Choosing the Right Pot for your Succulents

Selecting a pot or planter for succulents is often overlooked but it’s an important part of keeping your succulents happy and creating a beautiful arrangement!

Some of the links on this page may be affiliate links, meaning I get paid a commission (at no extra cost to you) if you click on the link and make a purchase. I only recommend products I’ve used and love unless stated otherwise.

When it comes to succulents, the only thing I enjoy more than buying succulents is choosing the pottery to plant them in. I’m especially addicted to blue pots. My goal is to one day have two giant teal blue pots on my front porch, both filled with bright orange succulents. Sounds great right?

But as much as I love buying pottery and planters for my succulents, it can be a challenging task to find just the perfect one.  Over the years, I’ve discovered a few things that are important to consider when choosing a pot, that many beginning succulent growers don’t think of. All of these factors can make a big difference in helping your succulents thrive.

Learn what to look for when choosing a pot for your succulents!

Drainage!

First, I sometimes feel like a broken record when I say this, but… choose a pot with a drainage hole! If you come away from this post learning nothing else, remember to get a pot with a drainage hole. Seriously, this will make your life so much easier, as it takes a lot of the guesswork out of watering succulents.

Get 15% off your purchase from Mountain Crest Gardens with coupon code NEWSITE15

This post is so helpful! Be sure to use a pot with a drainage hole for succulents!

If you find a pot you absolutely love that doesn’t have a drainage hole, you’ve still got options! You can add drainage to most containers with a diamond tip drill bit. Here’s a tutorial that shows how this is done (demo starts 2 min and 15 seconds in).

I love using Susan Aach’s pottery (like this one above) because she always includes large drainage holes. I use mesh tape to cover the holes to keep the soil from falling out. You can also use mesh screens. The water flows through them easily.

As you become more comfortable with watering your succulents in a pot with a drainage hole, you can branch out and try some pots without drainage. But,–again, I know I sounds like a broken record–if you’re just starting out…with succulents, a drainage hole will make a huge difference.

Material

The next consideration is the material your pot is made of. Some common pot materials include ceramic, plastic, wood, metal and glass. So which material is best? It depends on the location of your arrangement.

Terra Cotta or Ceramic

Terra cotta and ceramic are both pretty breathable materials, which means they’ll work well in areas that might not get a lot of air flow. In fact, I’ve found they work well indoors as well as outdoors.

In direct sunlight, a terra cotta or ceramic pot can heat up–which isn’t ideal for succulents, but usually isn’t a huge problem. Keep in mind though, that your soil will dry out more quickly if it’s left in direct sun.

The hard thing about terra cotta and ceramic pots is they can be extremely heavy. If you choose to grow in a large pot, you may find that it’s difficult to move after (and maybe even before) the soil and succulents are in. These types of pots are also quite fragile so you have to be careful not to drop them or knock them over.

Find out how to choose what type of pot or planter will help your succulent grow best!

Plastic

Plastic is another popular option for pots and planters these days. A huge advantage to plastic is that it’s not as fragile as ceramic and it’s often  a lot lighter. The downside is that it isn’t as breathable as terra cotta or ceramic. It’s much harder for water to evaporate in plastic pots than pots made from other materials.

But if you use a well-draining soil and have a drainage hole in your pot, this lack of breathability isn’t really an issue. Plus, plastic planters come in a huge variety of colors and shapes which makes them really fun to shop for.

This is a really great set to start out with if you’re looking for plastic pots!

Wood

If you’re looking for an unusual way to plant your succulents, wood  is a really interesting option. I love the driftwood planter I made last summer. It’s much more eye-catchingthan your typical pot or planter.

Plus, wood is helpful for succulents that sit in direct sun or hot environments because it stays cool and retains water.

On the other hand, if you’re planting in an area with less sunlight and airflow you may find that wood can easily rot or keep your soil wet for too long. The wood may also break down over time, or split from being watered. For all these reasons, wood may not last as long as some other materials for pots. But if you choose the right spot for it, wood can look really beautiful! 

