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Whenever I go to the nursery or look at an online plant catalog, I'm confused about plant container sizes. For example, I see plants sold in "1 gallon" pots, but the pots certainly don't look like they would hold "1 gallon." I also see pots labeled with numbers like #1. Can you help straighten this out for me? - Sarah

Answer

Whenever I go to the nursery or look at an online plant catalog, I'm confused about plant container sizes. For example, I see plants sold in Sarah, I don't blame you for being confused; you've asked a very good question. Hopefully, I can shed some light on it. The containerized plant industry has been around for more than 75 years, and there has been much variability in pots of a given size from manufacturer to manufacturer which leads to the confusion. Each manufacturer does it differently. Not only has there been variability in size, the descriptions also vary, i.e., some are described in "gallons," "quarts," etc., some are described by inches in pot diameter and some are described by numbers, like #1, #2, etc. If that wasn't confusing enough, the fact that "1 gallon" pots do not necessarily hold 1 gallon can have you pulling your hair out! Some help is on the way in the form of "The American Standard for Nursery Stock" (ANSI Z60.1), which was updated in 2014 by AmericanHort, the largest association for garden retailers in the world. This standard provides some consistency in terminology for both buyers and sellers of plant material by using what are called "trade sizes," but even so there is a range in container volumes for a given trade size. I've summarized below a very approximate relationship between these various descriptions to give you a general idea.

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About Linda Lillie

Linda K. Lillie is the President of Sprigs & Twigs, Inc, the premier landscape design and maintenance, tree care, lawn care, stonework, and carpentry service provider in southeastern Connecticut since 1997. She is a graduate of Connecticut College in Botany, a Connecticut Master Gardener and a national award winning landscape designer for her landscape design and landscape installation work.

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