Houseplants Grow Better in Clay Pots | Myth

OK folks, here’s the dirt on the popular myth that clay pots help your houseplants grow better. I say this in my most gravelly voice and I hope I’m clear as mud, “Clay pots do not help your houseplants grow better.” On this subject, I’m drawing a line in the sand… (OK, enough puns 🙂 )

clay potsThere’s a sensible place to start as we unravel the myth; let’s look in the bottom of the pot. Happy roots, happy shoots. Root health is arguably the most important factor in determining how vigorously your plants will grow. It is said that clay flowerpots will help plant roots “breathe” and they’re believed to be better suited for the root system simply because they’re made of nutrient-rich clay. Not so. After being kiln-fired, a clay pot is indeed porous, but any nutrients that were present before are baked out of the clay at the high temperatures in the kiln. Because of the pot’s porosity, moisture is pulled out of the soil and away from the developing roots, robbing the plant of the most fundamental ingredient it needs, water. As well, clay pots hasten evaporation in the soil.

It’s easy to overcompensate for the water loss and give the plant too much water. When this happens, you’ll find a smattering of slick green algae growing deep in the nether regions of the pot, upsetting soil PH and competing for nutrients. Over-watering leads to premature leaching of soil nutrients, resulting in a weakened root system.

If houseplants are watered only when they need water instead of on a regular schedule, then plastic pots are a better choice. A plastic pot retains water better and does not contribute to premature evaporation. Clay pots are typically more expensive than plastic and more fragile. When clay pots are reused and new plants are introduced, there is the possibility that harmful microbes and plant disease can be transferred to the new plant. Plastic plants can be washed and sanitized more effectively, and recycled at the end of their useful life. While the same can be said for clay pots because of their organic composition, there isn’t an “easy way” to recycle them.

What do you prefer to use in your garden? I actually don’t have a preference. As long as I can acquire my flowerpots second-hand and gently used, I’ll make either one work. 

This article is eighth in a series of 26 consecutive articles, as part of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge for the whole month of April. Tomorrow, I’ll post an article with a title that begins with the letter “I”… So goes the rest of the alphabet, through the end of the month.

In closing, I have a little challenge for you. Because the letters “Q” and “Z” pose a challenge of their own, send me a title idea beginning with those letters. If I choose to write your title, I’ll send you a small prize to show my appreciation.  Use the comments box below, or email your title to


6 thoughts on “Houseplants Grow Better in Clay Pots | Myth

  1. Jim and Andy, I’m impressed that you guys, as runners, are hanging in there with me on this April A to Z challenge, reading one post a day about gardening and actually staying engaged. Thank you. Strategically, I chose to write once a day about the gardening side of Runwritedig to build up that part of my audience… hoping against hope that I don’t alienate the runners and writers.

  2. I like these Chuck.

    You might want to use Zero water to write about gardening in drought conditions. If so, I have a suggestion.

    Q could be Quick herbs. Or veggies. If I’m inpatient, what are the fastest growing plants from seedlings or sprouts?

    Nice job. Lou

  3. I agree with Jim, I like the clay pots for their look. I also hate plastic and am constantly picking out pieces of plastic and trash from my garden.
    Most of my plants are in the ground and I use peat pots to start my plants in. This makes transplanting easier on me and the plants!
    Cheers – Andy

  4. I like your gravelly voice, Chuck. Ha, ha! You taught me something again. I like clay pots for their esthetic value, they are pleasant to look at, but plant health is plant healt. Great post!

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