Choosing the Right Pot for Plants

Know the right size

In a too-large pot, soil dries slowly, making your plant more susceptible to root rot. When a plant is too large for its pot, it also has a tendency to tip over. In a too-small pot, soil dries so quickly that you’ll be challenged to water frequently enough. Your plant could become root-bound and exhibit stunted growth.

Ideally, place a plant into a pot that’s the same size it’s growing in. When transplanting because a plant has outgrown its current pot, shift to a pot 2-4 inches larger in diameter. Select the larger size pot for plants that grow quickly. For slow growers, a pot that’s 1-2 inches larger works well.

Decide on a 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.

Consider drainage before décor

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.

Choose any material or container you like, including wicker baskets, eye-catching glass bowls or metal boxes. Consider other unique items like hatboxes, serving bowls, cookie jars or vintage enamelware pieces.

You can even express your signature style by creating your own cachepot. Start with a basic terra-cotta pot and a few acrylic paints. Or grab a plain plastic pot, adhesive and something to cover it – buttons, pebbles, glass tiles, shells and sticks are great options. Your local craft and hardware stores are full of interesting items you can use to make your pots truly shine.

Why shouldn’t I put small plants in bigger containers?
October 17, 2009 1:50 PM   Subscribe

It’s all about moisture management. If you’re watering thoroughly (as you should), then soil in a bigger pot will stay wet longer, all things being equal.
With most plants, you want the soil to dry out every few days. (Some plants completely dry, others just mostly dry.) Soil that stays perpetually moist tends to rot and attract fungus gnats.
So… There’s nothing wrong with a bigger pot. But you have to take measures to get it to dry out sooner – use a less moisture-retaining potting mix, one with lots of perlite or vermiculite. Potting mix based on peat moss rather than real soil is less likely to rot. Put lava rock at the bottom of the pot to encourage drainage.
Since this is a lot of trouble, I usually just use a smaller pot anyway. But if I have a larger pot in mind for the plant and know it will grow into it, I fill the large pot halfway with rocks, insert the smaller pot, and then fill in the space with rocks or moss. That way the plant looks good, and when it gets a bit bigger all I have to do is throw out the small pot and pot the plant in the big one.
posted by mmoncur at 2:32 AM on October 18, 2009

Bigger Really IS Better, Tips on Container Gardening

Everyone loves to have beautiful containers of plants around their home and garden and it seems like we all know someone who just has a knack for having great containers. Years of trial and error and access to people with great knowledge in container gardening have taught me a few tricks of the trade. One of the things I love about gardeners is their willingness to share ideas, knowledge, and more often than not plants with their fellow gardeners. In that tradition, here are my tips to getting great containers.
You probably already know the typical things. Like, plant sun plants with sun plants and shade plants with shade plants. Choose plants that have similar water needs (no cacti with those water plants.) Choose something that spills over the edge and something with height and something that fills in the middle ground. But do you know the other little things you can do to help your planters thrive?
Here are my tips for creating and maintaining great containers:

Pots:
Anything that can hold soil and has a drainage hole can be used as a pot. However, small containers will need to be watered more often. When the temperatures start reaching 97 degrees; in the shade you may need to water a small container more than once a day.
If you want easy – large containers are better. Large containers have larger soil volume so the plants won’t need to be watered as often. More soil also means your plants can grow a bigger root system. Plants with lots of roots tend to be healthy, happy plants.

What kind of material your pot is made out of will also impact how quickly the soil dries out. Clay pots and cocoa fiber/moss lined containers will dry out more quickly than plastic or glazed pottery. Plastic and glazed pots are slower to dry because water doesn’t evaporate through their sides.

Water:
I’ve already briefly touched on water above and I’ve written two articles that talk, in depth, about watering container plants. Those articles are: Water Your Way to Happy Plants and Wait, That Plant is Drowning. The basic tips are water your container when the top of the soil is dry to the touch. Water until some liquid comes out of the drainage hole in the bottom of the pot. Be careful not to over water when the temperatures are cool. Keeping soil too wet will cause disease problems. Large pots are especially vulnerable to staying too wet because of their large soil volume. All of that soil makes things easier in hot weather, but it can make things a bit more difficult in cooler weather.

