FEBRUARY
2005

 

 

By
B. Rosie Lerner
 
Purdue Extension
Consumer
Horticulturist

 

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02-03-05

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Pots to Plant In


Being creative when choosing containers for your houseplants can add to the decor of a room, but make sure the pot is appropriate for the plant.

Almost any container can be used for potting plants, as long as drainage of excess water is provided. Water and mineral nutrients are primarily taken into the plant through the roots. For most plant species, roots must have some oxygen in order to grow and function. If the soil surrounding roots is thoroughly filled with water for extended periods, the roots will suffocate. Once the roots start to rot, the top of the plant may wilt and appear as if additional water is needed. These symptoms can mislead the plant owner into applying more water, which just aggravates the problem.

The best way to provide adequate drainage is to use a container that has holes in the bottom. Unglazed clay containers are popular, but can be heavy and also tend to accumulate unsightly salt residue as water evaporates from the surface. This residue is generally not harmful to the plant, unless it accumulates in the soil.

Plastic containers are generally lighter in weight and don't tend to accumulate as much salt residue. However, plastic containers can be too light so that large plants easily tip over.

Many decorative containers, such as glazed pottery or metal buckets, do not allow excess water to drain away from plants. These containers can still be used via the double potting method. Pot your plant in a properly sized, unglazed clay or plastic pot with drainage holes, and then slip that pot into the decorative container. Discard the excess drainage after each watering. 

Whatever the container material, match the container with an appropriate-sized plant. A plant in a pot that is too small does not have room to grow and dries out quickly. One that is in an oversized pot may suffer from the soil staying wet too long and may lead to root rot.

Most healthy, growing plants will eventually outgrow their container. To determine if a plant needs to be repotted, examine the root system by removing the plant from the container. If many are visible on the outside of the soil ball, the plant likely will benefit from repotting - and continue to grow in size.

On the other hand, if the plant is already as large as you want it to get, you might let it stay "pot-bound" to discourage additional growth.

 

Writer: B. Rosie Lerner
Editor: Olivia Maddox