Types of containers to grow autoflowering seeds

29 March 2023
Containers are very important if you want to get the best yields. Know more about the different types of containers to grow autoflowers!
29 March 2023
11 min read
Types of containers to grow autoflowering seeds

Read more
  • 1. Things to remember when choosing containers
  • 2. Paint buckets
  • 3. Plastic containers
  • 4. Terracotta containers
  • 5. Cement pots
  • 6. Smart pots
  • 7. Air pots
  • 8. What is the right sized container for the best autoflower cultivation?
  • 8. a. Indoor cultivation
  • 8. b. Outdoor cultivation
  • 9. The best substrate to use in your containers
  • 10. In conclusion

Containers come in various shapes and sizes. They play an important role in growing cannabis, especially if you’re planting autoflowering seeds. Autoflowering cannabis varieties are a little different compared to photoperiod strains because they don’t grow as big as the latter. This makes it even more important for you to choose the best container. It might make sense for you to just select a big container to grow your autos. However, that’s not a good idea. Just like your potted flowers don’t do well in large containers, autoflowers also tend to struggle if you plant them in containers that are just too big.

On the other hand, choosing really small containers will also hinder the growth, and you’ll end up with small plants with tiny buds. Thus, as you can see, it gets a bit tricky. Also, containers don’t differ just in their sizes. You have to look at the type of container. For instance, a plastic pot may not perform as well as a smart pot. In some cases, an airpot can be your best friend. No matter what you choose, you must go for something meant specifically for autoflowers, and that’s exactly what we will discuss today.

1. Things to remember when choosing containers

For growing autoflowering cannabis plants, choosing a container can be tricky. However, once you understand how the plant responds, you’ll be able to do a better job. To choose a container for autoflowers, you need to know how long the plant will survive. A little information on how tall and big the plant grows will also help. Many people underestimate the importance of containers, but they always end up paying a heavy price at the end of it all. Remember that you need to consider the amount of space you have. If the plant performs very well in a 3-gallon container, purchasing a 5-gallon will not only take up more space but you’ll also spend a lot more money as well. Most autoflowers grow well in 3-gallon pots, but you can always experiment with one plant before planting ten different seeds.


Types of containers to grow autoflowering seeds: things to remember

It's recommended to go for 12-liter pots with autoflowers.

Another important thing to remember is that most autoflowers don’t perform well if they are transplanted. Of course, expert growers start with small containers and move on to bigger ones even with autos, but it’s simply not recommended. It’s critical to grow plants in containers that allow them to breathe. If not, the roots suffocate and the plant eventually dies. Healthy roots are the foundation to growing big plants that produce fantastic juicy buds. Also, don’t choose pots that completely dry out the roots. The key word is “damp” here where the roots aren’t completely swimming in water or are totally dry. In short, select containers that give your plants an abundance of oxygen. Roots love it when they can breathe.

Pro Tip – Never start off your autoflowering seeds in dixie cups or any small plastic containers because you’ll force the plant to become root-bound.

2. Paint buckets

If you don’t like spending a little extra on containers, regular paint buckets are a fantastic way to grow plants. Those with the urge to “DIY” everything will surely love this. The only problem is that they don’t come with holes at the bottom, but you can easily drill a few holes yourself. There are a few concerns about using paint buckets since some paint manufacturers include lead in their paints. As you will be smoking the buds, this can be scary. Thus, you can either ditch the idea of using these buckets or you can use paints that don’t have lead in them. Just make sure that you wash all the paint thoroughly before using them.

3. Plastic containers

These are your standard containers that suit any plant. They are available anywhere – online and local nurseries. While these are easy to use, you must take care while growing cannabis, especially the autoflowering varieties. Plastic containers tend to make the roots stick together, and they eventually become root-bound. However, if you have no other choice, plastic pots ranging from 3 to 5 gallons will also work well.


Types of containers to grow autoflowering seeds: plastic containers

Make sure your plastic containers have drainage holes at the bottom!

Just ensure that there are ample holes at the bottom of the container so that the water drains out or you’ll end up with soggy roots that will kill your plant faster than you’ve ever imagined. If you don’t see any holes (it happens sometimes) simply punch 5-10 holes at the bottom, and you’re good to go. Most plastic containers come with small saucers that help to catch all the water draining out of the pot.

