Choosing The Right Pot Shapes For Your Container Garden | Expert Advice

We all know that plants and flowers are one of the best ways to bring a landscape to life – with the right pot shapes.

Whether you are looking to enhance your interior design or grow your vegetable garden on the patio, pots are one of the best choices to give your plants a safe and happy home.

But did you know that your container’s shape can affect your plant’s ability to retain moisture?

Choosing an appropriate container may seem like simply an aesthetic choice, but the size and shape of your containers, as well as the soil and potting mixture, can have a significant impact on the livelihood of your plants.

In this article, we break down the science of moisture absorption in container plants, how various sizes and shapes of pots can change those conditions, and why it may be important to consider these conditions when you plan the next re-pot for your garden.

Read this guide to help decide the best pot size for your plant!

Does The Shape Of A Plant Pot Matter?

pot size matters
Pot Size Matters: The same corn variety grows better in larger pots // ©Commons Wikimedia

Yes, pot shape does affect your plants. However, unless you are cultivating a prize garden full of award-winning houseplants and flower pots, the exact shape of your container isn’t going to affect the performance of your plants too much.

The shape of your containers will influence your ability to arrange plants, aesthetically and practically. No one wants their citrus trees blowing over during a summer storm, so making sure that your plant is in a suitable container for its size and weight distribution is important.

Related article: Guide to Container Gardening in Florida

Even more important than the shape of a pot is the soil inside of it, which affects the perched water table of any given container plant.

What is the perched water table?

What is the perched water table?

The perched water table is a phenomenon where soil pulls water up to nourish the plant and gravity pulls water down through the drainage holes, causing a layer of soil at the bottom of every pot that is always drenched with water. This is a phenomenon that occurs in every container plant, and is also known as the water saturation level.

Plants with roots long enough to reach the water table may get root rot which is a problem that often causes the death of your plant.

The water saturation level depends not only on the shape of your container but also on the type of potting soil you use. Heavier soils, like clay, will retain more water so the perched water table is higher, but pots filled with less absorbent soils will have a lower water saturation level.

Here’s where size and shape does matter: when potting soil is the same, the perched water level of any given container will also remain the same, no matter the size or height of your pot. This means that shorter, wider pots are going to retain more water than taller, more narrow pots.

What Is The Best Shape For A Plant Pot?

Rectangular planters in a front yard
Our Montroy planters are chosen to enhance the landscaping of a house’s front yard. ©Jay Scotts

Based on the perched water table theory, tall pots are the superior choice as the air-to-water ratio is the largest and enables better gas exchange. A tall and wide, rather than a tall and narrow pot, will be the most suitable choice for a broad range of plants. This will accommodate most watering methods and needs.

Some plants like spinach require lots of consistent moisture, so they are better suited in a short, wide pot. Succulents and cacti also tend to thrive in shallow containers as they have one main taproot that goes deep into the pot and many thin, short roots that stay close to the surface.

Choosing a variety of pot shapes is key to creating a functional, aesthetic garden. To figure out which shape will work best for your particular style, here are some of our favorite ideas for the most common pot shapes you might find when planning your garden design.

Square Planters

colorful square planters
Our colorful square planters in public places. ©Jay Scotts

Due to their uniformity, square containers are often used to frame entryways and line pathways. For example, our Lima Square Planter is perfect for defining spaces and adding an accent to any room.

A square arrangement in your container garden will always fit together well, allowing for much easier watering due to the smaller gaps between pots.

Especially when growing tall plants or trees, stability is key to keeping a well-maintained landscape. While containers with tapered bases are an eye-catching way to add curb appeal to your space, they are vulnerable to toppling over so many landscapers prefer to use square containers for taller plants because they are much more stable.

Rectangular Planters

Rectangular planters in resort patio
Our rectangle planters are a commercial favorite – ©Penthouse Pool club // UA Companies.

Rectangle containers like our Darwin Tall Rectangular Planter are suited more toward creating privacy and cultivating a cozier, more intimate vibe.

Their practicality makes them versatile enough for any landscape. Whether you are looking to add a divider between your pool and your patio, or plant rows of corn in your backyard vegetable garden, a rectangular pot can add decoration and functionality to any space.

Related article: 5 Plant Wall Ideas for Your Vertical Garden

Round Planters

Round planters in commercial space.
Our round planters are used to add value to commercial properties. ©Jay Scotts

For a collection of small indoor houseplants, an assorted arrangement of round pots is a beautiful design choice. From flower pots to succulents and herbs, if the plant can thrive in a smaller pot, it might be a great addition to your tabletop garden. However, watch out for round shapes that are too small for your plant as they become root bound.

Round planters don’t have to be limited to the home. In a commercial setting, a round standalone pot like our Valencia Round Tapered Planter would make an excellent first impression at entryways or dividing large commercial spaces.

How Plant Size Can Determine The Planter Shape.

planter boxes
Several plants may be planted in our large square containers to create impressive displays. ©DKoliha

When choosing the right container for your garden, the shape will depend largely on the type of plant and that particular plant’s tolerance for certain water conditions.

Understanding your plants’ water needs is crucial to choosing the right pot shape for them. The perched water level, or water saturation level, affects a plant’s ability to retain moisture, so plants like cacti and succulents that prefer a drier environment, may thrive in a different container than for houseplants that require consistent moisture.

Here are more tips for specific planter sizes.

Small Shaped Pots

Shanghai Fishbowl Planter
Shanghai Fishbowl Planter

Keeping your plant’s roots a good distance from the water saturation level is crucial for their health. If your houseplants become too big for its pot, the roots will become stuck near the drainage hole at the bottom of the pot. If you notice roots peeking out of your drainage holes, it’s time to find a larger pot for your plant.

Large Shaped Pots

Alzira Bowl Planter
Alzira Bowl Planter

However, if your pot is too large for your plant, the roots will be too far away from the perched water level and struggle to stay hydrated. Some heat-loving plants won’t mind this, but it’s important to keep in mind that large pots will dry out faster due to this natural gravitational phenomenon.

So the next time one of your plants is suffering from stunted growth or brownish-yellow foliage, even when you’re watering it the same as always, the pot could be the problem. It might be time to find a smaller, larger, or different shape for your pot.

Read more about the best pot size for your plant!

Create Your Ideal Landscape Aesthetic With Planters Etcetera Fiberglass Planters

A plain plastic pot is perfectly fine for your new plant’s trip from the nursery to your garden. But as your plants grow, their containers should grow with them.

Fiberglass is the highest-quality planter material available. Our unique blend of fiberglass and resin material creates a durable product that can withstand sun, snow, rain, heat, and freezing temperatures.

Fiberglass can also be molded in any shape providing a lot more flexibility and design opportunities for a variety of landscaping projects.  From tall pots with tapered bases to short, square planters, our shop has every shape and style you need to create a beautiful container garden in any setting.

Our inventory is filled with a variety of shapes and sizes that range from traditional pot style to planters with clean, modern lines.  But if you have a custom style you’d like to create for your commercial or residential landscape project, contact us about designing your own custom planters.

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