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Going To Pots

When we buy houseplants, they usually come in their own pot, relieving us of the task of making the correct choice. But eventually, there comes a time when the roots crowd the pot to the extent that the plant is not doing its best and we have to make a decision as to its next home.

Does it matter what we choose? For our less fussy plants, probably not too much. But many plants will not thrive if we choose unwisely, so it's best to know the pros and cons of our choices so we can match the right plant with the right pot.

The first thing to look for in a pot is drainage holes on the bottom. Unfortunately, too many decorative pots are sold without them. This means that a thorough watering will result in the roots of your plant sitting in water for a prolonged period of time, inviting root rot. Even plants that like to stay on the moist side won't tolerate constant water at their feet and the lifespan of your plant will likely be seriously shortened. Unless you're handy with a drill, I recommend passing up these pots or using them for another purpose if you just have to have one.

Beyond that, pots tend to come in three major categories. Terra cotta, aka, clay pots, are cheap, easy to find, and are offered in many sizes. Their rustic look is attractive to people who like their indoor gardens on the natural side. Clay pots are porous, which means that the soil they hold will dry out faster than pots made of other materials. This is an advantage for houseplants that like to stay on the dry side, such as cactus and a minus for plants that prefer to remain evenly moist, like African Violets. Over time, the salts and fertilizers in the soil may build up, discoloring the outside of the pot as they leach through. If the pot gets too unsightly, it may be time to scrub the outside of the pot or repot into something cleaner.

Plastic pots are also readily available, retain a lot more moisture than clay, and are better for plants that don't like to dry out too much and too fast. If you have a spathiphyllum that droops the minute it needs water, you're better off using plastic. Clumsy indoor gardeners may appreciate the fact that plastic can take a spill to the floor whereas clay may break easily.

In short, knowing your plant's watering requirements goes a long way to choosing the correct pot. Your houseplants will reward you by looking better and living longer.