See how to choose the best container for your succulents -- including why wood can be good and bad

Metal

Metal is typically not a great choice for succulents. You can use it if you want–but be aware that it changes temperatures quickly, which can cause the soil to heat up too much.

Also, unless you use a metal pot that’s specifically designed for planting, it will eventually rust, which isn’t healthy for succulents. If you decide to go with a metal container, it’s best to plan on moving your succulents after a while.

Glass

There’s no question that glass is a beautiful material to plant your succulents in. However, glass containers usually lack drainage holes (although the wine bottle planter below has one!).

Besides the drainage issue, glass is also not very breathable, which means your soil will have a hard time drying out–unless your container has a wide opening and allows for a lot of airflow.

Fill your wine bottle planter with a variety of succulents for a unique look

Glass also gets dirty easily, and has a tendency to collect hard water deposits. And of course, it’s also quite breakable, so you have to be careful with where you place your arrangements–especially if, like me, you’ve got some little ones running around your house!

Colors and Textures

Now that you’ve got a clearer idea of what materials might work best for your succulent planter, the fun really begins! You can take two different approaches at this point–choose your pot’s color and texture based on the succulents you’re working with, or pick your succulents based on the pot you want to use.

Cindy Davison of The Succulent Perch is an expert when it comes to pairing pots and succulents. She puts a lot of thought into choosing succulents whose natural colors will mimic or complement the pot she uses.

In this arrangement, for example, she’s filled the pot with succulents that are similar in color and shape to the design on the pot. This helps the arrangement look unified and visually appealing.

This arrangement is stunning and the post about choosing pottery is so helpful!

All these choices can get a little overwhelming, I know! If you can’t decide what to plant your succulents in, or if you’re having a hard time finding just the right pot, your best bet is just to fall back on basic terra cotta pots or simple white pottery. It seems every succulent looks great in one of these and their simplicity helps keep the focus on the succulent.

I’ve put together a list of some of my favorite pottery on Etsy that works well with succulents. You’ll find several from Susan Aach, who is a master ceramist and always keeps succulents in mind when she creates her unique pieces. The arrangement below was created by Cindy Davison of The Succulent Perch in a Susan Aach pot.

Find out how to use texture and color when selecting pottery for succulents

Size considerations

It can often be hard to tell what size of pot you need for your succulents and arrangements. As a general rule, I recommend leaving about a half-inch of space between your succulents and the edge of the pot, so they’ll have a little room to spread and grow.

Too much space can actually prevent a succulent from growing much larger, because the roots spread out before the succulent has time to catch up. If you buy a two-inch succulent, a 2.5 inch pot is generally a good choice if you’re planting it by itself.

If you’re combining a lot of succulents in your arrangement, you’ll want to leave a little space around each of them, so they’ll have some room to spread out. A tightly packed arrangement like the one below will look beautiful as soon as it’s finished, but it’ll generally prevent the succulents from growing for quite a while,  and looks overgrown as the succulents try to stretch or spread. Give them a little “breathing room” to allow for new growth.

Find out how to choose the best pot for your succulents

While there are a lot of things to consider when choosing a pot, it’s still a really fun part of growing succulents. Now that you’ve got a clear idea of what to look for in terms of materials, size, colors and textures.

Make growing succulents a breeze with the step-by-step guidance from my premium course!

Once you’ve selected the right container, it’s time to start potting! Check out my post on potting succulents for a step-by-step tutorial.

You can also find more information about potting succulents and a variety of other topics in my book, Idiot’s Guides: Succulents.


2017-10-05T15:31:31+00:00

33 Comments

  1. Lisa McCoy August 15, 2016 at 7:52 am - Reply

    I have a (currently) non functioning wall fountain basin that I was considering using as a planter for succulents.
    Challenges: 1)Cement, with no drainage–and will someday function as a fountain again. 2) Shallow depth 4″ at deepest point. I have never planted succulents before. Shall I give upbon the idea?

