Does The Size of The Pot Determine How Big the Plant Grows?


Picture of pots with different sizes

Growing plants in pots have been all the rage lately. It is perhaps because of the freedom it offers. One can quickly grow plants and flowers while residing in a high-rise apartment or a rented house with the help of planters. However, picking the right pot for your plants is key to a flourishing container garden.

The pot size determines how much the plant’s root system can spread out, which is essential to ensure that the plant gets enough nutrients, air, and moisture. So, eventually, the size of the pot affects the health, yield, and size of the plant.

While many people think that the bigger the pot, the better it is for the plant. This is not true. Too little or too much space can be harmful to the plant. Other than just picking the right size planter for your plants, it is also essential to ensure that you report them into a larger pot at the right time.

Here is some information that will help you find the ideal pot and know when it is time to size up:

Reason to Pick The Ideal-Sized Pot

The soil in a large pot will dry up slowly, making the plant more susceptible to root rot and fungal disease. On the other hand, a too-small pot will dry up very quickly and thus require frequent watering. Moreover, a smaller pot would mean that it can soon become top-heavy, increasing the pot’s most chance of toppling.  

Other than this, a smaller pot can limit the plant’s nutrient intake, leading to stunted growth. Similarly, a larger pot will allow the plant to take up excess nutrients, which can cause the plants to burn. Thus, it is essential to ensure that you pick the ideal pot size for your plant to ensure its healthy growth.

Things to Consider on Picking Pots

Other than just the size of the pot, many other factors should be considered while picking pots that will help you have a thriving container garden and ensure the proper growth of your plants.

Enough Space For the Roots

Usually, the stuff going on beneath the surface matters more than what is going on above it. And as mentioned earlier, the roots of the plants also require space to grow within the pots without being root-bound. So, other than the diameter, you also need to ensure that the pot is deep enough.  

This is important to ensure you get deep pots if you plan to get plants with deep roots. This will ensure that the roots have enough space to spread out. Thus, understanding the physiology of plants and their roots is also quite crucial before growing them into pots.

Pot Measurements

With just a simple trick, you can come across the ideal-sized pot for your plants. All you need to do is measure the size of the plant by its diameter. Now, you need to pick a planter that is slightly bigger than the plant. For instance, if the plant’s diameter is 4 inches, you should get a pot that is 6 inches in diameter.

As the plant grows bigger, you can report it to a larger planter.

However, in the case of succulents, you can pick a planter just one size bigger. This is because succulents do not grow a lot in size.  But while choosing a pot for a plant that is expected to grow quickly, you should consider getting a pot up to four inches wider.

However, measuring the planter can be tricky. This is because planters come in different shapes, which means that they are measures differently as well. While round planters are measured by diameter, square and rectangular pots are measured by the distance between opposite rims for the length and width. But you should also note that pots measured in trade gallons indicate the volume of soil they can hold.

Plant Size

While picking pots for your garden, you need to consider the plant size as well. However, their initial sizes would not play a significant role. Instead, the plants’ mature size should serve as the guide for you while choosing pots. For instance, a tomato seedling would easily fit into a 6-inch pot, but it will soon outgrow it and need a much bigger container.

Drainage Holes

While holes in pots offer a great way to ensure proper drainage, they can also be quite helpful in knowing whether the pot is too small for the plant. To tell if your plant requires a larger pot, you should look for roots poking out of the drainage holes in the bottom.

This is one of the easiest ways to know that your plants need more space to grow. Also, be sure that the containers that measure less than 10 inches in diameter have a drainage hole of around half an inch in diameter. On the other hand, containers with a diameter of 10 inches or more should have two to four drainage holes.

Moreover, a small pot would hold less water and would not be able to support plant growth. So, while picking up pots, go for the ones with drainage holes. However, for plants that do not require a lot of moisture, you can consider getting hanging baskets that offer plenty of drainages.

