Garden pots come in all sorts of shapes, materials, and sizes. Some are ideal outdoor pots, while others do better indoors. Probably the trickiest part of container gardening is knowing what size garden pot to use. Our guide below can help.

Material

The most common pot materials are plastic and terra cotta, or clay. Plastic pots are colorful, lightweight and low cost. They tend to retain moisture, so you’ll water less frequently. Choose plastic when weight counts, such as with hanging baskets or plants on a wall shelf. Terra cotta pots are heavier, offer beautiful patterns and typically cost more. These pots are porous, so plants need water more frequently. Terra-cotta is the perfect choice for plants that like dry or well-aerated soil, including cacti, succulents, orchids and bromeliads.

Size

Pots that are too big can cause a plant to sit in water for too long or cause nutrient burn from the large amount of nutrients the soil ends up holding. A pot that’s too small can cause a plant to become rootbound, leaving very little soil available to hold on to water.

This does not refer to the plant at all, but refers to the diameter of the pot that it is planted in. For example, a 4” plant refers to a plant growing in a 4” diameter pot, regardless of the size of the plant — it comes in a 4” tall x 4” wide pot. We use these terms of measurement to accommodate diversity in height and types of plants. A cactus that fits into a 4” pot may be 1” or 1 ft. tall. When choosing a pot, choose a pot that is 1-2” larger than the current size if the plant is currently in a 10” pot or smaller. If your current pot size is >10”, choose a pot that is 2-3” larger in diameter.

Drainage

Most houseplants don’t thrive in standing water, so your pot needs a drainage hole at the bottom that allows water out and air in. If you want to use a pot without drainage holes for decorative purposes, use it as a cachepot, which holds the pot the plant is growing in. Slip a practical plastic or terra cotta pot into a pretty container. This technique is also referred to as double potting. A cachepot doesn’t need drainage holes, although it should be large enough to accommodate a saucer that fits the growing pot.

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