How to Select the Right-Sized Plant Pot for Your Houseplants

plant pot

A lot of thought goes into selecting the proper plant pot for your houseplant. You want something that looks good and functions while ensuring the plant receives adequate care. There are two aspects when selecting a container for your plant. You need to choose the right material and the right size plant pot. Here is how to determine the right size containers for your plants.

When to Choose a Plant Pot

The most common time to select a new pot is when repotting your plants. How often a houseplant is repotted depends on the type of plant. Fast-growing plants like Syngoniums need an annual upgrade. Moderate growers like Philodendrons can be repotted every other year, while plants like Snake Plants can go several years between repotting. You may find yourself searching for new plant pots if a pot is broken or you just don’t like the style or look of a container.

How to Measure a Plant Pot

Round plant pots are measured straight across the center from one edge to the opposite or the diameter. An 8-inch planter will measure 8 inches straight across the center of the pot. Square or rectangular plants are less common but typically measured by the width and depth and sometimes the height.

plant pot

Why a Properly Sized Plant Pot Matters

Repotting can be stressful for plants, so you only want to repot when necessary. Choosing a container the plant will outgrow in a few months can do more harm than good because the plant will need to go through the stress of repotting much sooner.

How to Select the Right Planter

If you are simply repotting a plant, you can select a container one to two inches larger. If you are dividing a large plant into several smaller plants, choose containers one to two inches larger than the root ball of each new plant.

Too Much of a Good Thing

Avoid using a container over two inches bigger because it may stunt plant growth. Plants that have too much space will continue to grow roots but may not push out as many leaves or flowers, at least not until the roots have filled the container. The above-ground growth will eventually catch up, but it will take time. Giving a small houseplant a large container with the expectation the plant will become much bigger seems like a good idea, but that’s not how it works. Studies have found that plants will grow big when given a big container, but you must gradually increase the container size. If you have a houseplant in a 4-inch container, move up to a 6-inch and later an 8-inch instead of jumping right to the 8-inch plant pot.

Pitfalls of a Large Plant Pot

Larger than necessary containers increase the risk of root rot and fungus gnats. More soil means more water retention. The roots will only have access to the soil and moisture in the upper portion of the container. The plant will need water when the soil in the upper part dries out, but the soil in the bottom may still be damp. Giving the plant water, in this instance, will keep the soil in the bottom of the container constantly wet, increasing the probability of root rot and mold.

Notable Exceptions

An incorrect-sized plant pot can be beneficial in some instances. A small container can work out for Succulents because the soil will dry out more quickly, and these plants love dry conditions. Most flowering plants only bloom when they are a tad rootbound, so letting a Hoya or Prayer Plant get cozy is an effective blooming strategy. Still, the plant will eventually need a larger container.

It sometimes makes sense to keep a large plant in a too-small container; typically, this method is effective for large plants like Ficus lyrata (Fiddle Leaf Fig). Keeping a large plant in tight confines will slow growth and prevent the plant from outgrowing your space. Pruning the branches and trimming the roots are other methods to stop a plant from becoming too big, but always research the specific plant to determine the best way to limit new growth.

Help Your Houseplants Thrive

Repotting is an important part of houseplant care, and choosing the right plant pot matters. Resist the urge to go too big and select new plant containers one to two inches bigger. An adequate-sized plant container will give the roots room to grow and help your plant grow and look its best.