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How to Choose the Correct Pot Size for Your Plant

How to Choose the Correct Pot Size for Your Plant
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Choosing the correct pot size for your plant can be a complicated task, especially if you are new to succulent care. A pot that is too big or too small can have a major impact on the health of the plant. However, once you understand how pot size affects the plant, you’ll be able to choose the appropriate size with ease.

The only thing you’ll have to worry about is if the container matches your décor!

Succulent Root Systems

Many succulents and cacti have a basic root structure that consists of a central taproot and thinner hair roots sprouting out from the base of the plant. The taproot typically reaches deep into the ground to draw out moisture and anchor the plant. The smaller roots stay closer to the surface to quickly absorb moisture and nutrients near the surface. If your particular plant has this type of root system, keep this structure in mind when choosing the shape and size of the container.

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Why Pot Size is Important

A pot that is too small for a plant can be a detriment to the plant’s health. If the roots become constricted due to the small pot size, the plant may not grow as quickly as it should. It can also limit the size of the succulent at maturity. Smaller pots will also be able to hold less soil. This means fewer nutrients are available for the roots to absorb. These problems also apply to containers with too many plants in them. However, you can use this to your advantage if you plan on creating living walls or picture frames.

While you don’t want a pot that’s too small, you also want to avoid pots that are too large for your plant. It may seem like a brilliant idea to give the plant plenty of space to grow, but ‘overpotting’ can result in an unhealthy or even dead succulent. If the pot is too big, the soil will be able to hold more water for longer periods of time. Over time, the roots will rot due to the excess moisture. With larger pots, it’s especially important to monitor the amount of water and the frequency of watering.

The depth of the pot is also important to the well-being of your succulent. Avoid pots that are too tall or deep because of the amount of soil they contain. As with pots that are too large in diameter, pots that are too tall will retain too much moisture. You want enough room for the taproot to grow, but not so much room that the soil won’t dry out. Succulents and cacti generally prefer shallower containers, which dry out more quickly, resulting in healthier and happier plants.

How to Determine the Correct Pot Size

Many expert gardeners recommend using a pot that is approximately 10% larger in diameter than the plant at its widest point. For example, if your succulent is about 4” across at its widest point, you should look for a pot that is about 4.5”-5” in diameter. This includes both the above and below-ground portions of the plant!

An appropriately sized pot will allow the succulent enough room to grow, without crowding the roots or having too much soil.

Use Caution with Cuttings

When planting succulent cuttings, be sure to use an especially shallow container. Cuttings can be damaged if planted too deeply or given too much moisture. You may find that especially small pots will work best for cuttings.

Multiple Plants in One Pot

When choosing your pot, consider how many plants you plan on keeping in the same container. If you would like to plant a variety of succulents or cacti in the same container, use your best judgment to estimate how much room to allow each plant without crowding.

Most succulents and cacti need a considerable amount of sun, so be sure to allow enough room for each plant to receive enough light without blocking any of the others. You may need to rearrange them to achieve the most functional layout.

If you do choose to plant multiple succulents in the same container, consider the speed at which the plants grow. Although succulents are not known for their quick growth, some varieties do grow slower than others. Take this into account when choosing your pot.

Allow each plant enough space to grow at its own rate. If you notice that some plants are being crowded, consider transplanting them into their own container. However, if you want to limit your plants’ growth, in a living wall, for example, planting them closer together will prevent them from outgrowing your arrangement.

Up-Potting

The proper pot size for a plant will change as the plant grows. As it gets bigger, you may need to transplant the succulent into a larger pot. When transplanting, it’s recommended to use a pot 1-2” larger in diameter than the previous pot. This should allow the plant to grow, without risking its health with too much soil and moisture.

Important Features of a Good Pot

No matter what size or shape of the container you choose, be sure that it allows for proper drainage. A pot that doesn’t allow excess moisture to drain out the bottom may retain too much moisture and cause your plant’s roots to rot. Using a soil intended specifically for succulents and cacti will also help to drain excess moisture.

It’s also important to consider the material the pot is made of and how it will affect the plant. Terracotta and ceramic containers are popular choices but heat up quickly in direct sunlight. This can dry out the soil before the succulent has had a chance to properly absorb enough moisture. Wooden containers stay cooler in direct sunlight but may retain too much moisture in the shade or in cooler weather. Metal containers are generally not recommended for long-term use as they can rust. Consider where you’ll be keeping your plants and what material would be ideal for that location when picking out the perfect pot.