Soil:
Be sure to use a good, light potting medium. Potting soil is formulated to have a good ratio of water holding capacity and air space (roots need air space to be happy). Fill the container completely with soil, leaving some space between the top of the soil and the top of the pot (this is sometimes referred to as head space). In large container gardens, you can leave up to 2 inches;in smaller pots you might only leave ½ inch. I realize that filling large pots with potting soil can be a bit pricey, however, that additional soil volume will really help give your plants a boost. The photo below shows roots throughout the soil of this 18-inch diameter planter. The photo was taken in October, the container was planted in May. A plant with many roots is a happy plant.

Pour or scoop soil into your container. Do not pat the soil down, this is unnecessary and will actually negatively affect your plants. Once you fill the planter simply wet it down, gently with water to settle the soil and add a bit more if necessary. One tip to save you time, fill your pot to the top, by the time you plant and then water the plants in, the soil should settle just enough to give you the head space you need in the container.
Do you really need to replace all of the soil every year? It is best to replace all of the soil every year, but if last years plants were healthy and you have a very large planter you can replace the top half of the soil with new and leave the bottom half for one more year. Be sure to replace all of your soil at least every other year. If your plants had disease problems the year before, it is best to completely replace the soil. You should also thoroughly clean your container at the end of the season or prior to using it in the spring. This will decrease disease problems.

Fertilizer:
Fertilizer is essential for having the best possible containers of plants. The easiest way to provide fertilizer to your plants is to incorporate a slow release fertilizer into the soil when you plant your container. If you buy an already planted container or if you forgot to incorporate the fertilizer, you can top-dress (spread the fertilizer on top of the soil) with it. Slow-release or controlled release fertilizers will generally provide nutrition for 2 to 3 months.
As your planter gets larger and time goes on you will probably want to augment the slow release fertilizer with regular applications of a water-soluble fertilizer. Six weeks to 2 months after planting, I usually start using a water-soluble fertilizer once every week or so.
You can also skip the slow-release fertilizer and use a traditional water-soluble fertilizer from the beginning. Generally, you would apply a water-soluble fertilizer every week or every other week while watering your containers. Read the directions on your fertilizer package for specific application instructions.
Your planters will likely grow along doing reasonably well without fertilizer but to maximize their potential you should fertilize regularly.

For more information on fertilization, click here.

Number of Plants:
There are two basic ways to plant a combination. The traditional planting and the “living plant arrangement.” Traditional planting is when you allow enough room between plants that the containers looks full after 2 to 3 weeks of additional growth. Generally, I would use 3 or maybe 4 plants in 10 or 12-inch planters; 5 to 8 plants in 16 to 20-inch planters and so on. This article has more information on how many plants to use and where to place them within the planter.

With the traditional planting you need to have a bit of patience to get a completely full planter. However, the plants will be healthier since fewer plants mean better root growth. Less crowded containers also have better airflow around the plants. Better airflow will help foliage dry faster, which will decrease disease.

The living plant arrangement is when you place as many plants as possible into each planter. This allows the container to look full immediately after planting. However, since living flower arrangements are crowded; they tend not to have as much longevity and often have greater disease problems. Living flower arrangements can be really useful if you need to have a high impact container immediately, say for a party the weekend you are planting.

One last little tip; if one plant starts to takeover a container feel free to trim it back to give the other plants room to grow. On the other hand, if you are like me, you can let your plants duke it out, a veritable microcosm of Darwin’s survival of the fittest.

When it comes to caring for containers, hanging baskets have their own special challenges. For information specific to hanging basket care .

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Potted Plant

When working with potted plants, it is important to ensure that the plants are treated with slow release fertilizer. Proper draining is equally important to prevent flooding and rot triggered by excess humidity. In fact, some botanists claim that lack of proper drainage can actually cause severe diseases, causing the plants to desiccate.

Most pots come with small holes at the bottom to ensure drainage. If the pot doesn’t come with holes, gardeners should punch or drill a couple of tiny holes to let just enough water to escape without hindering irrigation.

When growing plants in pots, planters should ensure that the soil remains damp but not wet. Slow-release fertilizer should also be mixed directly into the soil prior to transferring the seedling into the container.

Potted plants are available for sale in garden nurseries and in many grocery stores where they are popular as gifts. Some potted plants purchased this way can eventually be transplanted into the soil garden or raised bed.

