Plant Pots–What Ones Are Best?

Plant pots can be practical or pretty, and many are both. Discover the wide range available, so you can choose pots that meet your plants’ needs and match your décor.

bonsai-plant-potsModern plastic pots and old-fashioned, terra cotta pots are the most popular containers for growing house plants. They provide excellent growing conditions for the plants and are plain enough to fit in with any décor.

Most are cylindrical in shape, narrowing towards the base, but a few, such as shallow, half pots for alpines, are shaped to meet the needs of particular plants. Some terra cotta and plastic pots are attractively coloured or decorated.

There are also peat pots, for propagation, and purely ornamental outer pots, or planters, for adding a personal touch.

House plants are sold ‘ready potted’, but you may wish to repot a plant, or pot up a new plant that you propagated yourself. When buying a pot, consider the size of the plant’s roots. As a guide, a pot should be large enough to take the roots comfortably, but not more than 2.5-5cm (1-2 inches) larger in diameter than the pot being replaced.

Plastic potsplastic-pots

These are inexpensive, and available in many sizes, from 2.5cm (1 inch) ‘thumb’ pots to huge pots, 38cm (15 inches) or more across. Plastic pots are lightweight, and don’t break or chip in normal use. Large, heavy plants, however, may tip over in plastic pots, especially those filled with lightweight, peat-based compost. Compost stays moist longer in plastic pots than clay ones, so be careful not to overwater. There are square plastic pots, for making maximum use of space in a propagator, and a range of colours as well as reddish brown. These are lightweight, and easy to handle. As well as brown, plastic pots are sold in a range of bright and pastel colours, some with a high-gloss, easy-clean finish and snap-on drip trays.

Terra cotta potsterra-cotta-pot

These are attractive and long lasting, providing you don’t drop them! Traditionally hand made, most are now machine made, and reasonably priced. For outdoor use, be sure to choose frost proof ones, or bring pots indoors for the winter.

Terra cotta, or clay, pots are available in a similar size range. Unglazed terra cotta pots are porous, and compost dries out quicker than in plastic pots, so underwatering can be a problem. Some people prefer the look of a clay pot, and its weight can balance the weight of a large plant. Not all are frost proof, so check first if buying them for outdoor use and protect with straw, or bring indoors in winter.

Compressed peat pots

Peat pots are used for raising new plants from seed or cuttings, rather than displaying mature specimens. Because the plant can be moved into its final pot without disturbing the root, there is a higher chance of success. Also available are expandable peat pellets, which are soaked in water before compressed-peat-potsuse, and contain a peat-based compost.

These are made of compressed peat and wood pulp, and some are impregnated with plant nutrients. Young plants are transplanted, potandall, into their final container. In time, the roots break through the peat pot, which disintegrates. Expandable peat pellets are similar, but are soaked before use and don’t need filling, provide the compost too.

Garden centres usually carry a wide range of terra cotta and plastic pot sizes, with saucers to fit. Always match the size to the size of the plant’s root ball.

Pot proportions

With most flower pots, the width across the rim equals its depth. Alpine pots are twice as wide as high, and seed pans three times wider.

Colourful planters

Planters or cache pots, which is simply French for ‘flower-pot holder’, can add colour and interest to a display of house plants. Whatever the style, the planter should be just large and deep enough to hide the flower pot. For a display of several plants in a larger planter, fill the space between pots with sphagnum moss, and use a thin layer of moss to conceal the individual pot rims.

Plastic, brass, copper, glazed china and stoneware planters are usually waterproof, so you don’t need a saucer underneath to protect your furniture. Be careful not to let excess water sit in the bottom of the container, or the plant’s roots may rot. A modern variation is a combination pot and saucer, sold as a single unit.

Woven wicker and bamboo outer pots are not waterproof, although some are sold with a transparent plastic lining.

Kitchen utensils and china, such as soup tureens, soufflé dishes and copper pots, make attractive planters.

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