe”, maintaining consistent temperatures and moisture levels. Its earthy look naturally enhances the beauty of any plant outside or inside. Because they are so popular, it is easy to find them in a wide variety of sizes.
The only things to be cautious of are its susceptibility to crack in extreme temperatures, and the possibility of too much moisture loss due to its porous makeup. If possible, bring them inside if the temperature outside is going to drastically change. If you are worried about moisture loss, consider glazed ones which will lock in that precious water.
While plastic isn’t the most attractive, it is inexpensive and lightweight. It is especially important if you think you may want to rearrange your pots. It is perfect for plants that will grow over the sides of the pot, hiding the “not so enticing” appearance.
Unlike terracotta, ou won’t need to worry about the possibility of breakage. If it is good quality, it can last a long time. Be cautious about dark colored ones if your plants need to get a lot of sun. Indeed, the plastic will heat up quickly and because it is not a breathable material, the heat will be trapped. Ask your nursery about them, you may be able to get some for free!
Wooden pots are a beautiful natural option and has many benefits. Like plastic, they tend to be lightweight. But unlike plastic, they are attractive and can be shown off. They also hold water well, and come in many shapes and sizes.
Be sure to buy ones that are made out of rot-resistant woods, like cedar and redwood. If you do get a softwood one, painting it with a non-toxic stain will prevent rot. Avoid buying the cheapest versions out there as you want a well-constructed pot. This is because wood will expand and shrink with the conditions (it could fall apart when expanding in the heat or shrinking in the cold).
Even better, you could make one yourself with some wood scraps and a few nails, for first hand assurance that it is top quality!
Metal and concrete
These two materials can create a nice juxtaposition with what is growing inside of them. Be careful with metal, make sure it is not copper or lead which can be toxic. Metal can also get very hot, and cheaper metals will rust easily. But other than rusting it is durable and worth a shot if you are drawn to that look!
Concrete is good for large, heavier plants, as it will not topple over in the wind (or be able to be snatched by an envious passerby). This could be a drawback, however, if you think you will want to move your plants in the future. If it is of good quality, concrete will last for decades, but if it is poorly made it could last only a couple of years. This is a trend everyone knows, the more you invest the longer it will last!
Get creative with what you may have around the house, or as mentioned with the wood, building some yourself.
I’ll always remember a house in my hometown that had a wheelbarrow at the end of their driveway, overflowing with beautiful flowers! It was so unique and always made me smile when I imagined the person coming up with the idea.
A large variety of different containers will work, but just make sure that they have drainage holes in the bottom. Roots do not like sitting in water, so this is important. Some ideas: a colander (talk about good drainage), cinder blocks, baskets, and old paint cans (just drill some holes in the bottom).
If you want to use containers without drainage holes, double potting is a good way to go. Use a traditional pot (probably plastic) with good drainage holes, and place that in whatever decorative container you like. As long as there is a little space for the water to drain into, it will work fine. Using this method, plants and flowers can look beautiful in a pitcher, bowl, or any container that calls your name.
At the Naples FL botanical garden, I saw flowers emerging from purses, clogs, even a toilet! And as I mentioned at the beginning of this article, an old boot can be more whimsical than you might expect when filled with your favorite flower. The more out of the box the real estate you pick is, the more you might be pleasantly surprised!