There are a lot of things you can use to fill under the soil in your potted plants. Some of them will help reduce the weight of large pots, others help retain moisture. This is a guide about filler ides for potted plants.
I grow many plants in containers, from small pots to 5 gallon buckets, and large recycle bins. A lot of these containers will get a layer of Styro chips before any soil or other medium is added.
I have two reasons for adding the Styro. I often find it necessary to move large containers filled with soil and plants. The addition of a layer of Styro significantly reduces the weight of the container.
The other reason is that the Styro helps provide excellent drainage, giving me less chance of root rot and related problems, and it reduces the weight of hanging baskets. I have noticed that the quality of hanging basket material diminishes more each year. I usually have a couple come crashing to the ground.
I have experimented with most types and grades of Styro. Loose beads are of no use. All that work their way to the top of the container will be blown and scattered by the wind.
Packing peanuts would seem ideal. They are clean, usually readily available, and don't have to be broken into pieces. With all these advantages, I still won't use them. Due to their smooth exterior, they are not the best at providing good drainage. They can be a mess should you need to re-pot a plant and retrieve the soil.
I use Styro which once was used for shipping large items such as televisions and other electronics. There are at least two grades of Styro used for this purpose. There is a lot of difference in these two grades.
One is lighter and seems to be made of Styro beads pressed together. These beads have a tendency to break loose from the torn chip, and just as loose beads, can scatter across the lawn at the slightest puff of wind.
The other is much more dense, and consequentially, is harder to break into chips. I find it well worth the extra effort. This denser Styro will last for many years in a plant container without causing a mess of any kind.
I am fortunate in that as often as I shop at Walmart, I often find a jobber in back of the store, unpacking items which were shipped in Styro. Such was the case, yesterday. The fella had already filled two very large plastic bags with Styro. I asked if I could have some. He said, "You can have all you want. It will save me from taking it to the dumpster".
So, I managed to get an excellent material for use in plant containers, just for the asking. And I did my part to keep several large bags of one of the worst environmental offenders out of the landfill. One man's trash is truly another man's treasure.
If you don't find the occasion to get this dense Styro from stores, you can ask friends and neighbors to keep what they would normally throw in the trash. I can see many ways in which this is better all around, for all plants and all people. And since we are still in our infancy, knowledge-wise, I'm sure there are many unseen advantages, too.
Those lightweight plastic cups that flowers are sold in - I recycle them by using them for drainage when I transplant the flowers into terra cotta pots. I flatten them somewhat with my foot, and put them in the bottom of the pot. Then I add the soil and the flowers. The flattened trays are much lighter than broken terra cotta pieces for drainage, and it's a savings because less soil is required. For a large, deep pot, I use three or four smashed trays. When I need to move the pots around on my patio, it's easy because they don't weigh a ton. The smashed trays can be used year after year.
By Carla from Greensboro, NC
My German daughter-in-law showed me a neat trick for planting in pots. She put a coffee filter in the bottom of the pot then we went around the yard picking up little twigs and leaves.
Before planting your hanging baskets, window boxes, or tomato plants go and buy cheap pack of diapers, open one up, and place in the bottom of the container.
If you have a pecan tree, or if you buy pecans in the shell during the holidays, you can put those shells to good use.
Ideas for fillers for the base of flower pots from the ThriftyFun community. I have used a small pot upside down in some of my bigger planters. I put a smaller pot upside down in the bottom before I fill mine with dirt.
For indoor gardening, it can be a nuisance to find some pebbles to place over the drainage holes of a plant pot. Use a coffee filter instead.
Using (new) disposable diapers in bottom of flower pots will help hold in dirt and moisture. Cut to fit into pot leaving some coming up the sides. Place dirt on top and place in the plant of your choice.
Even the disposable training pants work great. These I have left complete, but placed a coffee filter in bottom of pot first, then the training pants and added dirt and put a plant in. The training pants sides will keep moisture up in the sides of the flower pot, which is really good for clay pots!
This is great for those diapers or training pants that are left over when your baby outgrows them and you can't find anyone to give them to.
I read about this on a gardening site. The guy suggested opening up the diaper and using the inside instead of water holding granules, which are pretty expensive. The article was a little incomplete as to how to use the diaper, but now I have a better idea. Thanks! (05/20/2005)
I came up with a no cost idea for lightweight fill to use in the bottom of over sized pots or planters. I have used broken terra cotta pots and packing peanuts in the past. Problem was the terra cotta was heavy and I did not usually have packing peanuts.
This year I simply used a plastic gallon size pot that one of the plants came in and turned it upside down over the drainage hole in the bottom of the large pot. Then I needed more filler that would let water through, so I raided my recycling bin. I used plastic soda bottles and cans to fill in up to where I wanted to start the layer of planting soil. To even off the pile of bottles and cans, I took the empty plastic flat the flowers came in and turned it upside down over the bottles and cans. Then I was able to add the soil without it falling between all the gaps left by the bottles and cans. The end result was the right amount of dirt for my plants, plenty of drainage and minimal weight from the fill.
Source: My own idea.
By cosmicmoret from Dallas TX
I was thinking of smaller plants and using plastic bottle caps in the bottom. Actually I have been trying to find a use for the plastic caps. (04/20/2009)