Succulents are fantastic, low-maintenance plants that are suitable for any setting. And, with the right pots and very little care, you can add a splash of color and vibrancy to any indoor/outdoor setting. However, choosing the right pot is an important consideration, so I’ve looked into whether clay pots are good for succulents.
Clay pots are probably the most suitable material for succulents, offering good drainage, airflow, and durability, which plastic and metal pots do not. They are heavier and are easy to break, but they’ll keep your succulents vibrant and thriving with little effort, as long as you pick the right pot.
Clay pottery is one of man’s oldest innovations, and there’s a good reason that clay pots are still widely used thousands of years later. So, if you love succulents but are struggling to keep them alive, or they just don’t have that vibrant color that they used to, it might be because you’re just not planting them in the correct pots. Here are some things that you should consider.
Why Clay Pots Are The Best For Succulents
First, you need to understand what succulents are. They are a kind of plant that can survive for extended periods without water by storing water in their stems, leaves, and sometimes both. They are found in desserts, jungle, mountains and on the seaside.
So while we like to think of succulents as cactuses, they are far more too choose from, such as echeveria and String of Pearls. Succulents may not need much in terms of water, but they do have other important requirements in the form of the size of the pot you’re growing it in, the shape, the texture and whether it drains well.
Drainage is important because your succulents’ roots will rot if exposed to too much moisture. The size of your pot, meanwhile is also important because, if the pot is too big, roots will spread too deeply into the soil before the succulent has time to grow.
If your succulent is exposed to extremely high or extremely low temperatures, the material of your pot and the insulation it provides, can literally be the difference between life and death.
Clay pots offer the versatility that’s needed for succulents to thrive. Their size and weight will differ according to the specific succulent you’re using, but their durability, insulation and structure caters for good water absorption and draining, which keeps your succulents safe from any kind of damage caused by environmental conditions.
Metal, plastic, wooden and glass pots don’t offer the same durability. Plastic may not break as easily as terracotta or ceramics and it may be lighter, but exposure to sunlight will erode the plastic over time. Metals rusts over time and wood rots. Furthermore, none of them can keep a plant insulated as well as a clay pot would, because clay is a far thicker material. Terracotta pots and ceramics also have excellent draining systems, with porous bottoms, where roots and soil dry easily after being moderately moisturized. If you’re just starting out as a gardener, clay pots are also very forgiving and are a safer bet in case you overwater your succulents by mistake.
Terracotta or Ceramic?
I refer to clay pots as terracotta pots and ceramics as if they are interchangeable, but they aren’t. Terracotta is generally made out of clays that are fired at comparatively low temperatures, with reddish-brown colours. On the other hand, ceramics are typically glazed with a coat of lacquer and fired at higher temperatures, giving them a more glossy look.
The differences between the two are not particularly significant, but remember that terracotta ‘absorbs’ water because it is unglazed, while your glazed ceramic pot would ‘repel’ water. Because we want more absorption, I prefer terracotta.
But it’s mostly a matter of appearance. Terracotta pots will always have the same reddish brown texture, which most people believe is classic, simple and dynamic enough for any environment, while it also compliments the green colou of your succulents very well. Ceramics, however, can be made into specific colours, with patterns or motifs, which is nice if you’re looking to follow a specific colour scheme to match the room you’re putting your freshly potted succulent in.
Both will offer good drainage, good insulation and are very durable (although equally easy to break if you drop them, so be careful!). So picking between terracotta and ceramic comes entirely down to personal preference.
What’s The Right Pot Size & Shape For My Succulent
It’s often hard to determine what size of pot you want for your succulents. A good rule of thumb to go by is to use a pot that is about a tenth larger than your succulent, while leaving anywhere between half an inch and two inches of space between the succulent and the edges of the pot. So, if your succulent is 2 inches in diameter, you should get a pot that is about 4.2 inches in diameter.
If the pot you’re using is too large for the succulent, the roots will spread before the plant has any time to grow and there won’t be enough room for those roots to spread if the pot is too large.
Beyond this, water will not reach all of the roots if the pot is too large and a smaller pot means that the roots may not dry out quickly enough and will compromise drainage.
You can buy clay pots of just about any size on Amazon and you can also choose from a variety of shapes. In additional to the traditional style clay pots, you can get square shaped pots, cylindrical pots, thin lipped/lipless, strawberry and embelished pots. The shape you opt for is entirely down to personal preference, but I think that square shaped pots compliment succulents’ the best from an aesthetic perspective.
Alternatives To Clay Pots
If you’re not sold on using clay pots to house your succulents, there are a number of alternatives that you may prefer (or you just want to research). You can plant your succulents in pots made out of plastic, metal, wood or glass.
Plastic is the most popular alternative to clay, because it’s a lot lighter and not as fragile. However, it’s not as breathable, making it harder for water to evaporate.
Metal, on the other hand, is a bad long-term choice for planting succulents, because it can change temperatures easily and will heat soil up when temperatures start to rise. Furthermore, your metal pots will rust from exposure to either rain or just from simply watering your plant.
Wood is an interesting, unusual choice and can be more eye-catching. It stays cool in the hot sun and retains water well, which is good for your succulent, but it also rots after a while and is not a great long-term option.
Finally, glass containers, which usually come with drainage holes, are a more aesthetically pleasing option and can take all kinds of beautiful shapes. However, glass is also not very breathable, unless they have a wide opening that encourages airflow.
There’s no doubt that clay pots are the ideal choice when you’re looking for the right material to use for your succulents’ pots and it’s not particularly complicated to understand why it’s so much better than other materials like plastic or metal. Their insulation, durability and drainage make them ideal for the growth of a plant that doesn’t require much water and will struggle if it gets too much of it.
So if you’re struggling to keep your succulents alive, if they are changing colour and getting mushy, you probably need to repot them into a clay pot now. Doing so will make your succulents easy to maintain and before you know it, you’ll have a beautiful, colorful cactus or a vibrant Crown of Thorns!
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