Plants grown in containers in a hydroponics system are not typically referred to as potted plants. The term is more popularly used to refer to traditionally grown plants in potting mixes and/or common houseplants.

potted

From Longman Dictionary of Contemporary EnglishGardening, Foodpottedpot‧ted /ˈpɒtɪd $ ˈpɑː-/ adjective 1 DLGgrowing indoors in a pot a potted plant2 → potted history/biography/version3 British EnglishDF potted meat or fish has been cooked and stored in a container, usually in the form of a paste for spreading on breadExamples from the Corpuspotted• They were farcically satirical potted biographies in sets of two rhyming couplets.• Some include potted guides to Euro-jargon and decision-making, with compendia of recent important legislation.• Martin’s potted history of each railway is certainly sufficiently detailed to whet the appetite enough to free buttocks from armchair Dralon.• a potted palm• Katina puts out her best potted plant on a stand on the pavement in the summer.• Suspend a cage from a strong hook in the ceiling and fill it with potted plants, preferably the trailing kind.• Polling stations would be awash with coffee machines and potted plants.• Make room in the greenhouse for first batches of potted roses.potted plant• Ku allegedly paid him with $ 500 left under a potted plant.• Polling stations would be awash with coffee machines and potted plants.• This obviously does not occur with well-grown potted plants.• They wish to convert Pima County supervisors into potted plants like the Tucson mayor and council.• Katina puts out her best potted plant on a stand on the pavement in the summer.• Suspend a cage from a strong hook in the ceiling and fill it with potted plants, preferably the trailing kind.• Time-released water capsules for your potted plants when you were away?

Do you know when or how to properly repot a plant? Many of us wait until it is bursting out of its pot, pull it out, put it in a new pot, add some soil and hope it grows.

Here are a few signs that your plant needs a new home:

  1. The plant simply looks like it is too big for its pot
  2. The roots are growing out of the drainage holes
  3. Water is sitting on the top and not absorbing
  4. The soil is dried out or looks like it is disintegrating
  5. It’s been years since you repotted it

Whether you are transitioning to a new pot because your flowers are flourishing in the springtime weather or you just want to freshen up your decor, we want to give your house plants the best shot at survival in their new home. Follow the seven simple steps and you will be admiring the handiwork of your green thumb in no time.

Before you get to work, let’s make sure you have all the supplies you need.

Supplies

  • New pot – Be sure to pick a new pot that is slightly larger and has drainage holes.
  • Porous material – You will need these to cover the drainage holes in your new pot, coffee filters work great.
  • Potting mix – You will need extra soil when repotting and the added nutrients will help your plant grow.
  • Trowel – A trowel looks like a mini shovel and comes in handy when trying to remove the plant.
  • Gloves – While these aren’t necessary, gardening gloves will keep the dirt from getting under your nails.
  • Scissors or a sharp knife – You might need to cut off excess roots so keep a sharp knife or scissors handy.
  • Watering can – While this isn’t necessary, a watering can will make watering the plant easier on you.

How to Repot a Plant

Step 1: Choose a larger pot.

The main reason for repotting is because the plant has begun to outgrow its current home. You will want to give the roots plenty of room so they can support the beautiful part of the plant you get to enjoy. Make sure the new pot is not only wider, but also deeper. We recommend giving the plant at least an extra inch, depending on size.

Pro tip: Make sure your new pot has drainage holes. Otherwise your plant might be sitting in water and rotting.

Step 2: Cover the drainage holes with a porous material like a coffee filter.

This prevents soil from falling out but still allows water to pass through.

Pro tip: If you opt for a terra cotta pot, soak it ahead of time. Terra cotta absorbs moisture, and you don’t want it to dry out the plant.

Step 3: Layer soil in the new pot.

Before you place the new plant inside, add a base layer of soil so the roots have new space to grow. Add enough so that your plant has room without spilling over the top.

Step 4: Water the plant.

Before you repot it, water it thoroughly. This will help keep the plant healthy and keeps the rootball together.

Step 5: Remove the plant from it’s old pot.

Rather than pulling the plant out, turn it upside down while placing your hand over the top of the pot. Rotate the plant a few inches in both directions to loosen it up and allow it to fall out. You can use a knife to help separate the plant and the pot.

Step 6: Prune the rootball and untangle old roots.

Pruning older roots will help the plant flourish in its new pot. Remove roots that are growing out of the core rootball. Now that you only have the new, healthy roots to deal with, untangle them so they grow outward instead of internally.

Step 7: Place the plant in it’s new pot.

Make sure the plant is centered and upright then press it firmly into it’s new home and add soil. Once you have patted it down, water it to help settle the soil.

Step 8: Add a decorative touch.

Don’t forget to place your plant in a decorative basket of your choosing! Perfect for holidays, festivities or as a decorative touch for just about any space.

