When looking for a forever home for your plant baby, there are two things that you should consider before you start repotting – pots and a potting mix. Typically, we would want to size up our pot and put some new potting mix in it so that our plants can get fresh nutrients that will help them grow into their new space. Now we know there are hundreds of options out there for pots and potting mixes, so we’re here to help you cut through the noise and guide you towards the right decision. So let’s get down to it, shall we?
How to Select The Right Pot
Choosing a pot is simple as long as you know what features to look for:
- The pot should have adequate drainage.
- The pot needs to match the plant size.
- Different materials have certain advantages and disadvantages that we will summarize below.
The plant needs an opening in the bottom to let excess water out. Without this, the plant will get overwatered and prone to root rot, fungus gnats, and mold.
The size dictates what and how many plants can live happily in your pot. It can get a little confusing – especially if you are planting lots of different plants in the same pot. It’s helpful to remember that plants are pretty flexible, so it’s okay if your pot is close to the guidelines but not perfectly there. If you are in doubt regarding the size, it’s always okay to go a little bigger.
Pots for Different Plant Types
Most herbs are happy in smaller pots, so you can focus on picking out pots that work for your space. For growing indoors in your windowsill, we don’t recommend going smaller than 4″ for most herbs. For the outdoors, where it tends to be warmer, you should use a 6″ pot or larger. The table below has the number of plants and their minimum pot size. Still, we recommend bigger pots than the minimum requirement to allow for bigger harvests.
Vegetables need more space but can also be perfectly happy in containers. The table below is for our container-friendly veggies kit, which needs a bit less space than typical vegetables. If you use a nice big container, you can do some companion planting, like our favorite – tomatoes and basil.
There are also lots of different materials you will see out there. They are all great options, but there are some nuances you might want to consider when making decisions about your pots.
Pro: Plastics are common, inexpensive, lightweight, often have more drainage holes than other pots, and are safer around young children than other pots.
Con: If single-use, it comes with the ecological problems of using plastic. Typically, they do not last more than a few seasons. Over time, plastic pots can leach chemicals into the soil.
Pro: Biodegradable and eco-friendly, wooden pots also tend to be lightweight and easy to transport. Usually, wooden pots are aesthetically pleasing, especially in comparison to plastic pots.
Con: Since wooden pots are biodegradable, this also means they can rot over time if used outdoors and without proper maintenance. In addition, the timber used may not be from a sustainable resource. The pots need to be well-kempt.
Pro: They are usually quite aesthetically pleasing and regulate temperature a bit. In addition, terracotta planters are porous and suitable for windy areas. Generally, they are fairly inexpensive.
Con: They are heavy and require watering more frequently. Also, they are easily breakable and often have poor drainage.
Pro: Fabric pots are inexpensive, have good aeration, and are biodegradable.
Con: Fabric planters require a lot of water usage and generally last for only 2-3 seasons.
How to Select the Right Potting Mix
Now that you’ve got a new pot, it’s time to think about what potting mix you will put in it. Keep in mind that your plant type will determine the best potting mix to use, but overall, they need to allow adequate drainage since we don’t want any of your potted plants to drown in excess water. While plenty of ready-made potting mixes are available, we believe that knowing the different components it contains to help you give the best plant care is crucial. Here are the typical ingredients you will find in a potting mix:
Organic Plant or Animal-based Components
These are the base ingredients, including peat moss, rice hulls, processed forest products such as aged bark, manure, compost, bat guano, poultry litter, or worm castings. Coconut coir is also used more often now as a substitute for peat moss, which is less sustainable. All these organic materials help to hold water and release macronutrients that aid in your plant’s growth.
Inorganic Natural Components
These help to provide aeration, aid drainage, and retain moisture. These include perlite (light pebbles made from superheated volcanic glass), vermiculite (mineral particles that contain magnesium and calcium), pumice, sand, or cinders.
Every potting mix needs to have at least one kind of fertilizer since this is the primary source of nutrients for your plants. These can either be synthetic blends or nutrient-dense organic materials such as alfalfa, bone, and kelp meals. If you’re growing edible plants, it’s best to steer clear of potting mixes that contain chemical fertilizers.
These may include lime to balance pH levels, beneficial microbes, and wetting agents to help retain moisture. If you buy a ready-made potting mix, you’ll notice that some brands even have their own patented additives.
Be careful of potting mixes that contain a hefty load of fillers like garden soil, glass, or rocks. These ingredients will weigh down your plants and could compromise the air circulation needed to spread their roots and absorb nutrients and moisture.
Potting Mix for Different Plant Types
While you can definitely purchase some ready-made potting mix at your local garden shop or online, we thought it might be fun for us to share our own DIY potting mix recipe that you can try at home. Our recipes provide ratios rather than specific measurements – so it’s up to you whether you want to measure these using a tin can or a wheelbarrow. Make sure to combine the mixture thoroughly and spray on some water to help bind the elements together.
And now that you know how to select the right pot and potting mix for your repotted plant, nothing is stopping you from expanding your indoor garden! If you haven’t already, check out our Herb Seed Collection and Vegetable Seed Collection that could be the perfect addition to your indoor edible gardening project. Happy digging!