How to choose the right container for your cannabis plant

March 13, 2018

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etting up a cannabis garden is a game of choices. Around every corner, there are decisions that impact the health and prosperity of your cannabis plants. Choosing the right container is one of the more important decisions a grower must make.

There are many options available when it comes to choosing the right pot, and making a smart selection will depend on a few questions:

  • Which pot will best serve the needs of your plant?
  • How much space do you have available in your garden?
  • How much time do you have available for maintenance?

Answering these three questions will help guide you to the perfect pot, so let’s take a look at what factors you should consider and the options available to you.

Understanding root development

When it comes to pots, your cannabis wants one thing and one thing only: a safe, healthy place for root development. Without healthy roots, your cannabis will never thrive. They’re in charge of water retention, nutrient absorption, anchoring the plant, as well as facilitating vegetative growth. All of these functions must be considered when choosing a container.

For a root system to develop and thrive, they will need the following:

  • Access to water: Water retention is paramount for healthy plants. Without it, your cannabis will wither and die. Although growing medium plays a big role in this matter, housing your plants in the right container can also help. Give your roots access to proper drainage to mitigate damage.
  • Access to oxygen: Plant roots require oxygen to function properly. Knowing this, choose a container that facilitates enough oxygen for root development without overexposing them to the elements. Many container varieties offer increased oxygen exposure to the roots though various styles of perforation.
  • Access to nutrients: Roots require optimal conditions for nutrient absorption to occur. This includes pH balance, optimal temperatures, and nutrient availability.

Common pots used for cannabis growing

Garden centers and grow supply chains offer different pots that vary by material composition, shape, size, and perforation style. Here is short list of popular container varieties offered.

Traditional plastic containers 


Standard plastic containers are a popular option for growers operating on a budget. These pots are inexpensive, but still provide the essentials for your plants.


  • Low overhead costs
  • Solid drainage (plus it’s easy to add more holes)
  • Transplanting is easy and inexpensive


  • Inability to protect root systems from temperature fluctuations
  • Lack of durability which can cause cracks and structural damage over time
  • May have airflow issues depending on the grow medium

Ceramic containers


Otherwise known as terra-cotta, ceramic containers offer a unique set of benefits to growers in hot climates.


  • Absorbs moisture and retains lower temperatures during hotter days
  • Heavy weight helps to anchor larger plants


  • Less than optimal drainage; drilling holes into clay pots is possible, but requires special tools and is more labor-intensive
  • Heavy weight makes it difficult to transport plants

Fabric containers


A relatively new innovation in container gardening, fabric pots offer many benefits when it comes to building healthy root systems. Roots in fabric pots grow to the outer edges and attempt to bypass the porous fabric wall. Instead, they are cut back, allowing new growth to occur. This process, called “air-pruning,” results in denser root composition which promotes healthy growth and development.


  • Promotes dense, healthy root systems
  • Increased airflow to the roots
  • Excellent drainage ideal for carefully-maintained gardens


  • Requires more attention and maintenance as the pots dry out quickly (Note: you can use larger pots to help slow dry-out.)
  • Flimsy structure can make plant support challenging

Other pot varieties

There are several more options to choose from aside from the four container types mentioned. These include hydroponic setups like rockwool cubes, encased flood and drain basins, and various bucket systems.

For soil growing, many growers opt for larger grow medium reservoirs such as no-till trays. These systems are intended for plants to grow in minimally tampered environments that promote microbiological ecosystems to develop around the root balls. While only loosely regarded as container options, these systems work very well for their intended purposes, and can produce impressive results if used properly.

Water catching and maintenance  

One commonly overlooked factor in container gardening is water movement. Containers must offer adequate drainage so that water may pass though the root system effectively.

For water catching, containers are often paired with saucers or trays designed to catch runoff as it passes through their perforated holes. This moisture must be collected after every watering. Many growers opt for vacuums or automated systems to collect water, or you can incorporate larger drainage trays designed to catch runoff from multiple containers. Water in these systems collect in a basin and are typically drained into a collection device.

Choosing a container system is often a decision based on maintenance. Certain containers may require less maintenance by allowing for fewer waterings. Other varieties may require more daily maintenance by requiring extra monitoring or watering. This will come down to how much time you’re willing to spend in your garden daily.

The final element to consider with container planting is transplanting. Stay tuned for the second part in this series which covers when to transplant your cannabis, choosing the right container size when upgrading pots, as well as transplanting best practices.

Patrick Bennett's Bio Image

Patrick Bennett

Patrick lives with his wife and daughter in Denver, where he spends his time writing, photographing, and creating content for the cannabis community.

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