Hey plant fans! If you’ve just bought yourself a new baby houseplant and you’re wondering whether or not you should leave it in its nursery plastic pot or if you’re just thinking of repotting a mature plant and would like to opt for the plastic pot, I come with answers.
So, can plants stay in plastic pots?
Yes, plants can safely stay in plastic pots. In fact, there are a few reasons why you should keep indoor plants in plastic containers. Here’s why:
Plastic pots are good for water drainage.
Plastic pots are strong and flexible.
Plastic pots are cheaper than any other type of pots.
It’s almost too good to be true isn’t it? But are there any drawbacks to plastic pots?
The answer is no, plastic pots cannot damage indoor plants. In fact, most indoor plants need to have a plastic pot to grow in.
Let me explain why:
The most common mistake and probably the easiest way to kill a plant is overwatering. Too much water will sit at the bottom of the pot and the roots will sink in it, leading to them rot eventually. Rotting of the roots prevents the plant from getting its essential nutrients so the houseplant ultimately dies.
The solution to overwatering is good drainage. Drainage is made possible by the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. These types of pots are typically made of plastic. They come with a saucer that is placed under them, where the water can drain and prevent the roots from soaking.
Plastic pots sustain good drainage for the plants. This is why plastic pots are usually used as growing pots for houseplants. I’m sure you’ve heard of nursery pots – the container where the plant lives until you buy it (and sometimes after). There is a good motive why these nursery pots are made of plastic. They typically have large holes to support good drainage and there is no reason why you shouldn’t let your plant live in its nursery container after you buy it.
We talk more about nursery pots a bit further down in this article.
So we established that the ideal growing pots are plastic pots. But they are not always so esthetic and they might not fit into our homes in terms of style, hence the other types of pots, the decorative pots.
Next, let’s explore ideas and techniques for you to apply when you have a baby plant that needs repotting.
Repotting plants from nursery
Many people have this eternal dilemma: should I repot a houseplant after I buy it?
Not necessarily. Most indoor plants can grow for a long time in their nursery pots.
Nursery pots offer a certain level of comfort to your houseplant so it might not be necessary to give it another pot, unless it has special requirements. So it depends on the plant:
Plants that are easy to maintain and only need watering every other week, like Pothos (Devil’s Ivy), most probably don’t need repotting from nursery.
For plants that are rather hard to keep alive, which need a sparse watering schedule, like Orchids, it is best to make the pot upgrade as soon as you get it.
However, despite the type of plant, a lot of people think that repotting is essential for a good and healthy growth and they choose to do it right after they buy the plant, and they’re right. At least from one perspective.
If you want or have to repot your houseplant, the best time to do it is after you bought it. Why? Because the poor baby has been through a lot before it reached your home. A lot, a lot.
Here is a simple representation of the flow that your plant has gone through before you got it home:
A houseplant's journey from nursery to your home
So given this long journey of the houseplant, you can imagine that by the time it made its way into your home, it has been through a lot of stress. So why repot now?
Because your plant is more ready to take the stress of transplanting after you bought it than after it settles and finds comfort in your home.
Now you know two things:
It depends on the plant if you should or shouldn’t repot from nursery
If you must repot, do it after you buy your plant
For guidance on repotting and changing the soil in houseplants, check out this article where I talk about the differences between the two and when is the right time to do each of them.
How to transfer your plant after you bought it
Next, let’s see what are the steps to transplant your plant after you bought it:
Choose a larger pot (one inch larger than the old one)
If the new planter doesn’t have drainage holes, place some pebbles or charcoal at the bottom of the pot
Put some potting mix in the new container
Take out the plant from its old pot
Prune its roots if necessary and loosen them a bit to untangle
Place the plant in its new pot
Keep two thirds of the old soil if it looks healthy
Put the old soil in the new container
Pack it gently
Leave about one inch from soil level to pot level
Water it and you’re done
Tada! Your lovely houseplant has a new planter. Exciting, right?
If you want to know more about how to successfully repot your plant, including a complete guide with pictures, here is an article where I describe just that. It shows you everything you need to know about pruning and repotting.
How to choose the best pots for indoor plants
The right container for your indoor plants doesn’t mean it should only look good. Sure, we all want pots that go with the style of our homes, and that’s okay. But what if I tell you that the right houseplant pot can actually help your plant live longer and save you a lot of hassle while growing it? That’s all true, I promise
As a general rule, your houseplant needs a pot that matches its size. If the plant is big, it should stay in a big container. If the plant is small, put it in a small container. It’s that simple.
When the container is too large for the plant, the soil receives too much water and stays moist for a long time, sometimes stunting the growth of the plant.
When the plant stays in a container that’s too small for it, it will become root-bound because there is not enough room for the roots to extend.
The size of the plant will tell you what pot size it needs.
General guide on how to choose the best sized pot for your houseplant
|Plant height||Plant example||Pot diameter (top)|
|Under 10 cm tall||Cactus||6 - 9 cm|
|10 cm tall||Echeveria Perle von Nürnberg||10 cm|
|15 - 20 cm tall||Crassula Ovata||12 cm|
|20 - 30 cm tall||Agave Shaka Zulu||15 cm|
|50 cm tall||Cycas Revoluta||14 - 19 cm|
|1m tall and over||Dracaena Marginata Magenta||21 - 27 cm or bigger|
Now, this table doesn’t necessarily work for every plant that exists, but it should give you a pretty clear image of what container your plant needs.
