HAPPY HOUSEPLANTS – CONTAINER CONUNDRUM
Now that we have covered the ins and outs of watering houseplants, a logical next question is, “What type of container should I use?” You might think that the container is not as crucial as other factors in growing healthy, long-living plants, but it is equally important as the soil, water and light! Just as watering techniques vary from plant to plant, so does the type of vessel that will work best. When choosing the perfect pot for your plant, there are a few key points to remember: pot size, pot material, and drainage.
The pot must be large enough to handle your plant’s root structure. For example, planting a seed or seedling in a small pot makes sense, but as its roots extend and the plant rows larger, you should transfer the plant to a larger pot. A good rule of thumb is to go up one pot size at a time (4″ to a 6″ to an 8″ and so on). This will allow a plant’s roots to acquire the the nutrients they need from the soil.
“So Rob”, you may be thinking,”why can’t I save myself all that work and just plant my seedlings in a 12″ pot? They will grow into it, right?” Well, maybe– if they make it that long! You see, planting in a too-big container can negatively affect the health of your plant. Larger pots require more water and most of it will be lost to evaporation and drainage so the roots can’t use the volume absorbed by the soil. Also the extra soil may hold on to much of the water and cause the roots to rot. NOTE: My next blog post will be a step-by-step on exactly HOW to re-pot your seedlings or house plants, and what type of soil to use.
What style to choose? That’s really up to you, but the trick is to take the plant’s needs into consideration. Plastic is a good choice for busy people who may sometimes forget to water since they hold the water in longer than other types, plus extra holes for drainage can be made easily. Not the most attractive, though. Unglazed terracotta pots are porous so they absorb water and allow it to evaporate, thus you must keep up with your watering. Terracotta is great for growing cactus and succulents or if you tend to overwater your plants. TIP! Before you plant in an unglazed terracotta pot submerge it in a bucket of water for 24 hours. This will prevent the pot from sucking up all the water during your first plantingand watering.
Glazed ceramic pots usually don’t have drainage holes so you’ll have to put gravel or shards of broken clay pots or old dishes in the bottom. Even with this step, most flowering plants do not do well in a pot without drainage holes. If you prefer the look of a glazed ceramic pot my advice is to use it as a shell for a clay or plastic pot.
So have some fun learning a little about what type of plant you have and its specific watering needs. Then you can decide which type of “home” is suitable for your different varieties and pick out a style that you like within that type. Don’t forget to check back next week for my How-To on successfully repotting your precious plants.