Best Types of Pots for Your Cactus & Indoor Succulents
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I’ll admit it- I’ve got more than my fair share of cacti and succulents around my home, and more seem to find their way in all the time. If you’re like me and can’t keep your hands off the adorable succulents and cacti you see, you’re going to need some good pots for them.
The best pots for cactus and succulent plants are naturally porous materials like terra cotta, ceramic and cement. These pots allow for airflow and moisture evaporation from the soil, much like a plant growing in its native habitat. Other materials for indoor succulents and cactus plants include plastic, wood, glass and metal.
In this post, I’ll share my top picks for the best pots for cactus and indoor succulents, why each one is great and what to watch out for to keep your plants healthy and happy.
- Naturally porous materials like terra cotta, unglazed ceramic and cement/concrete are the best materials for cactus and succulent pots.
- Plastic, glass, wood and metal can also be good choices if used correctly.
- Ensure any pot you choose has at least one drainage hole, or use a drill with an appropriate bit to add drainage holes.
- Use a pot that’s about 1/2 to 1 inch larger in diameter than your plant’s main stem. Base the pot’s height on the type of root system your plant has- use a taller pot for a cactus with a taproot, and use a shallow pot for plants with lateral root systems.
Best Pots for Cactus and Indoor Succulents: 7 Types
Material might seem like a secondary consideration when you’re choosing pots for cactus gardens. After all, it’s easy to look at shape, design or color first.
But material can have a significant impact on your cactus’s health.
Most cactus planters are made from one of these material types:
- Terra cotta
Here are the details on the various material types as well as the pros and cons of each one:
1. Terra Cotta
We’ve all seen the rows of orange-brown terra cotta pots at the nursery or big box stores. They’re essentially a garden-department fixture!
Belonging to the category of earthenware, terra cotta pots are made from molded and fired clay. Since it’s an earthenware product, terra cotta has a naturally porous texture that allows for excellent airflow and moisture evaporation through the pot’s walls. This makes terra cotta my top choice for the best pots for succulents indoors.
Although you’ll see unglazed terra cotta most often, you can also find terra cotta pots with decorative finishes in various colors and designs, like this one I have:
But while glazed terra cotta is beautiful, just keep in mind that the glaze does decrease the breathability somewhat.
The standard orange-red of natural terra cotta is also beautiful- I like these from Yishang:
Yishang Terra Cotta Shallow Planters
This pot measures 7 inches from rim to rim and stands 3.5 inches tall. Thanks to the wide, shallow design, you can create beautiful custom arrangements with multiple small succulents or cacti. Besides the option featured here, Yishang offers terra cotta planters in various sizes and heights.
Benefits of Terra Cotta:
- Naturally porous material allows for airflow
- Less risk of overwatering since the planter will absorb some moisture
- Heavy for its size, so it’s less likely to tip over
- The coloring naturally mimics a desert landscape
- Widely available in a range of sizes
- Very inexpensive
Drawbacks of Terra Cotta:
- Fragile material that is prone to chips, cracks and shattering
- Roots have a tendency to grow into the sides of clay pots
RELATED: Porous pot material helps, but nothing replaces a careful, appropriate watering routine. Read my tips for watering succulent plants the right way!
This is probably the most common cactus planter material you’ll encounter. Ceramic is widely available online and in stores, and you might also find some made by local artisans. Suffice it say: Regardless of your color, size or shape preferences, you’re likely to find a ceramic planter you like.
Just like terra cotta, ceramic pots are shaped and fired earthenware. Also, both materials offer about the same degree of temperature control and weight.
When unglazed, ceramic offers roughly the same amount of breathability as terra cotta.
However, decorative finishes and glazes are far more common in ceramic planters. Although they’re beautiful, glazes and finishes seal water in and keep air out.
There are truly limitless options for ceramic succulent and cactus pots. One style I really like are these clean, creamy white ones:
OAMCEG Succulent Plant Pots
These 4-inch pots are perfect for housing small cacti and new baby plants just starting their life. With their hexagon geometric shape and simple white color, this set of six pots fits right in with almost any room decor. If you need an even smaller pot, these planters are also available in a 2.75-inch size option.
Benefits of Ceramic:
- Available in a wide variety of colors, shapes, sizes and price points
- Porous surface of unglazed ceramic offers built-in moisture absorption and airflow
Drawbacks of Ceramic:
- Can chip, crack or break
- Most ceramic planters have a finishing glaze that reduces air and moisture permeability
Concrete may not seem like a natural choice when it comes to cactus planters, but this material has plenty of benefits to offer.
It seems surprising, but concrete and cement are actually fairly porous and promote natural drainage and airflow.
Strong and resistant to breakage, concrete is equally at home indoors or out.
NOTE: During the fabrication process, manufacturers add lime to the concrete mixture. This lime can then make its way into your planter’s soil when you water your cactus. High levels of lime can increase the soil’s alkalinity, and your cactus could suffer from stunted growth or leaf discoloration.
The good news is that there are ways to decrease soil alkalinity. So while lime accumulation is a good thing to be aware of, it doesn’t need to be a dealbreaker if you’ve got your eye on a concrete cactus planter.