Succulent and Cactus Pot Buying Guide 

Size isn’t the only important factor when choosing a succulent or cactus pot. Believe it or not, the pot’s features are very important in determining the plant’s health and how long it will live. Here are some of the most important features in a plant pot along with a bit about why these features are important. Enjoy! 

Size

You probably already have an idea why a plant’s pot size is important after reading the information in this article, yet people often skip past this vital feature when choosing a pot. Succulent and cactus pot size is very important, and I thought it would be worth highlighting again so that you don’t forget to take it into consideration when searching for the perfect pot. 

Top Tip: You should only look for a pot for your plant once you already have your plant. 

Shape

Where is your plant going to be? If your plant is going to be in your garden, you might opt for a large container-type pot to plant a few cacti and succulents in together, whereas if your plant is going to be pleased on the windowsill, you should opt for something smaller and appropriately shaped. 

Measuring the area where you want your plant to be before shopping around for a pot is vital. There is nothing worse than purchasing a pot and realizing that it is not suitable for where you wanted it to go! 

Drainage Holes 

How many drainage holes does the pot have? Can you drill more holes in the pot if you need to? Most house plants need brilliant drainage, especially if they don’t need to be watered frequently. 

Drainage holes allow excess water to flow out of the pot and away from the plant, which in turn stops your plant from being overwatered or suffocating. If the pot doesn’t have sufficient drainage holes, ask the garden center sales assistant what the pot is made out of and whether you can drill more holes into the pot.

Breathable

What do I mean by a breathable pot I hear you ask? Porous pots such as terracotta pots are very breathable. Terracotta soaks up water and removes any excess from the plant’s soil which is very convenient indeed if you are growing succulents or cacti. 

On the other hand, plastic pots do not let any water flow through them, which is fine for some plants but deadly for others. If your succulent is growing in a plastic pot, you should consider re-potting it immediately into a clay or terracotta pot. 

Is the Plant Pot Right for My Plant?

You might not need to change your plant pot at all. Your plant will usually try and tell you whether they are happy in their pot or not. Here are some signs to look out for that indicate that your plant isn’t happy in its pot. 

Discoloration 

Yellowing of the leaves or the appearance of brown or black spots on the leaves or stem is never good. This often happens when a plant is getting too much water. If you are following the correct watering guidelines for your plant, but you see signs of discoloration, think about repotting your plant in porous, well-drained soil and into a pot with great drainage. 

Wilting 

Wilting can be a sign of too much and too little water, which often leaves gardeners very confused as to what actions to take. Think about how often you are watering your plant and whether you are letting the soil dry out completely before rewatering. Next, check how many drainage holes the pot has before coming to your conclusion.  

Stunted Growth

Determining whether your plant has stopped growing can be difficult if it is a slow-growing species, but if the plant is not flowering when it is supposed to, then that is a big enough sign of changes in growth patterns. 

Top Tip: If repotting your plant doesn’t help speed up your plant’s growth, you can try using organic fertilizers.

Where to Find the Perfect Pot

Your local nursery or garden center will likely have a large selection of pots and planters to choose from. Online retailers are also great places to find containers of all shapes, materials, and sizes.

One of the best places to shop for succulent pots, however, is Amazon due to the sheer number of options (and competitive prices). I like to look at bonsai pots – they fulfill all of the requirements for a succulent pot and come in interesting shapes!

succulent pot size
Grab this and more like it at Amazon! Click the pic!

FAQ: 

Q: What size pot is best for succulents?

A: Succulents should be planted in a pot that is about five to 10 percent larger than the plant at the surface. The same goes for a cactus pot size. 

Q: Do succulents need deep or shallow pots? 

A: Succulents shouldn’t be planted in very deep pots because their soil will take a long time to dry out. 

Q: Does pot size matter for succulents?

A: Yes, succulents are very particular about their pot size. Succulents like small pots that have good drainage. 

Q: Can I plant my succulent in a glass container?

A: Mason jars and other quirky glass containers are fun and look wonderful, but they are not suitable long-term pots for succulents and cacti. 

Q: Do I need to add a soil topper if my succulent pot has good drainage?

A: Soil toppers like rocks and pebbles are great and certainly not just for show. You should consider adding soil toppers to your plant’s soil regardless of the number of drainage holes in the pot. 

Have any tips for correctly potting succulents? Let us know in the comments!

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