Ok so here is where you level up in the plant game- because who would have thought it mattered what type of vessel you plant your plant in, right? Well, I’ve found out the hard way: it matters a lot. And no unfortunately this isn’t going to be an easy answer blog post because to determine what vessel you should use, you’ll need to examine all the aspects involved with your plant and the way you care for it.
Terracotta is a type of fired clay and because it is unsealed, the nature of this clay will be to absorb water.
Plastic is non-porous and does not have the capacity to have water seep out unless there are drainage holes.
As it usually is with passionate people, there is always an argument to be had. In this case, here are the two stances: “Terracotta will absorb all your plant’s water and will dry its roots out” “Plastic creates an unnatural scenario where your plant’s roots will be sitting in water, this will lead to root rot”.
Both of these stances are relatively true. However as always, one has to look at the bigger picture: What plant do you have, what soil are you using, what are the conditions like and how often do you water your plant?
Yes, sometimes terracotta is not great because it absorbs too much water – especially if you have a very thirsty plant like a maidenhair fern in it. This would be worsened if you used a very porous soil mixture or if your plant was in direct sun or if you didn’t water it often enough. However, if your plant is in a very shaded area, gets heaps of water and your soil mix is compact then there’s no two ways about it: you’d want that terracotta pot.
Sometimes you’ll only be able to tell whether you’ve made a good call planting your plants in their various vessels after some time has passed. I had a beautiful long Hoya in a terracotta pot but noticed that I wasn’t watering it enough and the soil was too porous – which meant that each time I got to water it, the ground was too dry and hard and the plant was suffering. So I put this Hoya into a plastic pot with new soil and it immediately improved. On the other hand, I had a Sanseveria that was in a plastic pot in a shaded area and it was completely soggy – so switched it up to terracotta and it also improved.
All of that being said, make sure to keep an eye out for all of the conditions your plant is in. If you’re a serial over-waterer, your plant is in a shaded place and your soil is compact – changing it over to a terracotta pot won’t save it.