I think these Mkono concrete planters are absolutely adorable:
Mkono Concrete Plant Pots
This set of three concrete planters comes in either a 3-inch or 4-inch size option, and they offer exceptional stability, strength and eye-catching geometric embellishments. In the 4-inch size, these planters can accommodate medium-sized domestic cactus or succulent, and the 3-inch pots are a better fit for baby plants or growing a smaller variety.
Benefits of Concrete/Cement:
- Strong and durable
- Resists tipping over
- Ideal for indoor or outdoor use
- Porous surface with natural airflow and drainage
- Moderates soil temperature
Drawbacks of Concrete/Cement:
- Can leaches lime into soil
Even though naturally porous materials are best for growing cacti, plastic can be a good second choice.
Most often, I plant my succulents and cacti in black grower’s pots that I can then insert into other planters:
And there are plenty of colorful plastic pots to choose from as well, including this bright and adorable set of six pots:
QCQHDU Plastic Succulent Pots
And one of the best things about plastic is that you don’t need to worry about chipped edges or shattering if your plant happens to take an unfortunate fall.
Benefits of Plastic:
- Lightweight material is ideal for moving
- Won’t chip, crack or shatter if bumped
- Available in a range of colors
Drawbacks of Plastic:
- No airflow or drainage through planter walls
- Lightweight material may tip or blow over easily
Wooden cactus planters might be your first inclination if you’re going for an earthy look. No doubt about it, wood has a natural appeal!
I have a gorgeous wooden planter that my husband and kids made me as a gift- it’s definitely my favorite planter! But I don’t plant my succulent and cactus directly into the planter- I’m worried about water damage or stains. Instead, I keep the individual plants in plastic pots and surround them with pebbles:
This set-up also makes it easy to take the plants out for watering and returning them back to the planter afterward.
I wouldn’t recommend a wooden planter for outdoor use, unless you live in a dry climate where rain and air moisture are consistently low.
If you do choose to plant your indoor succulents or cacti in a wooden planter, they do provide a bit of natural drainage and airflow.
This wooden planter box is a nice option:
Arlai Rustic Cube Planter Box
At just shy of 6 inches deep/wide, you can make a lovely arrangement of several small succulents or cacti, and the dark wood finish adds a nice nature-inspired touch.
Benefits of Wood:
- Natural beauty in various shades and grain patterns
- Slightly porous material provides some air and moisture permeability
Drawbacks of Wood:
- Can show wear and tear from the outdoor elements at a faster rate than other materials
- Prone to water damage over time
Glass containers have a clean, modern look that adds extra visual interest. The transparent sides are perfect for showcasing layers of gravel and soil.
If your goal is a terrarium planting, glass cactus planters are your ideal medium. I have a succulent in a Mason jar, and I think it’s really cute:
Unfortunately, glass has a non-porous surface that doesn’t allow any airflow to your plant’s roots. Also, glass containers often lack pre-made drainage holes. Both of these factors make glass pots a hazard for overwatering succulents.
You could try adding your own drainage holes, but you’ll need to use a specialized glass drill bit. I left my jar without holes, so I’m very careful to water sparingly and only when I can see that the soil is dry throughout the entire jar.
If you’d like a bit of a fancier look for your glass succulent/cactus pot, I think this set from Mkono is really pretty:
Mkono Mini Glass Geometric Terrarium Container Set
Between the gold accents and the geometric shapes, these planters are stunning! They’re 4 inches large, so they’re just right for a medium cactus or succulent or for making a small arrangement.
Benefits of Glass:
- Provides a sleek, contemporary look
- Perfect for showcasing a terrarium grouping or layers of rock
Drawbacks of Glass:
- Most glass containers do not come with pre-made drainage holes.
- Very fragile
Seemingly a heavy-duty but lightweight choice, metal cactus planters can unfortunately present a few concerns.
When repeatedly exposed to water, a metal planter will eventually rust. Over time, the rust makes its way into the soil, where it can alter pH levels or raise the iron concentration. This could impact the health of your plant.
Another downside is the fact that metal is an excellent heat conductor. Typically, cacti and succulents do not respond well to sudden soil temperature changes. Unfortunately, your plant will quickly feel any fluctuation in the ambient temperature if you use a metal container.
So I don’t recommend planting succulents or cacti directly into metal pots. But one solution to make metal planters safe is to keep your plant in a smaller plastic pot and set than inside the metal planter. Then you can fill in the sides with pebbles or another soil cover.
When used this way, I love the look of these pots:
Monarch Abode Copper Finish Succulent Pots
The copper finish adds a unique touch, in my opinion, and I love how the textured surface has a sort of handmade look.
Benefits of Metal:
- Can have a cool, industrial look or a traditional farmhouse design
- Light construction is easy to move
Drawbacks of Metal:
- Rusting can lead to changes in soil pH and mineral levels
- Sudden temperature changes due to metal’s efficient heat conduction
- Nonporous material offers no natural aeration
How to Choose the Best Pot for Succulent and Cactus Plants
Besides a design that fits your taste and budget, what kind of pots do succulents need?
