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How to Choose the Right Plant Container

What do you need from a house? Adequate space, security, and access to the facilities you require, right? That’s pretty much what a plant seeks of its house—its container.

Choosing the right plant container isn’t just a matter of aesthetics. Your plant’s survival and performance depend on it.  

What’s the right size of container for a plant?  

Clay or plastic?  

What are the must haves of the best plant container? 

Read on for the answers. 

Identifying the ideal container size 

Standard plant containers come in 6 different sizes, each measured by its diameter. Each size is suitable for different plants. 

Take a look: 

10-inch plant container 

It can hold 2.5-3 gallons of potting soil. A container this size will be a great fit for flowering plants such as zinnias and marigolds. You can also use it to plant small herbs such as mint and sage, succulents, and fruit and vegetable varieties such as strawberries, beets, and small carrots.  

14-inch plant container 

A container this size is capable of holding 6-7 gallons of potting soil. It’s the best plant container for larger herbs such as lavender and rosemary, along with vegetables such as full-sized carrots, cabbage and spinach. 

16-inch plant container 

A 16-inch plant container can hold 9-10 gallons of potting soil. It’s ideal for planting dwarf shrubs and citrus trees along with fruit such as goji berry, gooseberry, and blueberry.  

18-inch plant container 

It can hold 14-15 gallons of potting soil. An 18-inch container is perfect for planting large vegetables such as cauliflower, tomato, and pepper. You can also use it for planting cacti, shrubs, and annual flowering plants. 

24-inch plant container 

A 24-inch container can hold 24-25 gallons of potting soil. As such, it’s ideal for housing plants with extensive root systems. Fiddle leaf fig tree, dwarf peach, pomegranate, evergreen, and ornamental shrubs are our top recommendations. 

30-inch container plant 

It can hold 30 gallons of potting soil and is the perfect size for trees meant to be transplanted in the ground. You can use it to plant full-sized trees such as apples, plums and peaches. Dwarf cherry, rhubarb and pumpkin are some other excellent choices.  

What’s the best material for containers? 

Call it a problem of plenty; when it comes to choosing plant container material, you’ve got dozens of choices. Here are the most popular ones: 

Artificial stone or Hypertufa 

Cast cement 

Clay (terra cotta, drain, or chimney tiles)




Molded fiberglass, plastic, or resin 

Natural stone 


Recycled materials such as old crates, baskets, boots, etc. 

So, how do you choose the right container material? Consider these factors: 


Lighter materials such are plastic and terracotta are typically cheaper than heavier container materials such as natural stone, metal, and wood. Metal and fiberglass are two of the most affordable and popular materials due to their longevity.  


Will you be moving the container around a lot, or is it to stay put in a spot? Is it meant to adorn a shelf or be part of the garden border or bed? Your answers to these questions will decide which material to choose.  

If you’re looking for lightweight containers, fabric, foam, and plastic are the best choices. Need something sturdier? Go with fiberglass.  

Looking for an extra sturdy container that strong wind can’t topple? Stone or concrete are the best plant containers for the job.   

Moisture retention 

Porous materials such as terracotta or unglazed clay are notorious for absorbing water supplied to the soil. If you’ve got a plant that doesn’t take kindly to overwatering, these are a safe choice.

Is the container meant for a plant with high moisture requirement or a bright, hot area? Then we’d suggest you choose plastic or other moisture-retaining materials.  

Make sure not to pick black or thin plastic containers for such locations. Black will absorb heat and scorch the roots. Containers made from thin plastic can fall apart due to photodegradation caused by the combination of sunlight and air. 

Plant safety 

Fragile plants with delicate root systems should be potted in containers made from sturdy materials such as concrete, metal, or wood. For more robust plants, you can opt for plastic or fabric containers. 

Durability and weather resistance 

If the container is meant for outdoor locations, you should consider how well the material will hold up against the weather. Plastic and wooden containers can crack in freezing temperatures.  

Is your container meant to withstand harsh weather—scorching heat, rainfall, and the winter chill? We’d recommend you go with materials such as concrete and terracotta.  

Essentials of a good plant container 

It should be the right shape, color, and style 

The best plant container matches the theme and color scheme of the surrounding space. Traditional round containers go well with most design styles. Containers with triangular, rectangular or unique shapes are a good fit for places with a bizarre or geometrical design.  

Plant containers meant for open outdoor spaces are always at risk of losing color. It’s best to choose natural, rugged looking materials such as concrete, stone and terracotta for these locations. 

It should be big enough to accommodate future growth 

The diameter of the container should be at least 1-2 inches larger than the existing container. If the existing container is over 10 inches in diameter, the new container should be 2-3 inches larger. This will ensure the new container has ample space to accommodate the plant’s future growth.

It should support drainage 

It’s always best to choose a container that has one or more drainage holes at its bottom. If your container doesn’t have any drainage holes, you’ve got two options. One, if the material of the container is drillable, drill in 2-3 holes at the base.

Option two requires regular care on your part. Make sure the amount of water you supply during each watering doesn’t exceed more than one-third of the container’s size.

Oh, and remember, adding rocks to the bottom of the container does not improve drainage.  
Choosing the best plant container does involve a little thinking and planning, but it’s worth it. The right container will keep your plant safe, healthy, and beautiful for a long, long time.