Understanding Nursery Containers – Common Pot Sizes Used In Nurseries


By: Nikki Tilley, Author of The Bulb-o-licious Garden

Inevitably you’ve come across nursery pot sizes as you have browsed through mail-order catalogs. You may have even wondered what it all means – what is #1 pot size, #2, #3 and so on? Keep reading for information on the common pot sizes used in nurseries so you can take some of the guesswork and confusion out of your selections.

About Nursery Plants Pots

Nursery containers come in a number of sizes. Oftentimes, the particular plant and its current size determine the pot sizes used in nurseries. For instance, most shrubs and tree are sold in 1-gallon (4 L) pots – otherwise known as a #1 pot size.

The # symbol is used to reference each class number size. Smaller containers (i.e. 4-inch or 10 cm. pots) may also include SP in front of its class number, indicating a smaller plant size. In general, the larger the # is, the larger the pot and, thus, the larger the plant will be. These container sizes range from #1, #2, #3 and #5 to #7, #10, #15 on up to #20 or higher.

What is #1 Pot Size?

The gallon nursery containers, or #1 pots, are the most common nursery pot sizes used in the industry. While they normally only hold 3 quarts (3 L) of soil (using liquid measure), they are still considered to be 1-gallon pots. A variety of flowers, shrubs and trees can be found in this pot size.

As the plants grow or mature, nursery growers may step up the plant to another larger size pot. For instance, a #1 shrub may be stepped up to a #3 pot.

Variations in plant pot sizes can be quite different among individual nursery growers. While one nursery may ship a large, lush plant in a #1 pot, another might only send a bare, twiggy-looking plant in the same size. For this reason, you should research beforehand to make sure of what you are getting.

Grade of Nursery Plant Pots

In addition to the various pot sizes, some nursery growers include grading information. As with the variations among sizes, these too may vary among different growers. These are usually dependent on how a particular plant has been grown (its conditions). That said, the most common grades associated with plant pots are:

  • P – Premium grade – plants are normally healthy, big and more expensive
  • G – Regular grade – plants are of moderate quality, fairly healthy, average cost
  • L – Landscape grade – plants are of less quality, smaller and least expensive choices

Examples of these might be #1P, meaning a #1 pot size of premium quality. A lesser grade would be #1L.

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Buyer's Guide to Plant Containers

Buying plant containers is not always an easy task. There are so many types of materials available on the market coupled with the fact that there is not a standardized container on the market. Here are some tips to consider when buying plant containers.

As a gardener, you have a wide range of choices when it comes to selecting a container for your potted plants. Good drainage and the right size for your plant's root system are the two most important considerations, followed by the container material itself.

When choosing plant containers, pay attention to the weight of the planter if you will need to move it. Of course, don't forget to pay attention to color and shape—though they're more of an issue for gardeners than plants.


Quick Tips for Picking the Right Pot

  • Small pots work great for plants that require less water and have shallow roots. They can be used for growing indoor plants. For example – Rhoeo, Succulents, and African Violet.
  • Shrubs, small fruits, and ornamental trees grow best in larger pots because they need more soil and water.
  • Ideally, a nursery plant should be planted in a pot that is 2-4 inches bigger than what it came in.

We hope that this article was helpful to you. The next time you pick a pot for your plants, don’t let the seller fool you with the wrong details. Revisit this article to get your measurements right!


Tree Sizes

This Sky Pencil Holly is in a 1 gallon container and is 1 to 2 feet tall. By next year it will be much wider and up to 1 foot taller. 1 to 2 ft size trees are great for an inexpensive hedge where you may need larger quantities. They will grow quickly and save you money on your purchase. Each tree will come in a container with soil and be rooted in.

This is our 3 to 4 ft Thuja Green Giant tree. It is much larger and wider than our 1 to 2 ft size. If you are looking for a fast growing privacy hedge that will take less time to fill in, then our 3 to 4 ft size tree would be the best option for you. This size tree is nicely developed and has a mature root ball that will establish quickly in your landscape.

This is our 3 to 4 ft Thuja Green Giant tree. It is much larger and wider than our 1 to 2 ft size. If you are looking for a fast growing privacy hedge that will take less time to fill in, then our 3 to 4 ft size tree would be the best option for you. This size tree is nicely developed and has a mature root ball that will establish quickly in your landscape.

Our 4 to 5 feet trees are mature and well branched. These trees will give you a great start on a beautiful landscape. You will find Shade Trees, Flowering Trees, and Privacy Trees in this tree size. Our 4 to 5 feet trees offers a variety of different colors, mature sizes, and looks to give you just the right style for your yard and home.


