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Choosing container depth and diameter for a particular plant, for the balcony or terrace; and the shape depending on the variety and number of plants

Containers and planters are important. Not only should they be attractive, complementing your existing decor, they must also enable your plants to thrive and remain healthy for a long time. There is such a mind-boggling selection, making the decision hard enough. What should you choose? Below are some useful guidelines.

Choosing the right size


When it comes to determining the size of container you need for a particular plant, you need to consider depth and diameter first. It’s all about roots: the more a plant is likely to develop a large root system, the deeper your container should be. Conversely, certain species produce few roots, which makes shallow containers perfectly adequate for them.

The ideal pot depth should correspond to approximately one third of the height of the plant you want to place in it. For example, a 15- 20 cm deep container is fine for a plant 70 cm high.

Selection based on plants

Diameter Plants
15 - 25 cm
  • Succulents
  • Herbs
  • Strawberries
  • Lettuce
25 - 35 cm
  • Herbs
  • Cabbage
  • 3-4 spinach plants
  • Hostas
  • Squash
  • Geraniums Perennials
  • Small annuals
35 - 45 cm
  • Tomato plants (determinates, staked)
  • Broccoli
  • Peppers
45 - 75 cm
  • Tomato plants (indeterminates in a mesh cage)
  • Cucumbers
  • Artichokes
  • Mix of herbs and small vegetables
75 cm - 1 m
  • Small shrubs
  • Japanese maple
  • Small conifers


Depth Plants
Less than 15 cm
  • Succulents
  • Indoor herbs
15 - 25 cm
  • Annuals
  • Outdoor herbs
  • Lettuce
  • Strawberries
  • Radishes
25 - 45 cm
  • Perennials
  • Peppers
  • Eggplant
  • Melons
  • Corn
45 - 60 cm
  • Small shrubs
  • Tomato plants
  • Potatoes
  • Small fruit
60 cm - 1 m
  • Smaller trees
  • Fruit trees


Basic requirements for selecting the appropriate container for particular plants:

  • Herbs and annuals need a minimum of 1- 2 gallons of earth
  • Perennials and vegetables need a minimum of 5 gallons of earth 

And Shape

Pot shape

The shape of the container is also important: here are a few basic varieties to consider.

  • Round, square and rectangular containers are a good option for perennials and for shrubs and small, slow-growing flowering trees, provided they are deep enough.
  • Large containers with large openings allow floral arrangements and plant mixes to thrive. They provide ample space for the roots of all plants to develop and to store a reserve supply of water.
  • Flared and shallow pots are preferred for succulents and low cacti. You have the option of placing a shallow container on an attractive high stand, the perfect display for ornamental plants. You can also, of course simply place the container on a bench or table.
  • Urns are ideal for annuals with very few roots. The narrow neck and opening with a large base creates a spectacular effect with flowering plants.
  • Tall and straight containers offer a showcase for low plants with large root systems. For visual impact, combine 2 or 3 containers in harmonized colour combinations.

And location

Your choice of pots, containers and planters also depends on where you plan to locate them.

  • On the balcony, space is more restricted. Opt for hanging planters and containers you can attach to a railing.
  • On the deck, you can set large planters either on the deck floor or on pedestals, then sit back and admire your container garden.
  • At the entrance to your home, a space-saving tall container will look great and leave the hallway clear.
  • Indoor plant containers are consider a decorative accessory and should fit with the décor of the room.

Other criteria to consider

Different colors pots

In addition to features related to plant health and location, other options may just tip the balance one way or the other:

  • Colour: containers and pots provide you with a wonderful opportunity to add colour and aesthetic appeal to your outdoor decor. Be inspired by the environment where you will place your container and look to create appealing contrasts. Your pot should also compliment the plants it holds.
  • Storage: do you want to store your containers in the garden shed or garage when it’s time to put the garden to bed in the fall? If you have a large number of them, you may want to consider the ‘stackability’ of your containers.
  • Weight: if you have to replace a container, be sure to choose the material and weight you can manage. Planters can be heavy, and don’t forget, when they’re full of earth they become even heavier!

Extras that can make all the difference

How about plant containers that do the watering for you? Some manufacturers offer containers with integrated water reservoirs. These self-watering planters can take care of the water needs of plants for up to 12 weeks. The water indicator lets you know when you need to add water, and since potted plants require frequent watering, this device will ensure your plants thrive and flourish in moist, nutrient-rich soil. If you’re the kind of person who tends to forget the watering schedule, this may be your saviour!

Another interesting innovation: adjustable plant stands that allow you to vary the height of your various planters, pots and containers. Grow your favourite plants at eye-level! These are a wonderful option for a vertical garden that occupies very little ground area. Experience the beauty and soothing qualities of your own ‘green space’ no matter where you live!

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