What To Look For When Choosing A Pot For Your Succulent

If you’re anything like me you’ll spend way too long looking for the perfect pot for your succulents. While there’s a plethora of different types of pots these days, if you’re new to the wonderful world of succulents though you might be wondering what the best thing for your plant is. This is why I decided to write this guide, I wanted to take the guesswork out of choosing the right pots for your succulents.

What should you look for when choosing a pot for your succulent? Being drought-tolerant plants with shallow root systems, succulents hate being in water so shallow pots with drainage holes will always be the best option, regardless of what type of succulent you have. The pot should also only be an inch or two bigger than your plant to encourage healthy growth.

The pot you choose to put your succulent in can be an extension of your personality but not all pots are equal so what do you need to consider when looking for a new pot?

Are deep or shallow pots better for succulents?

A lot of people think that succulents should be planted in deep pots to give the roots plenty of room to grow but not only is this wrong, it can have the opposite effect. To start with a deep pot will mean that there’s too much soil but on top of that the light won’t be able to reach the lower leaves which, in time, can cause them to start to rot.

While you might not think the amount of soil in a pot will make a difference, when it comes to succulents it can have a negative effect due to the plant’s drought tolerance. The reason for this is that with a deep pot, the soil will trap the water at the bottom out of reach of the roots. Even with drainage holes, this will mean there’ll be too much moisture, leading to the roots eventually rotting. This will also happen if the pot is too wide for the succulent but will look at that in a minute.

With a shallow pot, the roots will touch the bottom which will stop them growing. This might sound like a bad thing but what it actually means is that instead of growing the root system the succulent will turn its attention to growing the plant.

Succulents should be planted in shallow pots

What’s the best material for succulent pots?

Due to their breathability, terracotta, ceramic, or concrete pots are the best option for succulents. This is because excess water is wicked away and the succulent roots are less likely to get waterlogged. While they may not be as suitable, plastic, wood, metal, and even glass pots can also be used.

When it comes to choosing which material to use it’s largely down to personal preferences, although that said where you’re going to place the succulent will also play a role. Some materials are better suited to being outside while others are better indoors.

As a quick reference guide, the table below will help you to see the pros and cons of different materials as well as where they can be kept.

Material of succulent potMaterial suitable indoors or outdoorsIs material breathableWeight of materialDoes material have drainage holes
TerracottaBothYesHeavyNot necessary
CeramicBothYesHeavyNot necessary
ConcreteBothYesHeavyNot necessary
Pros and cons of different succulent pot materials


Terracotta pots are perfect for succulents

Terracotta is extremely breathable which means that it allows the soil to drain excess water away properly. This means that they’re perfect for people that are new to succulents and aren’t sure how much water to give the plant.

If you keep terracotta pots outside then you’ll need to think about the effect the weather will have on their ability to wick excess water away. In the summer they can heat up and dry the soil out but in the winter the cold air will reduce their potential to do this a little, meaning you don’t need to water the succulent as much. 

The only downside to terracotta though is that, depending on the size of the pot (and the amount of soil you use) it can become pretty heavy, making it difficult to move.


Ceramic pots are perfect for succulents

Ceramic is very similar to terracotta in terms of its breathability but one area where it outperforms terracotta is the wide array of colors it’s available in. I know that terracotta can be painted and glazed but this is something that doesn’t tend to happen. Ceramic pots on the other hand can either be purchased ready painted or you can easily paint them yourself.

Again, like terracotta, ceramic can be very heavy so it’s not always suitable if you like to move the plant around from time to time, or if you like to bring them in during the winter.


Concrete pots are perfect for succulents

Concrete is one of those materials that’s often overlooked when it comes to plant pots but is becoming more and more desirable with many people liking the industrial look. It has all of the good qualities of terracotta and ceramic in that it’s highly breathable. Like the two previous materials concrete can also be heavy to move so is more suitable for being in a location where you won’t need to move it.


Plastic pots are okay for succulents

Plastic is by far the lightest (and cheapest) of all of the available materials but that isn’t necessarily a good thing. Yes, it means that you can move your succulent around whenever you want to but it also means that it will heat up easily in the summer and can freeze in the winter so they’re not really suitable for outdoor use.

On top of that plastic isn’t breathable so it’s important to get a pot that has drainage holes, either that or put some in yourself.


Wooden pots aren't ideal for succulents

Being a natural material wood is very breathable but that doesn’t necessarily mean it makes a good pot for your succulents. The problem with wood is that it’s prone to rotting due to the fact that the water will drain away into the wood. While this may just mean you need to replace it more frequently, the rotting wood can damage the soil. You can line it with a plastic liner to reduce the risk of this but that then means it’s no longer breathable. Which if you ask me defeats the point of using it in the first place.