Wire Plant Stabilizer Basket

Our unique TopHat® nursery container stabilization baskets incorporate self-adjusting wire fingers that securely center and grip the container. These wire fingers transfer weight outward to the extended base ring. Our TopHat® stabilizer baskets afford containerized plants a wide and stable platform and resist horizontal strains during windstorms and blowing rain. A full range of sizes is available accommodating classic and similar sized nursery containers.

These container stabilization baskets will help prevent damage to trees and promote proper plant growth. They are easy to use and once you are done, they can be stacked and stored and then later re-used.

What are the benefits of wire plant stabilizer baskets?

  • Solves daily wind tip over headaches which:
    • Saves money on labor
    • Prevents plant/tree damage
    • Improves displays
  • Allows for easy inventory control
  • Able to overlap the outer ring to save space, add strength
  • 7 standard sizes – 3 gallon up to 25 gallon containers
    • Custom sizing available
  • Sturdy wire fingers hold containers in snug fit
  • Long lasting galvanized wire: 10 years + outdoors
  • Stacks easily for off-season storage
  • Additional photos

Call 800-544-4550 for a custom size quotation or quantity pricing.

TopHat® container stabilizers are being used successfully throughout the country in nursery growing operations and many independent retail nurseries/garden centers. Read about container stabilization systems from a excerpt of the University of Wisconsin tip sheet article.


Choosing the Right Pot for Plants

Houseplants are a living accessory for interior spaces, introducing texture and color. Your houseplants can infuse your home with warmth, soften transitions between spaces, and serve as the focal point of a room. Pairing pots, plants and the right decor enhances health and make plants a hardworking accent to your home.

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Know the right size

In a too-large pot, soil dries slowly, making your plant more susceptible to root rot. When a plant is too large for its pot, it also has a tendency to tip over. In a too-small pot, soil dries so quickly that you'll be challenged to water frequently enough. Your plant could become root-bound and exhibit stunted growth.

Ideally, place a plant into a pot that's the same size it's growing in. When transplanting because a plant has outgrown its current pot, shift to a pot 2-4 inches larger in diameter. Select the larger size pot for plants that grow quickly. For slow growers, a pot that's 1-2 inches larger works well.

Decide on a material

The most common pot materials are plastic and terra cotta, or clay. Plastic pots are colorful, lightweight and low cost. They tend to retain moisture, so you'll water less frequently. Choose plastic when weight counts, such as with hanging baskets or plants on a wall shelf. Terra cotta pots are heavier, offer beautiful patterns and typically cost more. These pots are porous, so plants need water more frequently. Terra-cotta is the perfect choice for plants that like dry or well-aerated soil, including cacti, succulents, orchids and bromeliads.

Consider drainage before décor

Most houseplants don't thrive in standing water, so your pot needs a drainage hole at the bottom that allows water out and air in.

If you want to use a pot without drainage holes for decorative purposes, use it as a cachepot, which holds the pot the plant is growing in. Slip a practical plastic or terra cotta pot into a pretty container. This technique is also referred to as double potting. A cachepot doesn't need drainage holes, although it should be large enough to accommodate a saucer that fits the growing pot.

Choose any material or container you like, including wicker baskets, eye-catching glass bowls or metal boxes. Consider other unique items like hatboxes, serving bowls, cookie jars or vintage enamelware pieces.

You can even express your signature style by creating your own cachepot. Start with a basic terra-cotta pot and a few acrylic paints. Or grab a plain plastic pot, adhesive and something to cover it – buttons, pebbles, glass tiles, shells and sticks are great options. Your local craft and hardware stores are full of interesting items you can use to make your pots truly shine.


Plant Pot Size Guide

Pot sizes are listed in litres capacity. They are usually black plastic, although an increasing number are being grown in taupe coloured pots to enable waste pots to be collected at the roadside.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions on 01423 330234.

Please note the above guide is for illustration purposes only and are not sized proportionally to one another.

9cm – We generally use our P9 pots to grow our stock on from, our most common p9 lines are Ilex aquifolium and some herb and herbaceous lines. Our p9 pots are generally square.

2L – Our 2L pots are ideal for the production of amenity plants grown for one year, most commonly used for our 2L herbaceous and shrub lines, this size is great as the plants are small enough to establish but large enough to make an impact when first planted.

3L – Slightly larger than a 2L, we generally use these for our garden centre plants and some amenity lines.

5L – A 5L is Ideal for the production of bigger shrubs with a larger root capacity, these can be seen across our nursery but generally found within our garden centre sales.

10L – This is our most common pot for ‘specimen plants’ that have generally been grown for two years +.

20L – Used for specimen shrubs such as Rhododendron and conifers and some small trees.


Watch the video: Grow Cherry Tomatoes in a Container


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