4. Terracotta containers

Terracotta containers are also available anywhere. Growing autoflowers or any plant in terracotta pots may be a smart choice because the clay absorbs excess moisture while keeping the roots damp. They work amazingly well outdoors, but they may not work well if you’re growing indoors because they are a tad heavy, and it may be difficult to shift the pots from one spot to another. Similar to plastic pots, anything from 3-5 gallons will work well.

5. Cement pots

Cement pots look just like terracotta pots, but they are made of cement instead of clay as the name suggests. They are sturdy and last for a long, long time. However, it can be a pain in the neck if you intend to grow anything indoors because they are super heavy. Not only will it be a hindrance to moving the pots easily, but you’ll also struggle whenever you water the pots.

6. Smart pots

Smart pots are all the rage these days. And, with good reason! Made out of fabric, smart pots provide ample oxygen to the roots that help them breathe. Basically, smart pots prevent the plants from becoming root-bound. Take the example of a plastic container. If you observe carefully, you’ll see that the roots follow the structure of the pot. Eventually, the roots grow in a circle and become root-bound if you don’t transplant them as quickly as possible. However, with smart pots, you’ll never have to worry about the plant becoming root-bound.

Why? Well, it’s because the roots are air-pruned naturally whenever they travel to the edge of the pot. The pruned roots give birth to secondary roots that make the plant stronger and bigger. Additionally, unlike plastic pots, you don’t have to worry about over-watering your favorite auto plant because all the excess water immediately drains out. This is an especially critical point because it’s very easy to over-water autoflowers, and there’s no quicker way to kill them. Most importantly, they are light and can be folded and stored when you’re not using them.


Types of containers to grow autoflowering seeds: smart pots

A 5-gallon pot will suit most autoflowering cannabis strains.

The only disadvantage of smart pots is that the growing medium can dry out too quickly. However, you can prevent the issue by watering a little more or choosing a slightly bigger container. A 5-gallon smart pot will suit most autoflowering plants, although many people get great results even with 3-gallon pots. If you’re growing indoors, you may want to place something below the smart pots to absorb the water or you’ll end up with a lot of water everywhere.

7. Air pots

Just like smart pots, air pots also provide enough oxygen for the roots to breathe as much as they want. They are made of plastic with several openings or holes to allow the plant’s roots to expand everywhere. Although they work very similar to smart pots, they are a little more expensive.


Types of containers to grow autoflowering seeds: air pots

Air pots dry out a little faster than plastic pots.

However, they are a bit heavier, and it can be an advantage or disadvantage depending on how you perceive it. Even air pots dry a little faster compared to plastic and terracotta pots. Thus, make sure you provide a little more water to the plant.

8. What is The Right Sized Container For The Best Autoflower Cultivation?

Ok, so we have covered all the most common types of containers for autoflowering cannabis cultivation, but we haven’t talked yet about what sized pot is best. When growing autos, one of the most important factors to take into consideration is the fact that they simply do not handle any form of stress particularly well. Why not?

Well, it’s due to the pre-determined lifecycle. Unlike photoperiod cannabis strains, autos do not have the luxury of a never-ending vegetative growth period if kept under certain lighting conditions. As long as you keep the lights on 18 hours a day, a photo strain will continue to veg. Why is this important? Because every time you stress a plant you stunt its growth for anywhere between a couple of days to more than a week, depending on the type and intensity of the stress. This is fine for photo strains, as you can just increase the veg time, but the same can not be said for autoflowering strains.


Types of containers to grow autoflowering seeds: right sized container

It's recommended to grow autoflowers in the final container.

Every time you transplant a cannabis plant you stress it. The act of moving it from one pot to another will result in at least some form of disturbance to the root zone, so with autos, we always recommend starting the plant in the pot you intend to harvest from. This ensures the least amount of stress, which results in the best possible yield size and potency. 

Ok, so what size container should you use for the best results?

This isn’t the most straightforward question to answer, as it is dependent on how many plants you plant to cultivate in your grow room. But, to keep things simple, let’s just assume that you are wanting to allow every single plant to grow to its absolute largest possible potential size.

Indoor Cultivation

From our extensive experience and testing, when growing indoors it is best to use a container that is at least 3 gallons in size (that’s 12 liters for you continental folk). Again, it’s pretty hard to give an overall answer as it depends on which strain you are growing, but as a general rule, any container smaller than this can have an effect on the final yield. If you have the room then we suggest going even bigger.

