What to do with a small, shallow flower pot?
May 5, 2019 12:54 AM   Subscribe

I got this small pot as a set with some daffodil bulbs originally. The daffodils failed to bloom, probably because there really wasn't enough soil for them. I'm left with a fairly cute pot, but I don't know what to plant in it to avoid killing the plant?

The inside diameter is 12.5 cm, with a depth of maybe 7 cm tops for a half-sphere shape (4.9 diameter and 2.75 depth in American money). I'd like to plant something that:

- looks good in a shallow, wide planter
- won't die in that little soil for at least 2 years before needing replanting
- can grow indoors, 15-25C, in indirect light (the window sills are already occupied)
- is either ornamental (flowers optional) or kitchen-useful
- is not a succulent

I'm an intermediate-skill indoor gardener - I've managed to grow most "easy" plants, though getting orchids to flower defeats me. Not up to bonsai-level skills.
posted by I claim sanctuary to Home & Garden (9 answers total)
Miniature African Violet. I've known people who collected those, and put them in tea cups in a row, super cute.

If you can't find one at a garden store, you can order them online. Just use African violet potting mix and fertilize with the special African violet fertilizer.

I have an African violet in an NE facing window, gets light, but no direct sunlight. I water it when it gets bone dry. It seems to do fine there, but didn't in an eastern facing window with bright light. They are perfect for indirect light.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 1:19 AM on May 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

Does it have a hole for drainage?
posted by sciencegeek at 2:40 AM on May 5, 2019

Yes, it has a hole for drainage, hence the the saucer it came with.

I grow a lot of African violets on my north-facing window! Miniature varieties seem less popular here alas (Poland), I haven't been able to locate an online store, and amateurs seem to only sell leaf cuttings - growing a plant from one might be beyond my skills.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 3:08 AM on May 5, 2019

Seconding miniature African violet or maybe a small succulent.
posted by loveandhappiness at 6:04 AM on May 5, 2019

Related to African Violets are Episcias or "Flame Violets," and they would probably do well in that shallow pot, depending on how indirect the light is and the relative humidity levels where it will go (I spray mine down every night and they really appreciate it). You could always dome/terrarium it if you needed to, and Episcias are very ornamental plants.
posted by vegartanipla at 7:38 AM on May 5, 2019

Also, the trick to getting Phalaenopsis orchids to flower is to get them pretty cold (but not freezing), particularly at night, for a period of a few weeks. I've found putting them very close to a window in the winter does that well. I haven't yet mastered getting other types of orchids to flower, so my advice is specific to moth orchids only.
posted by vegartanipla at 7:41 AM on May 5, 2019

Pothos (basically unkillable)
Purple oxalis
Any succulent or small cactus
Jade plant
Spider plant babies (I repotted a couple of mine in a 2" deep bowl and they've been happy for years)
posted by ananci at 8:30 AM on May 5, 2019

Sorry for the length, but I figured more options were better. (?)

African violet (Saintpaulia cvv.) and flame violet (Episcia cvv.) are both good suggestions.

Possibly smaller Begonias, particularly miniature rhizomatous types? They usually don't have very deep root systems.

If you can find one, Ctenanthe burle-marxii is a fairly small plant with a shallow root system, and they tolerate a wide range of light conditions. They grow fast enough that you might not get the full 2 years out of the pot, but you'd probably get most of it, and you can pull plants out and divide them whenever you want, if it's getting too big.

Earth stars (Cryptanthus cvv.) might need stronger light than you can offer to maintain their original color, but their root systems tend to be shallow and some varieties stay small. Also the intergeneric hybrid Cryptbergia x rubra, which gets a bit large as it offsets and has sharper points on its leaf margins, but is a nice green with a red center when grown in bright indirect light (it's solid red in strong light).

Eucodonia cvv. go dormant in the fall and then start growing again in the spring (mine just started up again in April; they're usually over in September or October); they're related to Episcia and Saintpaulia and resemble Episcia. Lots of violet-blue flowers, similar to the color on your pot, in September. Obvious down side is that they look like a pot of dirt for half the year.

I haven't grown it well myself (couldn't keep up with the watering), but it's possible that creeping fig (Ficus pumila) might meet your specs, if you're open to a trailing plant.

Nerve plant (Fittonia albivenis cvv.) could work, but you have to be very alert to their watering -- wait too long just once and they're over. Also not crazy about dry air. Purple waffle plant (Hemigraphis exotica) has very similar pros and cons. Polka-dot plant (Hypoestes phyllostachya) also technically meets the specs, but I DO NOT recommend it because they're only cute when they're immature: once they start blooming the leaves get smaller and start looking weedy.

Not sure what you're objecting to specifically about succulents (form? care?), but Hoya lacunosa is a smallish Hoya with thick, succulent-type leaves and shallow roots, which might do well for you. The flowers are easy to get if your light is sufficient, though they're not much to look at: the fragrance is the strong point.

Silver squill (Ledebouria socialis) and pregnant onion (Albuca bracteata, formerly Ornithogalum caudatum) are both succulent bulbs that produce lots of thin leaves and quickly stop looking like the currently-trendy succulents (which are mostly Sedum, Echeveria, Aloe, and other rosette-forming plants). Both are toxic; Ledebouria in particular is very dangerous to cats. Both can be grown without full sun, but both would prefer full sun.

Jewel orchid (Ludisia discolor) has fairly shallow roots and is supposed to be easy to grow, as orchids go, though I haven't figured it out personally. Getting it to bloom isn't an issue, since the flowers -- though sort of interesting, and not unattractive -- aren't really the point. Might get a little big for the pot after two years.

Prayer plants (Maranta leuconeura cvv.) have shallow root systems and would probably work well in this set-up. Mine always get (or come with) spider mites, but they're not otherwise bad.

Guppy plant (Nematanthus cvv.) are fairly small trailing plants that produce small bulgy flowers, usually in red or orange but I've also seen yellow. Related to Episcia / Saintpaulia / Eucodonia but don't look it. Prone to pests.

There are a few small Neoregelias that could work here; the main one I'd recommend is 'Fireball,' if you can find it. (There's a variegated version called 'Zoe as well.) Color might not be as red in the pot as it is when you get it -- they do like full sun -- but root system is fairly shallow and they're nice.

Saxifraga stolonifera (strawberry begonia) is very easy, tolerates low light, and doesn't have extensive roots. The flowers aren't exciting, but the leaves are pretty.

You could probably manage a small holiday cactus (Schlumbergera cvv.) for a couple years, though it would eventually need to be moved to a bigger container. I don't recommend Easter cactus (Hatiora cvv., formerly Rhipsalidopsis), because in my experience they're so fussy about water that they never last very long, but some people do it anyway.

Regular pothos (Epipremnum aureum) has roots that are maybe a little too aggressive for the scenario you're talking about, but silver pothos (Scindapsus pictus) could work, if you don't mind a trailing plant.

I've given up on Streptocarpus cvv. (cape primrose) because they hate me (something about the watering; we never worked it out), but they might work for you.

Happy to discuss via MeMail if you're interested.
posted by Spathe Cadet at 9:23 AM on May 5, 2019 [3 favorites]

Thank you everyone! I now have a list of new plants to check out (and probably a gardening store to raid, again). I asked a resident plant geek and I may receive a mini African Violet leaf and growing instructions soon - apparently his lives in an espresso cup, so my pot is definitely big enough.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 11:48 AM on May 6, 2019

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