To Pot or Not to Pot: Grow Pot vs Planter

To Pot or Not to Pot: Grow Pot vs Planter

Words by The Sill

Common Care Questions Next Article

So your plant arrived in its nursery grow pot—now what?

When you bring your new plant home in its nursery grow pot, you might be tempted to pot it from grow pot into a planter right away. However, you'll be more successful if you let your new plant acclimate to its new environment first. Why?

It might sound strange to say about a plant but given the potential stress of acclimating to a new environment—adjusting to different light, levels of humidity, and temperature—you don’t want to unroot your plant at the same exact time. Think of its grow pot as allowing it to staying safe in its original home for a while.

So first, place your plant in the spot you plan to keep it and let it acclimate for about 2-3 weeks. (If it’s the the spring–summer growing season, you can shave off a few of those days to get it in a new planter sooner. More on that below.) 

After this adjustment period, you can decide to leave as is or fully pot it into a decorative planter. Remember, potting a plant early on is optional: as long as it looks healthy and the roots have space to keep growing, you don’t need to lift a finger!

We break down different plant parent preferences below, and what to look when assessing if it’s time to pot your plant.

Why some prefer nursery grow pots

Some plant parents prefer to keep their plants potted in their nursery grow pots within decorative planters for months, as long as the plant still has room to grow. They do this for a variety of reasons, some of which you’ll find below:

  • Ease of watering: Grow pots have drainage holes so you don’t have to be as mindful when you water
  • Added planter choice: Grow pots give you the ability to use decorative planters that don’t have drainage holes (à la cachepot) - the decorative planter serves as a saucer, catching excess water that drains out
  • Easier to move: Easily move your plant from one decorative pot to another when refreshing your decor, without added weight
  • Time of year: If it’s fall or winter, the plant is semi-dormant and growing slow, so it doesn’t need more room or new nutrients

About that last bullet… did you know even indoor plants can be on a seasonal schedule? The best time to repot your plant, be it introducing a new planter or simply providing fresh new soil, is during the springsummer growing season. This is when plants will have the energy—thanks to more sun and longer days—to make use of the new nutrients in fresh soil and grow into the extra space of a new planter.

When to consider fully potting 

So now that you know you can keep your plant in its grow pot if you prefer, here are some reasons why you’d want to eventually pot it into its planter, outside of aesthetic preferences.

  • It’s grown up: You know your plant has outgrown the nursery grow pot if...
  • Roots are growing through the drainage holes at the bottom of the grow pot
  • Roots are pushing the plant up, out of the grow pot
  • It’s top heavy, and falls over easily
  • It’s growing slower than normal (outside of winter dormancy)
  • The size of the plant is three times or more the size of the grow pot
  • Dry potting mix: Your plant’s potting mix dries out more quickly than usual, requiring more frequent waterings
  • It’s the season: Your plant could use fresh potting mix and more space for the spring–summer growing season
How to pot your plant 

When the time comes to move your plant from its nursery grow pot into its planter, here's what you'll want handy in addition to your plant and planter: 

  • Fresh potting mix
  • Lava rocks or similar, if your planter does not have a drainage hole

We carry apartment-friendly sized bags of indoor potting mixes, as well as lava rocks, here. Or use your favorite all-purpose indoor potting soil for houseplants and container gardens. River rocks or gravel can be substituted for lava rocks. Essentially you’re looking for something to create crevices at the bottom of the planter for excess water to pool into, away from the plant’s roots. To learn more about why this is necessary, check out our video on drainage here!

Now that you have your supplies, here’s the steps you need to take to move your plant from its grow pot into its earthenware planter. (Prefer a visual? Watch our plant expert go through the motions here!)

Steps to pot your plant

1. Remove plant from nursery grow pot
Turn your new plant sideways, hold it gently by the stems or leaves, and tap the bottom of its grow pot until the plant slides out. You might need to give it a bit of help with a couple gentle tugs on the base of the stems. If it’s very secure, you can also cut through the plastic grow pot with a pair of scissors.

