Small Plants for Small Pots

Small pots, illustrationYou might think choosing pots would be the easiest part of container gardening, but interestingly, it is not. Containers and pots come in many sizes and seemingly just as many materials. You can look at your planting vessel in one of two ways—you can choose the pot first and then pick the best-suited plant, or buy the plant and then choose the best-suited pot. Most plants need a little legroom to stretch their roots. Try to plant in a pot that’s a bit bigger than the plant will actually need. It is better to leave a little wiggle room than to have plant roots mashing up against the container walls. If you allow for some growth, you increase the odds of your plant growing to full maturity. The end goal is for the plant to produce as much as possible.

That said, I find myself consistently drawn to the cutest little pots with the brightest colors, but they end up being fairly useless. There are lots of adorable small ceramic vessels and even compressed bamboo pots in bright and festive colors. (A nice counterpart to all that green, I say!)

In my own garden, the smallest pot I have used is about four inches deep and about that wide—I treat it as an experiment. Nothing really grows well in such a small space, and the plants are typically root-bound. Even lettuces, which are pretty tolerant, suffer in such tight confines. Their leaves never get bigger than baby lettuce size. The smallest pot I recommend is about six inches deep and about the same width.

There are a few plants that work reasonably well in small pots. Shallow-rooted plants work best, as do plants that you will not harvest from often. Lemon balm, for instance, is quite hardy and will survive the tight conditions, though its leaves will be much smaller than those of a plant given room to reach its full potential. This doesn’t matter so much for lemon balm, as it is a strong herb that you will likely use only occasionally.

Keep in mind, also, that small pots need lots of watering on hot days— likely at least twice a day.

Following is a list of some good plant options for smaller pots—as either they are shallow-rooted, or a kind of plant you will not use in large quantities and can harvest in smaller batches.

.Lemon Balm .Microgreens: arugula, radish
 or amaranth grow quickly .Mint & Scented Mints - chocolate, pineapple or apple .Strawberries - one plant per pot!