Standard Pot Sizes and What to Grow in Them

Picture of small seedling in small pot

Different plants have different requirements. Thus, it is vital to ensure that your pots work well for each of them. Here are some of the standard pot sizes, along with some of the plants that one can consider growing in them:

10-inch Pots

Usually, a pot with a 10-inch diameter can hold around two to three gallons of potting soil. This makes them for smaller plants, succulents, and herbs. You can consider growing veggies like leaf lettuce, beets, small carrots, and turnips. It will also be great for strawberries and even flowers like marigolds or zinnias.

14-inch Pots

A planter with a 14-inch diameter can be great for medium-sized vegetables. These can hold up to seven gallons of potting soil. So, growing vegetables like cabbage, large carrot varietals, spinach, and even peas would be great in these pots. You can also grow leafy greens like kale, chard, or collard greens in these pots.

18-inch Pots

If you wish to plant even bigger plants and crops, you can go for a planter that has an 18-inch diameter which can hold up to 10 gallons of potting soil. This would work well for veggies for broccoli, eggplant, cauliflower, peppers, zucchini, tomatoes, or even dwarf citrus trees.

24-inch Pots

A pot with a diameter of 24-inch can hold around 25 gallons of soil and easily handle houseplants that can grow to be quite large and have an extensive root system. So, be sure that the pot is also deep enough to offer proper support and enough space for both roots and shoot to grow.

You can grow fiddle leaf fig trees, pomegranate, apple, and dwarf peach trees that will fit well in these pots.

30-inch Pots

30-inch diameter pots can be quite massive and are usually not used for house gardens. These can serve as great nursery pots and work well for full trees like pear, apple, and plum. These trees can live all their lives in these pots if they are adequately fertilized.

Tips to Grow Bigger Plants?

According to a study, doubling pot size can make plants grow more than 40% larger. However, many other things determine the size and growth of plants, like using the right fertilizer, growing seedlings inside, weeding, and even using coffee grounds or soaking seeds in tea.

However, when it comes to container gardening, here are a few tips that will help you grow fresh, healthy, and possible bigger plants:

Sizing Up and Repotting

You cannot expect each plant to grow in the same pot throughout its life. Almost every plant needs to be repotted into a larger pot at some point in its life cycle. Thus, it is crucial to know when the pot demands a larger or deeper pot. One of the first signs would be the plant requiring to be watered more frequently. And as mentioned earlier, one may notice the roots are growing out from the drainage hole.

Also, periodically, you should lift the root bulb to check whether there is sufficient soil left or not. If the root ball appears to be a tangled mess, it indicates that the plant is root-bound and requires a larger pot.

Moreover, it is essential to know more about the physiology of the plant to get a better idea about the growth rate and size of the plant. Generally, a plant is required to be repotted into a larger container once in a couple of years. Also, it is recommended that one should report their plants during the spring season for best results.

Avoid Overpotting

It is not always the bigger, the better when it comes to container gardening. And although sizing up is a good practice, overpotting (growing a plant in a too-large container) can damage the plant. A pot that is too large for the plant will stay wet for a very long time which can cause root rot, yellow leaves, and even plant death.

Can Pot Size Restrict Plant Growth?

A plant can only grow as much as the planter will allow it. This is because the nutrients that the plant gets from the soil are limited in a pot. However, this drawback can prove to be quite beneficial for people who have limited space. With this, one can quickly grow dwarf plants in a small pot and save up on space.

However, this does not mean that one can relax and skip on tending to their plants. While growing plants in small pots, one needs to ensure that the plant does not get root-bound and enough nutrients.

Conclusion on does the size of the pot determine how big the plant grows

One needs to check the roots often and prune them frequently to ensure proper plant growth. While the size of the pot plays a significant role, the material of the planter and the kind of potting soil used also affect plant growth and health. We hope that these tips and tricks will help you understand how size matters, even in container gardening.

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Tony O'Neill

I am Tony O'Neill, A full-time firefighter, and professional gardener. I have spent most of my life gardening. From the age of 7 until the present day at 46. My goal is to use my love and knowledge of gardening to support you and to simplify the gardening process so you are more productive

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