Metal pots aren't ideal for succulents

Like concrete, metal is fast becoming a popular choice for succulent pots but unlike concrete, it’s not very suitable. To start with it doesn’t tend to have drainage holes to allow the excess water to drain away. On top of this, most metal pots haven’t been galvanized so will eventually start to rust which can be very bad for your succulents as harmful particles will get into the soil and will then be absorbed by your plant’s root system.

Another drawback to metal is that it shouldn’t really be used outside because, like plastic, it’s often very thin so will overheat in the summer and freeze in the winter. Leading to the metal breaking down faster.


Glass isn't very suitable for succulents

With the rise in popularity of terrariums and hanging decorations glass is a popular material for succulents but the problem with it is that it doesn’t allow the soil to drain away at all. This can be exacerbated if you place your succulent in an area with a lot of direct sunlight because the glass will help to create its own moisture, creating further problems for your succulent.

That doesn’t mean to say you can’t use a glass pot for succulents but if you do you need to use some sort of stones or course sand and perlite (or pumice) in the bottom to help with drainage. You also need to be careful and watch the plant closely, to make sure the soil isn’t too wet.

What size pot is best for succulents?

Before you start looking to buy a pot for your succulent you need to think about whether you’re going to put a single plant or multiple plants in it. The principles of what size pot you go for are the same regardless, but if you choose to plant multiple succulents in the same pot then you need to make sure they’ve all got enough space to grow properly.

Okay, so what size pot does your succulent actually need? As a rule of thumb, you should use a pot that’s 10% bigger in diameter than the width of your succulent and 10% taller than the height of it. This will give your plant enough space to grow while the roots won’t be crowded nor will there be too much soil.

You might think that buying a pot that’s much bigger than your succulent will give them plenty of room to grow and will mean you don’t need to repot it as often but there are a few reasons why you shouldn’t do this. To start with there’ll be way too much soil that will hold water for longer than a smaller pot would. This means that the roots (even if they’re not touching the wet soil) won’t get a chance to dry out properly and the plant will be far more likely to suffer from being overwatered.

Small pots, on the other hand, will have less soil which means your succulent won’t be able to get the nutrients it needs. A small pot will also cause the roots to take over the pot (known as root bound) and will leave little room for any soil, again resulting in a lack of nutrients.

In order to understand why it’s important to get the right size pot you need to appreciate how a succulent’s delicate root system works and how they can be damaged in the wrong pot. Succulents have two types of roots, hair roots (small roots that grow around the surface of the soil and soak up moisture from the air) and taproots (these grow straight down into the soil and store excess moisture).

Do succulent pots need drainage holes?

We all know that succulents don’t like standing in water which is why it’s crucial that the soil is able to drain properly. Of course, drainage holes (or a breathable pot) are the best way of doing this but what do you do if you’ve got your eye on a pot that doesn’t have any, and isn’t breathable?

If you keep your succulents in pots without drainage holes then you have to be very careful to not over water them. This sounds simple enough but even a seasoned succulent grower will tell you that this isn’t always as easy as it seems. So what options do you have then if your pot doesn’t have drainage holes, well you can simply add your own!

Adding drainage holes to a succulent pot

If your perfect succulent pot doesn’t have drainage holes (or if you want to make them bigger) you can easily add your own with a drill bit and some masking tape. Depending on the material you should either use a regular non-coated drill bit (for plastic or wood pots) or a diamond-coated titanium drill bit for terracotta, ceramic, concrete, glass, or metal pots.

To drill the hole place a bit of masking tape where you want the hole to be and start to carefully drill a hole. The masking tape will help to protect the material from cracking but will also steady the drill when you first start drilling. Once you’ve made your first hole you can repeat the process to create a few more.

How do you stop the soil from falling out of drainage holes?

If you’re worried about the soil falling out of the drainage holes you can place a mesh screen over them to stop this. The holes in the mesh will stop any soil from leaving the pot but will still allow the water to easily drain away. I use them all of the time in my pots (regardless of how big the holes are) and can highly recommend them, and best of all they’re extremely cheap. You can pick them up on Amazon for only a few cents per mesh.

How do you stop the water from making a mess?

If you’re anything like me you’ll worry that the drainage holes will mean the water will make a mess when it leaves the pot. Of course, if you just leave it as is this will happen but that’s why many people use drainage trays or saucers to catch the excess water.

A lot of pots come with their own trays but if yours doesn’t then simply stand the pot in an attractive tray. If your tray is made from wood then you might want to line it with plastic so that the water doesn’t go through that as well.

Using a tray under your succulent pot will stop water ruining your wood work

Takehome message

When it comes to finding the right pot for your beautiful succulent the choice is endless and you can easily find one that will fit your surroundings and suit your personality. The only thing you need to take into account when deciding whether a pot is right or not is the 10% rule, as long as it’s around 10% bigger and taller than your plant it’ll be fine.

I hope you found this article helpful. If you did I’d be grateful if you could share it please as it would really help me.

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