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Choosing the right pot


There are so many gorgeous pots out there and to be honest, I want them all. Practically speaking I don’t have enough shelves or shelving near natural daylight to be able to keep all of those pots with plants. It also leads to that other problem that plant lovers know very well. I bought a pot so now I need a plant for it… I couldn’t help but buy two or three plants so now I need another pot or two. That pot was too small so now I’m going to go back and purchase a plant that will fit. Oops! For real, I know this happens, don’t deny it.

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Sometimes people are curious about a few things when it comes to plant pots. Firstly, why is there no hole in the bottom of this pot… isn’t it made for plants? Will my plant be ok even though this pot has no hole in it? Should I make a hole in the bottom?! This stuff is so essential to owning plants, so I’ll dive into that in a second.

One thing that no one EVER seems to ask is – how do just buy the correct sized pretty pot for my plant confidently? It’s completely normal to take your plant with you and slide it into a pot in the shop to try it on for size, but it’s not always convenient to do that. So how do you know beyond that method of staring at the plant for just long enough before leaving home, and you’re so sure you can visualise the size of the pot with your (non-existent) photographic memory? Hmmmm.

The first lesson here is knowing what the plant needs, like what it loves to have going on around its roots. Some plants prefer to be drier, some like moist soil year long, and some want regular watering that flushes through then dries out before watering again. This part is important, because it helps you to know if you can get away with potting it straight into a ceramic-type pot or not.

Growers Pots

The plastic pot your plant lives in when you purchase it is called a grower’s pot. It has a good amount of drainage holes that suit the plant and the soil its potted-up in. Not only does it have multiple drainage holes, often they’re located around the edges of the base and sometimes there’s also moulded indentations and angles in the base to encourage the water to drain away easily.

Planters

A pot that you place your growers pot and plant into is known as a cover pot, cachepot, overpot or planter. Your potted plant slides neatly into it, dressing it up creating the personalised style you want. This is great because if your mood changes or the plants need rearranging you can simply pull the potted plant out from the planter and place it in a different one. So easy! Another benefit is that if it has no drainage holes it will contain any moisture that may come from the bottom of the growers pot. You can place it anywhere in your home without worrying about water or soil escaping onto your interior surfaces. 

Planting into a planter

If your planter has a drainage hole in it, of course you can make the choice to pot a plant directly into it. Keep in mind that when you water your plant the water won’t escape as quickly and easily from the pot as it would from a grower’s pot. Water may rest in the bottom of the pot in the soil which isn’t always the best as it can lead to root rot. If your plant calls for “free draining soil” it might be best to simply leave it in its grower’s pot after all. 

Use a saucer

If you decide to pot into the planter and it has a drainage hole, having a saucer for it to stand on is a great idea. This helps you to ensure the no unexpected drips of water or grains of soil escape onto your furniture or floor. Just be sure to water the plant over a sink, leave it on your draining board for 20 minutes, then place it back on it’s saucer. Again, you wouldn’t want a puddle of water in the saucer threatening your baby with root rot. If there is water pooling in the saucer, just tip out.

Watering your houseplants

The main benefit of using a planter in combination with your growers pot it that you can manage the watering and potting of your plants really easily. Plus, you can dress up and rearrange the colour, style and appearance of your ‘plant shelfies’ on a whim. To water your plant, it’s as simple as taking it out of the planter, watering it at the sink, letting it drain then replacing it into its planter again. Be mindful not to water straight into the plant while it’s in the planter, as the water will collect and pool in the bottom. If you do this, its ok, just tip that excess water out on the same day... don’t forget to do it!

Choosing the correct size

The next thing you’ll need to figure out is what sized pot you need. The planter is usually advertised by its outermost dimensions. It doesn’t usually have the interior width specified on the label or on a website description. On the other hand, a grower’s pot is super straightforward. The plastic growers’ pot is described by its width also known as diameter. This measurement is super reliable. If a plant is for sale by its size, for example 130mm, this size doesn’t refer to the height of the plant or the overall height. It’s the diameter of the growers pot.

Let’s say you’ve just bought a 130mm plant. Congratulations by the way! You’ll be looking for a planter that’s 130mm in width or bigger. Now, depending on the shape of the planter you’ll need to make an allowance for the fit inside it. If the sides are angled or curved, make sure your pot is a couple of centimetres wider than your 130mm plant. Just because the top of the planter you have your keen eye on is advertised as 140mm wide, the curve of the side may mean the inner base width is only 120mm wide. Your little growers pot is gonna resist and wont nest the whole way into the planter.

If I’m over explaining it, I’m so sorry. The bottom line is this: look for a planter that is around 5mm - 40mm wider than your growers pot.

You can get away with the same size sometimes, like if the planter is straight up and down on the sides, and the material it’s made of is kinda thin. Also, the bigger the growers pot the more wiggle room you might need. For example, a 60mm plant will be happy in a 65mm planter (5mm difference). While a 180mm plant will be happy in a 22cm wide planter (4cm difference). Got it? Great!