Plants in Pots: 5 Things to Think About When Choosing a Container

By Nichola Moffat
Published: November 19, 2019 | Last updated: April 30, 2021 12:37:38
Key Takeaways

Starting up your first container garden? Here are five tips to help you pick your pots.

Source: Marekp/

Whether you want a container garden because of a lack of garden space, limited sunlight or simply because you love the versatility of them, one fact is always true—container gardens are wonderfully easy to create and maintain. All you need to get started is some potting soil, a container and your chosen plants. That being said, there are some key things you ought to consider when choosing a container to ensure your plants thrive.


1. Plant Pot Size Matters

It is easier to grow plants in large containers than small ones. There are two main reasons for this. Large containers hold more soil, thus retaining more water and lessening the need for frequent waterings, and the additional soil volume also makes containers less subject to rapid temperature changes. The second reason large containers tend to be better is your plants need plenty of space to grow. If your container is too small, it won’t be long before your plants become pot-bound, drying out the soil rapidly and leaving little-to-no space for them to grow and flourish.

2. Container Material

What a container is made of can vastly impact how long the container will last as well as how often you need to water your plants.

  • Clay or terra-cotta containers are attractive, but they are also easily breakable, cannot withstand freezing temperatures, and are porous, meaning you must water your plants more often.
  • Metal containers are another popular option, but they heat up and freeze quickly, impacting your plants’ root systems, and they must be lined with plastic if you plan on growing edibles in them.
  • Cast-concrete pots are suitable for all climates and are extremely long-lasting, but they are heavy and can be difficult to move.
  • Plastic pots are inexpensive, will withstand rapid temperature changes, and will not absorb the moisture from the soil. They can, however, be brittle so if you go down this road, ensure you choose a pot that is flexible and thick.
  • Wood containers will protect your plants from rapid temperature fluctuations but ensure you choose a wood that is rot-resistant, or one treated with a non-toxic preservative, for a long-lasting result.
  • Fabric pots are an alternative to traditional types of containers, are made from a breathable fabric material. These pots are said to aerate the root zone and air prune roots, preventing plants from becoming root bound, but may need to be watered more frequently, as the fabric provides excellent drainage, and may not be as durable as some other container options.

Read More: Size Matters - Choosing Pots for Your Container Garden

3. Container Weight

Besides container size and the material, you might also want to consider the placing of your plants and how heavy the filled pots will be. Large containers, especially when filled with soil, can be extremely heavy, so consider whether you plan to move plants around your garden. Also, if you’re creating your garden on a balcony or deck, keep in mind how much weight the structure can take if you want to have several pots.

4. Drainage Systems

No matter what size, shape or kind of container you use, drainage holes are essential. Without them, it’s likely that the soil in your container will become waterlogged and your plants may die. For the most part, containers are available with pre-made drainage holes and it need not matter what size they come in or how many there are, just so long as they allow any excess water to escape. Containers without drainage holes, especially decorative ones, are best used as cachepots to hide away plain pots and brighten up your garden.


If you have a plant that needs frequent watering, there are plenty of options available. Self-watering irrigation systems and double-walled containers are a great choice to ensure your plants receive the right amount of water.

Read More: The Myth of Drainage Material in Container Plantings


5. What Do Your Plants Want?

Last but not least, you need to consider what type of environment your chosen plants will want and need. Choose plants that will be amicable neighbors and will require similar levels of sunlight, water and space. Remember, needs will change as plants grow and mature. For example, it’s no good planting carrot seeds in a shallow container as they won’t be able to develop, just as you wouldn’t want to place a heavy, immovable container in a place where a sun-hungry plant will only see sunlight for a short time each day.

When planting a container garden, these simple tips could make all the difference between success and failure. With the right considerations and care, virtually any plant can thrive in a pot, so there’s no reason you can’t grow a flourishing container garden.

Read Next: Making the Most of a Container Garden


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Written by Nichola Moffat

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Nichola Moffat is a passionate writer who’s been churning out words for the past eight years. In her spare time she loves nothing more than getting lost in a good book and tending to her collection of orchids.

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