Now that your plant is potted, make sure you continue to care for it properly. We listed a few tips below for the first few weeks after repotting. Once you get past this period, return to caring for them as you did before.

  • Water frequently. Your plant will need a little extra water as it adjusts. The roots may begin to grow and will need the extra moisture.
  • Keep away from full sunlight as it will be more sensitive during this period.
  • Hold off on fertilizing for about a month.

Complete Guide to Repotting a Plant

You can find our complete guide to repotting a plant with the step-by-step instructions below—print it out, share it with friends or save it for a later project. Give your plants the best shot at survival and rest assured you’re repotting correctly. Happy gardening!


When repotting houseplants, make the new pot only one size larger.

Late winter/early spring is a great time to repot houseplants since they’re getting ready to begin their spring growth spurt, and we gardeners are so stir crazy that we’re looking for a good reason to get our hands dirty! Depending on your plant’s needs, you have several options:

  • Repot in a Bigger Pot: For plants that are actively growing and have become pot bound.
  • Repot in the Same Pot with Fresh Soil: For neglected plants or ones you wish to keep the same size.
  • Refresh the Top Layer of Soil: For very large plants that would be hard to repot, or healthy ones that you’d like to spruce up.

Here’s how to go about successfully repotting your houseplants.


This suffering peace lily needs drainage and better soil.

When to Repot Plants

Just because you have the digging itch doesn’t mean your plants need to be uprooted! The majority of tropical houseplants actually like to be a little crowded in their pots, and increasing the pot size when it’s not necessary can do more harm than good. Signs that a plant needs to be repotted include:

  • Plants that are straggly, pale, or have stopped growing.
  • Water runs immediately out the bottom without soaking into the soil.
  • Top heavy plants that keep falling over.
  • Pots without drainage holes in the bottom.
  • Roots that poke out of the soil or the holes in the bottom of the pot.
  • Thick roots that are coiled tightly in a circle (gently remove plant from pot to inspect).

Supplies Needed to Repot Plants

  • Tools: Trowel, gloves, scissors, and a clean sharp knife.
  • Potting Soil: Choose a high quality potting mix specific to your type of plant. Special mixes are available for cacti, African violets, citrus, orchids, and many other types of houseplants. For general repotting of foliage plants, use an all-purpose houseplant potting mix.
  • Pots: Choose pots that have drainage holes in the bottom and are no more than 1”- 2” larger in diameter than the current pot. Resist the urge to use a bigger pot, since your plant won’t appreciate the extra room and all the extra soggy soil can suffocate it.
  • Work Space: Unless you have a really warm day (in the 60s or more), do your repotting indoors. Spread some newspaper or plastic to make cleanup easier.

How to Repot Plants

Step 1: Water Plant

Lightly water your plant to help the root ball and soil slide more easily out of the pot.

Step 2: Remove Plant

Remove your plant from the pot by carefully turning it on its side, then support the main stem in one hand and use the other hand to gently pull the pot away. Try not to pull on the stem – if necessary, you can gently tap the pot on the counter, or use a knife or trowel to loosen the soil around the edges of the pot. Be careful not to yank or break the main stems of the plant!

Step 3: Prune Roots

When moving your plant to a larger pot, begin by inspecting the roots and soil. If the soil is in good shape, try to disturb it as little as possible. If it’s rotten or moldy, shake away some of the excess, but remember that removing soil will stress your plant even more. If the roots are tightly coiled, use your fingers or a sharp knife to loosen or gently slice them so they can spread out, trimming away any really long ends. Cut away any rotten or dead roots.

When repotting in the same pot, shake off the excess soil, then use scissors to prune back up to 25% of the roots. This will help rejuvenate your plant while keeping it small enough to stay in the same pot.

Step 4: Clean Pot

Clean the pot with hot soapy water to get rid of disease causing microorganisms and insect larvae. Pat dry.

Step 5: Add Soil

If the soil drains well, it’s not necessary to put gravel in the bottom of the pot. Make a small mound of soil in the pot for your plant to sit on. Measure the height and make sure the top of the root ball is at least 1/2″ below the rim of the pot, so that it won’t overflow when you water it.

Step 6: Position Plant

Place the plant in the pot and settle it on the soil. Look at it from all sides to make sure it’s centered and sitting up straight.

Step 7: Fill Pot

Add potting soil around the plant in layers, pressing it down with your fingers until firm. Don’t bury your plant deeper than it was before!