By the way, if you’re like me and you just love the style of shallow pots, here’s a top 10 best houseplants for shallow pots. You might be surprised to find out how popular these houseplants are!
In terms of material, the best pots for indoor plants are ceramic and plastic. Here’s why:
Ceramic pots are porous, which means water drainage is done successfully and the plant is less likely to die from overwatering. It also means the plant needs watering more often.
Plastic pots are durable and easier to work with.
But there are a lot of other materials for planters out there.
Pros and cons for most popular houseplants pot materials
|Porous||Generally have only one drainage hole at the bottom|
|Very pretty and stylish||Easily breakable|
|Non toxic||Their curved shape makes it hard to change the soil or repot|
|Good for plants that need moisture||Environmental issues|
|Inexpensive||Can contain toxic materials|
|Lightweight||They don’t last more than a few years|
|Usually come with drainage holes and saucers||Dark-coloured plastic pots heat up very quickly and can damage heat-sensitive plants|
|Won’t break easily|
|Easy to clean|
|Porous||Will break easily|
|That vintage look||Don’t usually have drainage holes so you have to drill them|
|Can crack in cold weather|
|Attractive, especially for the Lucky Bamboo or Orchids||Break easily|
|Sturdy and durable,||Rust easily|
|Won’t break||Usually act as decorative pot and need a growing pot inside|
|Usually attractive||Can heat up too much if kept in direct sunlight|
|Compostable||Great for starting seeds, need transplanting after a while|
|Fairly cheap||Not suitable for strong plants|
Regardless of their size or material, here is an important note:
So by now, I bet you have a pretty good idea of what to choose for your houseplants when it comes to containers, but how about we find out what happens if you choose the wrong container for your houseplant?
Can the material of the container affect indoor plants?
Yes, it can. The material of the container in which the plant lives can either help it live longer or stunt its growth.
The table below is a guide with plant container materials ranked based on quality and their effects on indoor plants:
|Container material||Quality rating||Effects on the houseplant|
|Ceramic||9/10||The porous material sustains a good airflow which stimulates root growth and leads to healthier plants. It also wicks the moisture away from the soil so it can save the plant from overwatering damage. However, they sometimes come without drainage holes which you have to drill yourself and are pretty heavy.|
|Clay||9/10||The porosity of the material creates a healthy growing environment. The effects of the clay pots are similar to the ones of ceramic pots.|
|Plastic||7/10||Poor quality plastic planters can leak toxins into the soil, damaging the plant in the long run. However, most plastic pots are safe and they don’t have the wicking effect of ceramic, so they make a great choice for moisture loving plants. They usually come with drainage holes which save the roots from rotting.|
|Wood||6/10||The only danger with wooden containers is that they can rot. This leads to an unhealthy growth and even death of the plant. To avoid rotting, line the wooden container with some plastic and make some holes at the bottom for water drainage.|
|Compostable material||5/10||The most common ones are peat-pots, which are made of fibre. Fibre containers have a tendency to wick a lot of moisture, therefore leaving the plant thirsty for some water, so the impact can be quite significant.|
|Glass||4/10||There is no proven negative effect of the glass material over the plant. However, the root system and the soil are part of a growing environment that contains all sorts of bacterial communities that are essential to the plant. This is a system that has evolved in the dark. Because of this, giving your houseplant a transparent home is something that will not benefit it in the long run. So generally speaking, I wouldn’t opt for a glass container.|
|Metal||3/10||The most common effect of a metal container on the plant is damage to the roots. This happens when the metal container overheats, and this is easily possible if left in the sun for a long time.|
Okay! Now you know that if it’s of good quality, plastic won’t affect your plants, plus it is cheap, easy to work with and durable.
I have mentioned a couple of times about moisture-loving plants and how they are most comfortable in plastic pots. So, let’s see some plants that love plastic pots.
5 Best Plants for Plastic Pots
Here are some indoor plants that not only are very easy to maintain, but can live a long and healthy life in a plastic pot, or in your bathroom, for the same reason – they love moisture.
Requires bright, indirect sunlight and is perfect for hanging. Keep it in a medium sized plastic pot, approx. 12 – 14 cm, in a rather cooler than hotter room and it will be the happiest plant in your home.
Seriously, can this plant get any better? Not only has it numerous health and beauty benefits, but it is so easy to grow. All it requires is about 6 hours of bright sunlight, the right sized pot (ideally plastic) and watering every week or so. You can easily overwater an Aloe, but if you leave enough time between waterings, it can recover quickly.
With this one, no amount of water is too much. Actually, it can grow only in water, no soil needed. Plastic or not, the container has to be the right size, so it can keep the stems upright. It needs low light and fresh air every week.
Ferns usually get their moisture from the air, which makes them perfect for the bathroom, but you get away with the plastic pot which retains enough moisture for the fern to be happy. It usually needs low to moderate indirect sunlight.
Orchids thrive in high-humidity and damp environments, so plastic pots make an ideal home for these reasons. They also should receive direct sunlight and not be overwatered. Here’s a trick: place a cube of ice on the soil once a week to give your Orchid the right amount of water.
Some important conclusions to draw from this article are:
Indoor plants can safely stay in high quality plastic pots
Different houseplants have different needs when it comes to their containers
Various container materials have specific effects on houseplants
Drainage holes at the bottom of the pot are essential to the plant
Okay, guys. That’s it for today. See you later, stay green!