Outdoor Cultivation

When growing outdoors, you have less control over the environmental factors which can play a huge role in inhibiting the overall growth. So we want to give the roots the best chance they can get at growing huge. We recommend using 5-gallon pots for all outdoor autoflower cultivation methods. It may seem like a bit of overkill, but why not give your ladies the best chance at thriving and supplying you with copious amounts of that dank stick-icky!

9. The Best Substrate to Use in Your Containers

Ok, so it's safe to say that fabric smart pots are the best choice for cannabis cultivation, for both indoor and outdoor growing situations. They offer superior aeration, helping your roots to stay healthy and providing them with the necessary oxygen they need for optimal nutrient absorption. They are also lightweight and easy to move around, allowing you to accessorize your garden with ease. In addition, fabric smart pots have great moisture retention rates, and while not the cheapest option, they simply do the best job. But, what about the substrate? Is soil the way to go? How about coco-coir? Let's quickly break down the difference and look at the pros and cons of both options.

Soil-Based Cultivation

Soil, wonderful soil. The way nature intended cannabis to grow, and the first choice for many long-time cultivators - for a wide range of reasons. Soil-based cultivation is by far the most forgiving option, and definitely the easiest. The soil is populated by beneficial microorganisms that break down the natural matter and turn it into bio-available nutrients. This means that it is very difficult to overfeed soil-based plants, as they only uptake the nutrients needed.


Types of containers to grow autoflowering seeds: soil-based cultivation

It is very difficult to overfeed soil-based plants, as they only uptake the nutrients needed.

Soil is also a great insulator of heat and moisture, helping to keep your root zone at an even temperature throughout the year. The vast majority of cultivators believe soil-based methods produce the best-tasting and smelling buds available, and while this claim is subjective we do tend to agree with them.


  • Easy to manage
  • Less expensive than coco coir
  • More forgiving for novice cultivators
  • Great insulation
  • High nutrient retention
  • Produces the highest quality tasting and smelling buds



  • Not as aerated as coco coir-based substrate
  • Can dry out quickly and become compact
  • Requires regular maintenance
  • May contain harmful pathogens such as E. coli or salmonella spores
  • Doesn't offer the fastest or most vigorous growth patterns


As long as you stick to reputable soil brands, or even better make up a super soil mix for yourself, then you shouldn't have to worry about infested soil. If buying a soil mix, make sure it contains so perlite or something similar to help with oxygenation and drainage.

Coco-Coir Based Cultivation

Coco-coir has become the number one substrate in the last 10 years, and for good reason. It is the perfect go-between soil cultivation and hydroponic methods. It offers a bunch of the advantages of both options, with very few of the drawbacks of each.


Types of containers to grow autoflowering seeds: coco-based cultivation

Coco coir allows cultivators to dial in exactly what the plant receives.

Coco-coir is made of the husks of coconuts and is a by-product of the coconut industry. The husks are dried, then pulverized into tiny bits that are perfect for use as a substrate. It is light and airy, while still holding enough water to provide great moisture retention. It is also totally inert, meaning it contains zero nutrients. This allows the cultivator to dial in exactly what the plant receives, and thanks to the huge aeration and water drainage capabilities, it offers growth rates almost on par with traditional hydroponics, without the need for complicated systems.


  • High aeration
  • Excellent water drainage
  • Completely inert, allowing for full control of the nutrient schedule
  • Can be used in all indoor and outdoor cultivation situations
  • Fast & vigorous growth
  • Allows for easy repotting of large plants
  • Light and easy to transport
  • Renewable and sustainable
  • "As simple as soil, as productive as hydro



  • Coco-coir often shows CalMag issues
  • You have to be much more careful with the pH levels
  • Expensive compared to soil
  • Requires a bit more technical knowledge to get the most out of it
  • More work. You need to mix up the feed water for each and every feed


So, which option should you choose? Well, that's a decision you are going to have to make for yourself. They both come with advantages and disadvantages, and both do a great job of producing high-quality buds. Soil-based cultivation is going to be much easier to manage, and more forgiving for novice cultivators. However, if you are looking for the fastest growth rates and most vigorous plants, then coco-coir is the best option.

10. In Conclusion

So, what type of container is the best to grow auto-flowering seeds? Well, based on grow reviews, you can safely say that smart pots are the best. As long as you make sure that the growing medium doesn’t dry out quickly, smart pots will produce big plants that are a sight to your sore eyes!