When it comes to choosing a pot for your houseplant, there are a few important things to consider. The first two are the size of the plant pot and its drainage (or lack thereof). You’d be surprised how much the material of the planter you choose can matter, too! It affects the look of your indoor plants, how well the water drains, and whether or not the pot may break.

So, what plant pot size should you pick? Is drainage important in a houseplant pot? What material is the best option? Let’s take a look!

What is the Best Houseplant Pot Size?

As a general rule, you will want a plant pot that is roughly 1-2 inches larger than the size of your houseplant itself. This ensures that it’s nice and snug while giving it sufficient room to grow! 

There are exceptions, however. Some indoor plants actually prefer a smaller pot size, which many others would consider cramped (unhealthily so). Others prefer the recommended 1-2 inches of space, but they are slow growers and will require repotting less frequently.

A Bigger Houseplant Pot Isn’t Always Better 

Many have made the mistake of thinking a bigger plant pot is always better. In fact, an oversized planter will put a plant’s health at risk. It’s not the same as a goldfish, which will grow larger in a larger bowl. 

It’s true that indoor plants do need some room to grow, but too much will actually prove harmful. It won’t be able to absorb all of the excess water, and it will be left to soak!

Is Houseplant Pot Drainage Important?

Pots with drainage holes

Drainage is super important, and it is one of the main things that you will want to consider when choosing a container for your plant. There are loads of different houseplant planters out there, but a good number of them won’t work (at least, not nearly as well). This is because, decorative though many are, some lack drainage holes on the bottom and are not as practical. Drainage holes are a necessity when it comes to ensuring that the soil does not become soggy or moldy, and that the roots of your plants are not left to soak. Otherwise, root rot and a plethora of other ailments will become a serious risk.

What is Root Rot?

Root rot is a dreaded plant disease, and one that you’re likely to face at one time or another. This disease is both quite common and extremely deadly. What’s more, without proper drainage, it becomes an even greater risk. This is because root rot is caused by a few different kinds of fungus (especially Armillaria mellea). Like many fungi, this is nearly always present (and latent) in potting soil. All that it needs to come to life and spread is plenty of water.

Of course, watering regularly is important. There is a fine balance, however. To help prevent root rot, the soil should be frequently kept moist, yet never allowed to soak. This will also help keep a myriad of other plant diseases, both fungal and bacterial, in check.

How to Improve Drainage in a Houseplant Pot

So, aside from drainage holes, how else can you improve drainage in a container? There are some effective and simple ways, starting with the soil. Certain kinds of soil drain better, and some types of soil hold onto water. While you’ll want a mix of both, it can be much more disastrous if you overdo the latter.

To avoid water-logged soil, make sure that the dirt and mulch are mixed with something that’s especially well-draining. Some of the best options are sand, perlite, and gravel. Perlite is arguably the best, because, unlike sand and gravel, it’s super lightweight. It’s also excellent at improving drainage in potting soil.

Next, you can choose a well-draining pot material. Terracotta planters, for example, are porous. This means that they will help your plants drain excess water.

What Are Some Common Plants that Prefer to Be Rootbound?

If you’re unsure where to start, here are a few plants that prefer to be rootbound in a smaller pot. These are either slow-growing and require repotting only once every 2-4 years, or they’re simply more comfortable in an extra-snug pot:

  • African Violet
  • Peace Lily
  • Spider Plant
  • Jade Plant
  • Snake Plant
  • Aloe Vera
  • Ficus
  • Spider Lily

What are Some Common Plants that Will Need Extra Room To Grow? 

Here are a few plants that will need at least 1-3 inches of extra room to grow. Typically, these plants will need repotting roughly once a year (or once every two years). Their roots need plenty of room to stretch out, and their foliage needs ample (but not too much) space to grow!

  • Ferns
  • Clematis
  • Ivy
  • Hosta
  • Fiddle-Leaf Fig
  • Sweet Alyssum 
  • Swiss Cheese Plant
  • Phlox

Common Houseplant Planter Materials


Terracota pots for plants

When it comes to common container materials, terracotta has long been one of the most popular. This is in part due to the natural beauty of the reddish pots, as well as the porosity of the clay – which encourages water to drain more quickly, preventing plants from an unpleasant soak. The main downside to terracotta pots is that they are rather fragile. When dropped, a terracotta pot will almost certainly break.


A houseplant in a plastic pot

Plastic is a definite winner when it comes to durability. Plastic pots are resistant to water damage, breakage, and all kinds of weather. While they may not be the most aesthetic choice available, they are always dependable!


4 plants in ceramic pots

Like terracotta houseplant pots, ceramic houseplant pots are made of clay. The difference is in the type of clay, and the glaze that is applied to the outside of a ceramic pot. This makes it possible for the planter to be painted in all kinds of colors, and ceramic pots tend to come in various, fanciful designs, as well! They are also more resistant to water and weather. This being said, when dropped, a ceramic plant pot is highly likely to break.


A cactus in a small wooden pot

Wooden pots are all-the-rage, lending houseplant planters a zen or rustic look. Some of the most popular types of wooden houseplant pots are redwood, cedar, pine, and teak. The main downside to wooden houseplant pots is that they are not particularly resistant to weather. They tend to wear out and rot over time, and they are not particularly long-lasting. Specially-finished wooden pots may last a bit longer, though!


Fiberglass pots for outdoor plants

Fiberglass houseplant planters are the best of both worlds: they’re super lightweight and ultra-durable. They can stand the test of time and are resistant to all kinds of weather. Not only that, but fiberglass plant pots can be specially designed to mimic just about any look! You can find fiberglass pots that look like ceramic or wood but they're much more durable. Fiberglass is a bit more costly compared to other options, however.


Cacti in metal pots

There are lots of creative ways to use metal houseplant pots. You can recycle old watering cans and other containers as chic houseplant decor. Metal houseplant pots stand up to the elements, and they can even develop a lovely green finish over time. Sadly, metal pots also tend to overheat in the sun. This can cause the plants inside to dry out and even cook! 

For this reason, metal houseplant pots should be kept in the shade, or indoors, in indirect sunlight. If you take these steps, metal houseplant pots can certainly work.

As you can see, there are pros and cons to each of the common houseplant pot materials. Some are higher quality, such as ceramic and terracotta, whereas others are more durable, such as metal and fiberglass. Each material has a different style and functionality to offer. In the end, it all depends on what you and your houseplant are looking for!