Step 8: Water Plant

Water your newly potted plant well until the water runs out the bottom. I like to sit the plant in the sink or bathtub and give it a good drink, making sure the soil gets evenly moist while the excess water drains away. This is also a good time to spritz or wipe down the foliage to remove dust and potting soil.

Step 9: Settling

Sometimes after watering, it’s necessary to add a little more soil to fill in low spots in the pot.

Step 10: Trim Plant

Cut off any dead or broken stems and leaves. If needed, lightly prune your plant to encourage branching.

Caring for Repotted Plants

Your plant will need about three to four weeks to recover from repotting. During that time:

  • Water regularly.
  • Hold off on fertilizer, because the roots are sensitive and could burn.
  • Keep your plant in a bright spot away from direct sunlight.


Use high quality potting mix.

Further Information

  • Tips for Repotting Houseplants (Canadian Gardening)
  • Beginner’s Guide to Caring for Houseplants
  • How to Water Houseplants (video)
  • How to Grow Houseplants in Low Light Conditions

One of the beautiful things about indoor plants is that they are alive and always changing. Sometimes that means that, like us, they outgrow their surroundings and need a bit more living space. When it comes time to repot a plant and give it a little more room to spread its roots, it’s important to take steps to carefully ease it into its new home.

If you’re not very into gardening you may be nervous about interfering with your plant, preferring to leave it to its own devices. However, as we’ll see, repotting doesn’t require you to be a green-fingered expert. Your plant will certainly thank you for it too.

Should I repot my plant?

Most houseplants have earned their reputation as an indoor variety as they can tolerate comparatively more shade than their outdoor only cousins. For some plants (especially flowering ones like orchids) it’s essential to move them to a bigger home regularly or at least give them some root maintenance to ensure they continue to flourish. If their space gets too crowded and their roots overgrow it becomes easier to over and underwater them and they might start to show signs of stress.

How to know when its time to repot your plant

There are a few warning signs you should watch out for before deciding to move a houseplant to a bigger pot. These include:

  • Roots protruding from the drainage holes
  • Water not draining properly from the soil
  • The soil becoming soft and powdery
  • The plant looking like it’s getting too big for its pot
  • The plant can’t stand on its own

Step 1 – Choose your pot

When it comes to choosing flower pots you should always be careful not to choose one that’s too big. This can be just as problematic to a plant as a pot that’s too small. Sometimes, however, if you’re happy with the size of your plant you can reuse the same pot as before and simply refresh the potting soil and trim and untangle the roots to a more comfortable size.

Step 2 – Carefully free your plant from its current pot

Sometimes plants can get very wedged in the pot. If this happens, all you need to do to free it is give it a little water so that the rootball stays together. Then with a kitchen knife or long flat object, loosen the edges of the plant around the rim of the pot.

Once you’ve managed to loosen it up a bit, its time to remove the plant. The best way to do this is to turn the container upside down (ensuring the plant doesn’t fall out the top of the pot) and gently ease it out. This might require a hard tap on the bottom if it’s a little stuck.

When you have the root ball out in the open it’s a good idea to examine the roots for any pests or disease. Although, repotting on its own should ensure your plant doesn’t fall sick with any nasty maladies.

Step 3 – Place your plant in its new pot

In most cases, it should be ok to simply place the plant as it is. In some cases though, you may need to prune the roots a little with a sharp knife. Before you put the plant in its pot, it’s a good idea to add a little of your growing medium to the bottom so that there is room for your plant to grow downwards as well as outwards.

You can also avoid mess during this stage by covering up the drainage hole at the bottom of the pot with coffee filters so the soil stays in and water can pass out.

Step 4 – Top up the potting mix

When your plant is sitting comfortably. You then need to top up the potting mix so that the plant can get itself rooted properly. To make sure your plant has healthy roots going forward, it’s important to choose the right potting medium. Whether it’s bark chips, compost or cactus soil you should always match the plant with the mix it likes best so that it can stay happy and healthy.

Step 5 – Give the mix some water

Once your plant is snugly inside its new pot. The only thing left to do is give its new potting mix a little bit of water (not too much though) to encourage the roots to move into their new space.

Keeping your potted plants green and luscious doesn’t take a lot. Just a little care and attention every now and again is more than enough to keep them flourishing. If you’re sharing a plant as a gift this year just remember to share our tips with your lucky recipient 😉

Sharing plants around the world is easy with FloraQueen. We deliver in over 100 countries around the globe and dedicate ourselves to sharing smiles wherever and whenever they’re needed most.

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