2. Loosen the roots
Now that you’ve removed the grow pot, loosen the plant’s roots gently with your hands. You can prune off any threadlike roots that are extra long, just make sure to leave the thicker roots at the base of the foliage. If your plant is root bound – the roots are growing in very tight circles around the base of the plant – unbind the roots as best you can and give them a trim.

3. Remove some potting mix
Remove about one third or more of the potting mix currently surrounding the plant. As it grew in its grow pot, your plant removed some of the nutrients in the current mix, so you'll want to give it fresh mix if you're potting it anyway!

4. Add new potting mix
Pour a layer of fresh potting soil into the plant’s new planter and pack it down, removing any air pockets. If your planter does not have a drainage hole, layer the bottom with lava rocks or similar before adding the potting mix to create crevices for the extra water to pool into.

5. Add your plant
Set your plant that you removed from the grow pot on top of the fresh layer of mix in the new planter, making sure it's centered, then add potting mix around the plant until it is secure. Be sure not to pack too much soil into the planter, as you want the roots to breathe.

6. Water and enjoy
Even out the potting soil on top, water well, and enjoy!

We’ve got you! 

For some, the mantra ‘plant care is self care’ means the convenience of leaving it in the nursery grow pot, while for others, it may mean getting your hands dirty to repot. We say: do what works best for you! Do not be afraid to try different methods for different plants. And if you’re overwhelmed and unsure—ask us. We’re here to help.

Welcome to our community!

Shopping with The Sill means you’re supported every step of your plant parenthood journey. Learn more about our Reward Program.

Learn More

The Benefits of Houseplants

Indoor plants don’t just look good, they make us feel good mentally and physically, too. They've been shown to boost moods, increase creativity, an...

What is Plant Toxicity?

Is there a creature making a meal out of your plant? Let’s take a look at the fascinating way plants protect themselves from being eaten.

Understanding Lighting in Your Home and How It Affects Your Plants

If you’re looking to add new houseplants to your space, there’s one big factor you have to keep in mind: the kind of lighting you have at home. He...

Key Plant Terms Glossary

Plant Physiology   Node Nodes are the places on a stem where leaves attach, and buds are. Buds may be recessed into the stem, but the node is usual...

Signs of Overwatering Your Plants

How do I know if I’m overwatering my houseplants? It’s easy to want to give your plant babies too much love and attention — but did you know overwa...

Best Time to Water Your Plants

When watering your houseplants, keep in mind the time of day. The best time to water indoor plants is during the morning hours, before the sunshine...

Size Matters

If the difference in your plant collection is a matter of size, you’ll want to make sure your small and big plants are getting the care they need. ...

Health Is Wealth, Get That (Plant) Green

Loving your plant is easy enough, but how well do we know our plants? While we fall hard and fast in love with plants, make them the center of atte...

Growth Spurts

Plants are like children in that, they grow up so fast. Ask any plant parent, or human parent for that matter. But the rate at which plants, like p...

New Digs: Moving Plants Small & Tall Short & Long Distances

Moving to a new home or apartment? Instead of painful, the process should be precious, especially if you are packing up a few plants. Keep these ti...

Calcium Buildup 101

Calcium. The stuff of strong bones is an essential element for all life. But while it’s necessary, sometimes calcium can buildup. Here’s the what, ...

5 Causes For Your Plant’s Yellow Leaves

If you’ve ever seen yellow leaves on your what-was-once-green-plant, read on to find out the causes, symptoms and solutions. It’s going to be fine!

Just Say No: Leaf Shine

Because plants should look like plants. Not plastic. First things first: We do not recommend using leaf-shining products on your houseplants. Plant...

Plant Care: Potting Mix 101

Most plants need soil to live. It’s where their roots are and where they get their water from. But it may surprise you to learn that not all soil i...

Plant Care: Fertilizer

You know your new plant needs the right light and just enough water, but what about fertilizer? While it can be great for plants in the long-term, ...

How To Repot Your Houseplant

With some simple tips and tricks, potting your houseplants is easy. If you want to switch up the decor or your plant is overgrown, proper potting i...