There are many types of containers that can be used for plants, including clay pots, plastic pots, wooden containers and stone containers. The easiest ones to deal with are either clay or plastic. This is particularly true if the plants have to occasionally be moved.
Clay and plastic pots each have particular advantages and disadvantages.
Advantages: clay pots breathe, they are natural, and they usually have a larger surface area per volume of soil.
Disadvantages: they are heavy, the soil can dry out quickly in hot weather, and they can break easily.
Clay pots are particularly nice because they are natural, being made from clay from the earth, and can be recycled by returning them to the earth. However, broken pots usually end up in a landfill with tons of garbage.
Clay pots are good for climates that are not really hot, and for larger Tulasi plants that do not need to be moved. They are not very good for small Tulasi plants in hot climates because the soil may dry out far too quickly and Tulasi can wilt or die.
Advantages: they have a wider base than clay pots with more room for roots, the soil doesn’t dry out as fast, they are much lighter in weight, and they rarely break.
Disadvantages: plastic ends up in a landfill unless recycled, they can result in root rot in larger pots because they don’t breathe, insects such as mealybugs can hide or nest underneath the lips on certain types.
If you need to move Tulasi periodically, plastic pots are far lighter than clay
pots. Large clay pots with soil are very heavy. Tulasi is often moved frequently in temperate climates; going outside during all or part of the day in spring and fall. In temple greenhouses, because one or more Tulasi plants are required daily on the altar, they are often rotated daily so each Tulasi spends maximum time in the greenhouse where proper care can be provided.
Clay or Plastic?
This is sometimes not an easy choice. Carefully consider the advantages and disadvantages above.
Try to balance the needs with the circumstances. These include climate, soil, size of plant, whether Tulasi is moved regularly, and so forth.
While clay is a nicer material than plastic, that should not be the deciding factor. Suppose you have more than one Tulasi plant, such as a small one and a large one. You may have the large one in clay because you will not be moving her and because you want a pot that breathes because the soil is so deep. You may keep the small one in plastic because you move her frequently and also don’t want the soil to dry out too quickly. In hot, dry, sunny weather the soil in a small clay pot can quickly dry out and Tulasi could die.
In the Dallas greenhouse I prefer plastic pots. Here are some reasons.
- Plastic pots are cheaper. This can add up because I have around 300 plants.
- I keep the pots for many years, and I recycle the plastic when needed (in the past ten years only a few have been recycled.)
- I re-use them constantly for transplanting smaller Tulasi plants.
- They take up less room than clay pots of the same size, and space in the greenhouse is at a premium.
- Because they are flexible, it is easy to get Tulasi out of the pot when transplanting.
- They have better drainage because there are many holes in the bottom instead of one.
- They are much easier to carry to the temple, and to move around.
- The total weight of many Tulasi plants on a bench or shelf in the greenhouse is far less than it would be with clay pots. 50 clay pots full of moist soil weighs a LOT.
- The weather in summer is regularly over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and smaller Tulasi plants in clay pots dry out too fast. I can water one morning and have a limp, dehydrated Tulasi plant by evening. However, because plastic doesn’t breathe and I keep the greenhouse humid in the winter (to control spider mites) I would probably have problems with root rot in winter, but I prevent this by using a very loose soil mix with added perlite, wood chips, etc.
Type of Pot and Type of Soil
If only one type of soil is available this may determine the type of pot that should be used. If you have a heavier soil it is better to use clay pots. Clay pots allow more evaporation for two reasons: because the pot will allow excess moisture to escape through the permeable clay, and because the surface area of the soil in clay pots is greater than the soil surface area in plastic pots. Clay pots can therefore aid in preventing root rot with a heavier soil.
However, a looser soil may dry out too quickly in a clay pot, and therefore plastic may be preferred. This is not only due to the impermeable nature of plastic pots, but also because plastic pots allow less soil surface area than clay pots.
Conversely, if you already have clay pots then you can use a somewhat heavier soil mix, and if you already have plastic pots use a lighter soil mix.