How to Choose the Right Pot for Your Pilea
Updated: Mar 15, 2021
On the surface, you would think that choosing a pot for your Pilea shouldn’t be a complicated task. And it’s not, we promise! After all, pots are all the same, right?
But there are a few things you should know before you pick the right container for your Pilea plant.
It’s all about root size, not plant size
Size matters when it comes to choosing the right pot. But plant parents tend to be more inclined to take into account what’s above ground. The bigger the plant, the bigger the pot, right? Not so fast! It’s the size of the roots that matters more when you’re choosing a pot.
Pilea roots are relatively small compared to the size of the crown of the plant. With just a few strong main roots connected through a network of smaller delicate rootlets, the root ball of a Pilea plant is a relatively slow grower.
The best rule of thumb is to choose a pot that’s about 2 inches larger in diameter than the root ball. This will allow ample room for growth as the plant matures.
What’s the best pot for Pilea?
Planters come in different shapes and sizes, so it’s important to know how to measure a plant pot correctly. Most planters have a label or a stamp to indicate the diameter - this is measured across the top of the pot. But even though pots may have the same diameter, that doesn’t mean they have the same volume. A skinny tall pot might hold more soil than a shorter wider pot. Check the label to see if there’s an indication of the volume of soil that a pot can fit.
Generally, shape doesn’t make too much of a difference, but it may take longer for a tall pot to dry out all the way through.
No matter what size or shape you choose, make sure the container has proper drainage holes. This is non-negotiable because you need the excess moisture to drain out of the bottom of the pot. We’ve explained in detail how too much moisture affects your plant in this post. The gist of it is this: if there’s too much moisture around the roots for too long, this may lead to root rot and the death of your plant (sorry, there’s little chance of recovery from root rot).
This brings us back to size. When you transfer your Pilea to soil, or when you’re upgrading your pot, you may be tempted to go two sizes up instead of one. After all, the plant will have enough room to grow and you can be lazy for a year and skip repotting, right? Not judging, we’ve been guilty of taking the same shortcut too. But this time-saving technique will end up hurting your plant in the long run. This is called overpotting, and it’s a common mistake with newbie plant-keepers. Large containers filled with a lot of soil can stay too wet for too long. Over time, the roots will rot due to this excess moisture.
If you have chosen a large pot for your Pilea, and your plant is showing signs of unhappiness, you can always downsize to a smaller pot. In the meantime, monitor the amount of water and the frequency of watering. Let the pot dry out longer between watering sessions.
Should I choose terracotta, glazed ceramic, or plastic pots for my Pilea?
We get this question a lot! And the answer is: it depends. There are a few factors that can influence your choice:
What’s your tendency? Are you an overwaterer or do you often forget you have indoor plants?
What’s your environment like? Do you live in a dry climate or a humid climate? Do you run your air conditioner a lot?
What do you have available? It’s much easier to reuse pots that you already have.
In general, we recommend terracotta pots for Pilea. We even wrote a post about why we love terracotta so much.
Here are a pros and cons of using different types of pots.
On the plus side, terracotta does not retain moisture. Because of its porous nature, terracotta (unglazed clay) will remove excess moisture from the potting soil. This can be an advantage and a disadvantage depending on your watering habits.
But keep in mind that you’re more likely to kill a Pilea through overwatering than underwatering. The thick walls of the terracotta pots protect the roots from rapid changes in temperature and allow for a better aeration of the soil. And we may be biased here, but we think terracotta just looks much more elegant than plastic.
The main disadvantage of terracotta is its weight. If you need to move often, lugging around heavy plant pots might not be an ideal scenario.
Let’s start with the advantages: plastic pots are lightweight and not easily breakable. You can find them in different colors, so it’s easy to find something that matches your decor. All store-bought plants come in plastic pots, so you’re more likely to have an oversupply of pots already.
Plastic is a good choice for plants that love moisture (such as ferns or fittonia), but Pilea plants are not part of this category. Pileas prefer to dry out before their next drink of water, a preference that mimics the natural cycle of their native environment. Therefore, plastic pots might retain too much water for your Pilea, and this material offers roots little insulation from temperature variation.
There’s a lot of confusion about the difference between terracotta and ceramic pots. After all, they’re both made of clay, right? Yes and no! A ceramic pot starts out as a clay pot, but it’s then glazed with one or more layers of lacquer. So while it may look like terracotta on the inside, it doesn’t allow for proper water evaporation.
Some ceramic pots are sold without any drainage holes at all, so these may only be used as decorative pots to hold plastic cache pots that have proper drainage.
One extra detail to be aware of: avoid spray-painted pots. They may look like ceramic pots, but it won’t take long for the paint to chip due to the moisture and porosity of the material.
What’s the right pot for a Pilea baby?
When planting rooted Pilea babies cuttings, choose a small and shallow container to begin with. Pilea pups won’t get a head start if you plant them in a large pot that retains too much moisture. You may find that small pots will work best for small cuttings.
When is it time to upgrade my Pilea’s pot?
If you think your Pilea might have outgrown its current container, then it’s time to upgrade its abode. A few telltale signs include: having to water more frequently than usual, having roots grow out of the drainage holes, and noticing extremely compacted soil that can’t be easily aerated.
When it’s time to up-size, choose a plant pot that is roughly two inches larger in diameter than the current one. If possible, you should avoid repotting your Pilea in its dormant period (in the fall and winter). Waiting to repot until spring or summer will allow your plant to bounce back faster and adapt to its new home without too much disruption.
One thing to remember when choosing a pot for your plant is that size matters. An appropriately-sized pot will allow your Pilea enough room to grow, without crowding the roots or having to contend with an excess of moist soil.