How to choose a plant pot

Time to introduce your favourite new plant to the pot of its dreams.

Playing cupid between your lovely new plant and its perfect pot? Which type of container is best? What size, shape and material should you go for?

From traditional terracotta to square-sided containers or generous, pot-bellied gems, we shed some light on the pros and cons of certain types of pots your precious plants would be happy to meet. There are three things you should consider:

  • Size: it matters! Selecting the right sized home for your plant can help it flourish.

  • Shape: A pot is a pot no matter its shape, but depending on your desired aesthetic, going for a more unusual shape can be a game changer.

  • Material: Some materials are better for drainage and some require special care.

Large or small pot?

First things first: when it comes to pots, size matters. As a rule, if you’re repotting a plant, it’s best to choose a pot that’s a little bigger than the original, so there’s room for it to grow. Some plants like to have their roots restricted though (meaning that they don't like loads of space), so it’s a good idea to check beforehand.

Larger pots are often pricier and heavier than smaller ones (especially when filled with compost), and it can take longer for the soil in them to dry out, which may lead to root rot (eek).

Large pots are perfect for:

  • Plants with big root balls (think trees or large shrubs)

  • Creating show-stopping centrepieces or front door makeovers

  • Patios, terraces and conservatories.

Small pots are ideal for:

  • Creating multi-pot displays

  • Houseplants or individual outdoor plants

  • Bookshelves, balconies and windowsills.

What shape pot should I choose?

Most plant pots are cylindrical (round), giving room for roots to expand out and down. But there’s no reason you can’t mix things up and go for something more distinctive.

SQUARE POTS

Great for: Saving space; on trend gardens; roots that like lots of room to grow, like ornamental trees and shrubs, statement plants.

Ideal hangouts: Modern gardens, small spaces, either side of a front door.

Downsides: Can be heavy as they hold more compost.

EGG-SHAPED POTS

Great for: Plants with large root balls like fruit trees, ornamental trees, tall houseplants.

Ideal hangouts: Patios, terraces, cottage gardens and conservatories.

Downsides: Can be a tricky shape to transplant from.

TROUGHS

Great for: Creating floral displays or growing veg or herbs in small spaces. Think lavender, Salvias, plants with trailing foliage; tomatoes, herbs and salad leaves.

Ideal hangouts: Cute cottages, windowsills, allotments, edible gardens.

Downsides: Can be heavy to move.

What material should I choose?

The material that your pot is made from will affect the way you care for the plants inside. Some pots drain better than others or can withstand a range of temperatures. Others are more fragile or need regular care.

TERRACOTTA POTS

A classic option for a timeless, vintage look.

Price: £-£££

Colour: Pale pink through to deep orange

Great for: Allowing air and water to flow freely; avoiding water-logging. Plants like cacti and succulents, dry garden plants, spring bulbs will love them.

Downsides: Prone to cracking and frost damage; can be heavy; moisture-loving plants might need more frequent watering.

CERAMIC POTS

Robust and hard-wearing glazed pots, sometimes without drainage holes

Price: £-£££

Colour: Unlimited

Great for: Keeping soil moist for longer; acting as a decorative drainage pot for plants in plastic pots; creating your own individual look. Houseplants, bog plants, woodland plants, Hosta, Hydrangea, Astrantia will love these pots.

Downsides: Easily broken; can lead to water-logging.

WOODEN PLANTERS

Barrels and driftwood tubs have an attractive, rustic feel

Price: ££-£££

Colour: Dark brown to weathered grey

Great for: Plants with large root balls, or naturalistic gardens. Fruit trees, ornamental grasses, Kniphofia, Eryngium and dry garden plants will love them.

Downsides: Will eventually rot if not treated or lined with protective sheeting.

FABRIC PLANTERS

Chemical-free, breathable fabric planters make it easy to grow in tiny spaces

Price: ££-£££

Colour: Unlimited

Great for: Hanging in small gardens and balconies; growing with children. Herbs, salad leaves, vegetables, annual flowers will love them.

Downsides: May loose shape over time; plants may need more regular watering.

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