Houseplants Laidback Gardener Tip of the Day Pots Repotting

For a Green Thumb, Match Saucer Size to Pot Size

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Saucers should be at least as wide as the rim of the pot. http://www.wmpot.co.uk

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).

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

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.

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

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!

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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

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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: www.homedepot.com

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!

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

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

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

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

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