Houseplants Laidback Gardener Tip of the Day Pots Repotting

For a Green Thumb, Match Saucer Size to Pot Size

Saucers should be at least as wide as the rim of the pot.

Did you know that the size of the saucer a flower pot sits in is important in the survival of the houseplant it contains?

To choose the right size saucer, place it upside down on the top of the pot: the saucer should have a diameter as large as that of the pot or even slightly wider. For example, for a 6 inch (15 cm) pot, the corresponding saucer should also measure at least 6 inches (15 cm).

To choose the right saucer, place it upside down on top of the pot. It should be at least as large. Source:

Few people know this, but a proper horticultural saucer is designed so that, when it is filled almost to the brim, it contains enough water to moisten all the soil in the pot.

This saucer is too small for the pot. It will likely leave the plants chronically underwatered. Source:

People often choose too small a saucer. In fact, many decorative pots (obviously designed by non-gardeners!) come with a built-in saucer clearly too small for the pot it’s attached to! So when you water the first time, the saucer begins to overflow before the plant is satisfied with the amount applied. Not wanting to damage your furniture, you add less water the next time … and thus the poor plant in the pot begins to suffer from a chronic lack of water. Your effort to “avoid damaging the furniture” overrides the health of the plant and may even gradually kill it!

The ridiculously small saucers on most hanging baskets make them almost impossible to water correctly. You have to take the pots to the sink and soak them to really make sure the plants get enough water. Source: amazon. com

Do not be fooled by appearances when you choose a saucer! A pot is narrower at the base than at the top and for some reason humans generally find a saucer that is somewhat tight around the base of the pot more aesthetically pleasing than a saucer of the right size. Look at the picture at the top of this page: most people will find the saucer seems a little too big. Yet it is exactly the size to correctly water the plant!

Overgrown Plants Need Bigger Saucers

Seriously overgrown for the size of its pot, this bird of paradise will nevertheless be able to hang on for ages if you give it an extra-large or extra-deep saucer, as above. Source:

So much for a correctly potted plant, but sometimes plants outgrow their pots, one sign of which is that they begin to need watering two or three times a week. Ideally, you’d repot into a larger container, but if you don’t have time, simply place the plant in a wider or taller saucer and fill it to the brim with water when you water. It’s amazing how quickly it will drink it all up! And now it will have enough moisture to last a few more days before it needs water.

This tendency to undersaucer (I know, I know, it’s not a real word, but…!) is a major cause of the famous “black thumb” so many people claim to suffer from. Increase the size of your saucer so it matches your plant’s needs and suddenly your thumb will become much greener!

Garden writer and blogger, author of 65 gardening books, lecturer and communicator, the Laidback Gardener, Larry Hodgson, passed away in October 2022. Known for his great generosity, his thoroughness and his sense of humor, he reached several generations of amateur and professional gardeners over his 40-year career. Thanks to his son, Mathieu Hodgson, and a team of contributors, will continue its mission of demystifying gardening and making it more accessible to all.

8 comments on “For a Green Thumb, Match Saucer Size to Pot Size

  1. Starting seeds indoors in the Northern Hemisphere during January does indeed present some challenges due to the limited daylight and cooler temperatures. To overcome these obstacles and give your seeds the best chance of germination and healthy growth, setting up an indoor growing space with artificial lights is often necessary.

  2. Pingback: 9 Common Things That Are 6.5 Inches Long – Measuringknowhow

  3. But who waters their plants in the saucer? I usually take mine out and water it in the sink, then when it stops dripping, I put it back on the saucer.

  4. Carol Morris Menne’

    Depends on the plant.. African Violets speciallly like to be watered from below never wetting there foliage!! Most plants are fine and like taking a shower sometimes. It has always been my understanding than many varieties of plants do not like “wet feet”!!

  5. Pingback: 9 Common Things That Are 6.5 Inches Long - MeasuringKnowHow

  6. Thanks for this explanation, concise and well written.

  7. Pingback: Houseplants: Should You Water From Above or Below? – Laidback Gardener

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