    • Cassidy Tuttle August 18, 2016 at 3:51 pm - Reply

      I think you can do it. Just make sure the soil you use has large particles and will dry out quickly. Pumice is a great option for arrangements without drainage. You’ll also have to be careful how much water you pour on. I’d recommend measuring out the amount so you make sure you don’t create a big pool of water in the soil.

  2. Gordon Betsill August 20, 2016 at 7:51 am - Reply

    If you have been reading this article, you’d know that drainage is essential to keeping succulents healthy over a long period of time. Plus, 4″ is very shallow.

  3. […] decorating and customizing your garden. The “Sunshine and Succulents” blog has a great post about various containers that can be […]

  4. Millie Mizzelle May 15, 2017 at 9:46 pm - Reply

    I loved reading about the pots and their sizes. I did 5 pots of succulents today and I believe I did it according to your recommendations. I’m extremely cautious about over watering now and I have thoroughly enjoyed all of your expert comments. I now have some in ceramic, plastic, terra cora, and 2 small ones in wood. I’m having a lot of fun doing this. May patio is loaded with succulents but I dread bringing them inside this winter. I have had several to die because if heat inside my house. My patio gets morning sun for about 3-4 hours and they seem to love that. I live in zone 7-8 so I do have to bring them inside no later than December. It’s still fun and if I lose them, such as the burros tail, I will just replace them the following spring.

    • Cassidy Tuttle May 24, 2017 at 1:21 pm - Reply

      That is so great, I bet your garden looks amazing! Designing and arranging succulents is so fun, thanks for sharing!

  5. Frances Giforos June 16, 2017 at 3:50 pm - Reply

    My house doesn’t have a lot of natural light. Will I be successful in keeping the succulents alive?

  6. Marianne June 23, 2017 at 7:35 am - Reply

    I want to seal some terra cotta saucers so they don’t mark the areas where I’ll be using them. Any suggestions as to the best products to use for this purpose (and for pots too, for that matter)? Do these products harm the plants? Also, when drilling holes in pottery as opposed to harder ceramics, should you seal the area so water doesn’t seep into the pottery and make it crack? Thanks for any info.

    • Cassidy Tuttle June 29, 2017 at 2:50 pm - Reply

      I haven’t used any sealers on pots, but I have used this on some rocks around my succulents and haven’t had any issues: http://amzn.to/2tpa64i

      You can also put them up on Pot Feet (see this post for more info).

      I’ve drilled into softer pottery before and haven’t had any issues with it cracking. The water isn’t on it for very long, so it shouldn’t seep in deep enough to crack.

  7. Catherine July 1, 2017 at 9:37 pm - Reply

    I recently came across some adorable ceramic “self-watering” planters that I was wondering if it would be okay to use with succulents? I’m new to growing succulents, and am unsure how well they would work without a drainage hole. They have a small saucer in the bottom that I believe you are supposed to fill and water seeps through the pot into the soil. But if I soak the soil every few days as you suggest, do you thing the soil would stay too moist? Should I just use these for something else?

    Thank you!

  8. Stef. S September 6, 2017 at 1:11 am - Reply

    Great article for beginner plant owners such as myself. Quick question: I cannot find the size and style pot I want anywhere local of online, and I was considering making my own clay pots. I do not have a kiln so I looked into it and some blog posts say to use oven bake polymer clay, but that is a plastic clay and doesn’t seem breathable enough? Do you think it would allow enough air flow for my plants? I just got a new succulent from a friend and I have very few sunny spots to keep it so the pot fitting my space is very important.

    • Chantile -- Succulents and Sunshine Success Team September 11, 2017 at 9:30 am - Reply

      If you have proper drainage, it shouldn’t be a problem. Check out this post for some more info!

Leave A Comment