Ten Things to Know About Pots

Our thoughts about garden pots are mostly opinions, and gardeners can give opinions only as much weight as they deserve.

  1. Containers may be the most important part of a small garden. Invest time and resources for the best choices.
  2. Designers like big pots better than small pots. Not all designers have the same view about anything, but often, small pots produce clutter and big pots add focal points.
  3. Plants like big pots better than small pots. Small pots are fine for small plants, but larger plants hold moisture longer, and provide roots room for larger plants and plant combinations.
  4. Non-porous pots are better than porous pots. Containers need a soil mix that drains well, but it’s also important to avoid leaving the plant with no moisture. Terra cotta pots evaporate moisture through their sides; glazed pots and other non-porous containers hold moisture longer.
  5. Pots without drain holes are OK for some plants. Succulent specialist Debra Lee Baldwin says that containers that don’t drain can be used for succulents when limiting water and monitoring soil moisture.
  6. The pot’s color should work with the plant’s color. Containers with neutral colors: white, black, concrete gray and earth tones (terra cotta = “baked earth”) won’t compete with colorful blossoms or foliage. Distinctively colored glazed pots invites for analogous or complementary color combinations with plants.
  7. Pots with brightly colored patterns should be used carefully. They can compete visually with the plant, rather than leaving the plant as the center of attention. Traditional Talavera pottery from city of Puebla and nearby communities in Mexico can be featured as artwork, without a plant.
  8. High-fired pots are better than low-fired pots. Earthenware, like Mexican pottery, is fired to temperatures below 2100°F, is not strong and chips easily. Stoneware, like some Chinese garden containers, is fired to temperatures from 2200°F to 2350°F, is very strong and durable. Stoneware is often large and heavy, but over time is worth the higher cost.
  9. The depth of the pot should work with the plant’s roots. Shallow containers are suitable for bonsai and some succulents, but most containers are intended to accommodate the roots of monocot plants, which have fibrous roots. Most dicot plants have taproots, and should be planted in a tall container. Examples include windflower, balloon flower, butterfly weeds, and Oriental poppies.
  10. Plastic containers are a matter of personal taste. The best plastic pots are well designed, attractively finished, light in weight and relatively inexpensive, but purists might insist on natural materials. Black nursery cans are for nurseries.


For inspiration on planting pots, visit Southern Living’s “101 Container Ideas”

Garden centers usually have a selection of pots available for purchase, but a wider range of choices can be found at retail businesses that specialize in garden containers, and perhaps also statuary and fountains.

Such businesses in the Monterey Bay area include

If you’re inclined to travel a bit for “pot shopping,” here are two places to visit:

For distinctive, hand-crafted garden pots, visit the website of Guy Wolff Pottery

Talavera garden pots can be found in many retail shops and also on online sources, such as Direct from Mexico and Talavera Emporium. To be certain you are getting authentic Talavera Poblana, verify that the item was created in City of Puebla or in the nearby communities of Atlixco, Cholula, and Tecali.

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