4 Tips for Choosing the Best Containers for Your Houseplants

The selection is almost endless when it comes to pots for your plant babies. But there are a few key things to look for to make the best choice.

There's a surefire way to love a new houseplant: Pair it with the perfect pot. Just purchased plants in plastic nursery containers can go into a new planter as soon as you bring them home. After spending months (maybe even years) in a small growing pot, your new plant has likely outgrown the space and would appreciate more room to grow. Other candidates in need of a container upgrade are any of your established houseplants that have grown too large for their container. Whether your existing plants need repotting or you have a few recent additions to your houseplant collection that could use roomier digs, here's how to select the best new homes for them.

multiple house plants in containers on a wooden desk
Jacob Fox

1. Size Matters

Choosing a new container begins with identifying the size of pot you need. Here's a handy guideline: increase pot size by one to two inches in diameter for plants that are growing in pots 10 inches in diameter or less. For larger plants, those growing in pots greater than 10 inches in diameter, increase the pot size by two or three inches in diameter.

For example, a brand new ZZ plant in a 4-inch plastic nursery pot is ready to transition to a container that is 5 inches or so in diameter. A philodendron growing in a 12-inch pot can size up to a 14-inch-diameter pot. While you might be tempted to choose a pot that is a few inches larger than prescribed to accommodate future growth, resist. Houseplants grow slowly. An overly large pot will look out of proportion with the plant. Also, pots that are too large for the plant can cause health issues because the excess potting soil will dry out too slowly. Soil that stays wet too long encourages root and stem rot.

2. Drainage is Key

Always choose a pot with drainage holes, which also ensures potting soil doesn't stay too wet after watering your houseplants. The excess can freely escape out the bottom of the container, allowing oxygen to make its way to plant roots (if you use a saucer or tray underneath the pot, make sure to empty it to prevent roots from soaking in too much moisture).

If you happen across a beautiful planter that doesn't have drainage holes, you can still use it. The trick is to treat it like a cachepot, which is a term for a decorative outer container that hides a slightly smaller but plain container with drainage holes in which your plant is growing. You can lift out that inner pot and move it to a sink to water, or leave it where it is and then dump out the excess from the cachepot when all the extra water is done draining out of the smaller container.

3. Find Your Style

Planter size and available drainage are the two most important factors in selecting a pot for your houseplant. After satisfying those two needs, choose a pot that has a look and feel you love. Ceramic pots are the most popular type of container for houseplants today. You'll find them in all kinds of styles, colors, and sizes.

At one time, the clay pot was the most common container for indoor plants. Clay pots are attractive, heavy (ideal for big plants), and porous (excellent for bromeliads, cacti, ferns, orchids, and succulents). However, clay pots require more frequent watering and are challenging to clean.

Plastic and fiberglass pots offer several advantages. Available in all sorts of colors and styles, these lightweight pots are easy to clean and inexpensive. Plastic and fiberglass pots don't need to be watered as frequently as clay. Other materials for houseplant containers include metal, basketry, treated or rot-resistant wood, glazed pottery, and glass.

4. Keep It Clean

Keep pots clean to prevent disease. If you plan to reuse a pot, clean it well both inside and out. Clay pots often get a white crust on them after prolonged use, caused by mineral buildup after water evaporates. To remove this crust, scrub it off with a steel-wool pad or stiff bristle brush in a vinegar and water solution. If the crust is thick, brush first with a dry steel wool pad. Rinse pots, then soak them in a bleach solution (1 part bleach to 9 parts water) for 20 minutes to kill any bacteria, fungi, or pest eggs on them. Rinse again. Clean plastic pots with a cloth dipped in warm soapy water. Scrub the pot until it's completely free of soil and grime. Soak the pot in a bleach solution as you would a clay pot.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles