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Ron Finley Teaches Gardening

If you live in an apartment or a house with minimal yard space, gardening can be a challenge. Thankfully, container gardening makes it possible to grow beautiful plants indoors, on a balcony, or in a tight corner of your garden—providing you know how to select the right pots.

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Ron Finley Teaches GardeningRon Finley Teaches Gardening

Community activist and self-taught gardener Ron Finley shows you how to garden in any space, nurture your plants, and grow your own food.

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How to Choose the Right Pot for Any Plant

When choosing a pot for a new plant, make sure you select one that has drainage holes and gives the plant room to grow. Buy a pot with a diameter that’s at least one inch wider than the diameter of your plant’s root mass, and if you're expecting your plant to grow quickly, use a pot up to four inches wider.

5 Standard Pot Sizes and What to Grow in Them

Your local garden center or hardware store probably sells flower pots in various sizes, each of which works well for different types of plants. Pots are measured by their diameter.

  1. 10-inch pots: A pot with a 10-inch diameter holds two and a half to three gallons of potting soil. It's a great container size for succulents and herbs, as well as vegetables like leaf lettuce, strawberries, turnips, beets, small carrots, and flowers like marigolds and zinnias.
  2. 14-inch pots: Containers with a 14-inch pot diameter work well for cabbage, peas, large carrot varietals, spinach, and hearty leafy greens like kale, collard greens, and chard.
  3. 18-inch pots: This size pot can house large vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, eggplant, zucchini, peppers, and tomatoes. It’s also the perfect pot for growing berries, shrubs, cacti, and even dwarf citrus trees.
  4. 24-inch pots: These pots hold 24 gallons of soil and can handle large houseplants with a somewhat extensive root system. A fiddle leaf fig tree will fit a 24-inch pot, provided the pot height is tall enough (tree roots need room to grow downward). Pomegranate, apple, and dwarf peach trees will also fit pots of this size.
  5. 30-inch pots: Massive by most standards, 30-inch pots generally serve as nursery pots for trees that will eventually go in the ground. Full trees including pear, apple, and plum can live their entire lives in a 30-inch pot, provided they’re properly fertilized.

4 Types of Pots and How to Use Them

While the differences between pot materials are largely aesthetic, there are a few distinctions that can affect the health of your plants.

  1. Plastic pots: These tend to be lightweight and low-cost, and they're available in many different colors. Plastic pots are better for indoor plants, as certain types of plastic (particularly black plastic) absorb summer heat and can cook your plant's roots. Be wary of very thin plastic; although plastic does not biodegrade, it does photodegrade, which means strong sunlight can eventually cause the pot to fall apart.
  2. Terracotta pots: Made from red clay, these classic pots are the default for container gardening. The porous terracotta material absorbs water from the soil and then dries out, so either pair these plants with drought-tolerant species (like succulents and rosemary), or plan to do a lot of watering.
  3. Glazed ceramic pots: These pots are sturdy, heavy, and can be glazed in a wide array of colors. Almost any plant will do well in a glazed ceramic pot. The two drawbacks are higher prices and a tendency to crack in freezing temperatures.
  4. Hanging baskets: Consider this option for small plants, especially succulents. Hanging baskets give plants plenty of drainage, so don’t place anything below them that you don’t want getting wet.

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Grow your own food with Ron Finley, the self-described "Gangster Gardener." Get the MasterClass Annual Membership and learn how to cultivate fresh herbs and vegetables, keep your house plants alive, and use compost to make your community - and the world - a better place.

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