The key factors for creating a comfy home for your cactus come down to two basic elements:
- Adequate drainage
- Appropriate size
1. Adequate Drainage
As a native plant to the hot, dry desert climate, excessive moisture is a succulent’s #1 enemy. On the other hand, your plant still needs water to live. So how can you make sure you hit the right moisture balance?
Design features like pre-made drainage holes and certain material types can help you keep your cactus or succulent comfortable.
Here’s a look at the details:
Drainage holes. Any type of plant can suffer if they get too much water, so plant containers in general usually come with pre-made drainage holes.
But does that cactus planter you have your eye on lack pre-made holes? Not to worry!
Although drainage holes help prevent overwatering, they’re not absolutely necessary. For the longest cactus lifespan and overall health, developing the habit of checking soil moisture and watering sparingly will have a bigger impact.
Also, with some materials, like plastic or metal, you may be able to add your own drainage holes using a 3/8-inch drill bit and a little patience.
Material type. Some planter materials have a porous surface that allows water and air to pass through.
Why is that a good thing? Because cacti and succulents thrive in dry soil conditions, and porous materials give excess water an emergency escape route. Besides letting moisture out, a porous material will also let air in and mimic native desert conditions.
Unglazed terra cotta and ceramic offer excellent breathability. It may come as a surprise, but concrete and cement are also porous materials (although not to the extent of terra cotta or unglazed ceramic.)
However, a nonporous material doesn’t have to be a total deal-breaker. As we mentioned above, proper watering habits are more critical than the actual container.
2. Appropriate Size
Do you really need to pay close attention to the size of your cactus planter? Wouldn’t it be better to buy a larger container that your plant can use for a long time?
Actually, placing your cactus or succulent in an appropriately sized container is a critical factor for keeping your plant healthy and happy.
Why Is Container Size Important?
A container that’s too large could cause the roots to spread at a faster rate than the leaves can grow. Additionally, it’s all too easy to unknowingly add too much water to a large container. On the other hand, a pot that’s too small could constrict root growth and weaken your cactus.
For choosing the right width, a pot that extends roughly a 1/2 inch to 1 inch from your plant’s main stem should be about right.
But when it comes to depth, use your plant’s root system as your guide when it comes to choosing a depth for your planter. This is true for cacti in particular- cactus root systems come in two main types: a taproot and lateral.
Taproot. A taproot is a long, single root that extends down from the plant body. Cacti that grow tall often have a taproot.
The taproot has two main jobs:
- Provide stability for the cactus
- Reach the deeper levels of groundwater
If your cactus species has a taproot, a container with a tall shape ensures enough room for growth. To prevent tipping, a planter made from a heavier material may be a wise choice.
Lateral Roots. These small roots form a dense network that spreads outward in all directions away from the main plant body but doesn’t extend deeply down into the soil. This root system anchors shorter cactus species in the ground, and the tiny root tips spread out in search of water and nutrients.
Shallow, wide pots are ideal for cacti that have a lateral root system. Round planters can provide both plenty of space for roots to reach out as well as a stable base.
Most common succulents (echeveria, sempervivum, haworthia, etc) have lateral root systems, so shallow pots are always a great choice.
RELATED: Wondering how you can tell when your plant is ready for a larger pot? Learn the signs to watch for and how to make the move in our post on repotting succulents!
Considerations For Choosing The Best Pots for Cactus and Succulents
How large is your plant, and where do you plan to have your garden?
Asking questions like these before shopping can help narrow down your search and avoid ending up with a planter that you can’t use.
Will Your Cactus or Succulent be Indoors or Outdoors?
Whether your cactus will live primarily indoors or outdoors influences container material.
The indoor environment tends to be much more controlled, both in temperature and activity level.
Delicate cactus planters may not fare well outside, where they’re more susceptible to bad weather or curious animals. Glass is a prime example. If you’re planning to have an outdoor cactus garden, consider using a heavier container to better protect your plants. Concrete and wood can make excellent choices.
Like I mentioned briefly earlier, cacti typically don’t appreciate sudden fluctuations in soil temperature. So take extra care when choosing a container for your outdoor garden. Materials like terra cotta, ceramic and plastic are all helpful for maintaining a stable temperature.
Will You Place Your Plant on a Flat Surface or in a Hanging Container?
Although most cactus and succulent planters have a flat bottom intended for a flat surface, some have a hanging design.
These hanging planters are a great choice if your cactus or succulent is a draping variety, like the rat tail cactus in this photo:
A hanging planter may also be a fun idea if you just want an unusual display!
Frequently Asked Questions about the Best Pots for Cactus
In my experience, there’s no such things as a one-size-fits-all pot for cacti and succulents- there are just too many shapes, sizes and root systems among these beautiful plants! So let your specific plant’s characteristics be your guide for choosing the pot that’s right for you.
And of course, color, shape and style are all important, too. After all, the pot you choose should make both you and your plant happy!
Now it’s your turn! Do you have any other suggestions for cactus/succulent pots, or any care tips you’d like to share? Are there any questions you still have? We learn best from one another, so please let us know your thoughts in the comments!