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Filler Ideas for Potted Plants

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Photo of a potted plant.

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.


Solutions: Filler Ideas for Potted Plants

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Tip: Diapers for Potted Plants

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.

I use two, side by side, in hanging baskets. Put them plastic side down. This will absorb the water that is placed in the basket or containers and keep the soil moist ensuring that the roots are always moist

By berksgal from Hampton, VA

Tip: Recycling Items for Drainage Fill in Plant Containers

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

Tip: Put Twigs and Leaves in Plant Pots

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. She broke the twigs up small to drop in the pots and crushed or tore the leaves. She put about two inches in the pot then put in the potting soil and the plant. There are three benefits from this method:

  1. It helps keep the yard neat.
  2. It will compost in the pot.
  3. The pot will not be so heavy as it is with rocks in the bottom.

I have done this all summer and really like it better than having to wag around a pot full of heavy rocks.

By Elaine from OK

Tip: Use Pecan Shells For Potted Plant Drainage

view down into pot with cloth and shells

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.

Some of us have houseplants such as Ficus, Dieffenbachia and others, that might remain in the same pot for years. Providing proper drainage is essential to the health of these plants.

Cracked pecan shells are light weight and will last for many years when used as a drainage medium in potted plants.

When repotting a plant or potting a new one, I add a layer of pecan shell pieces (an inch or two, or more, depending on the size of the pot), to the bottom of the pot before adding soil or other medium.

Another tip: Several people have suggested using coffee filters for lining the bottom of pots to keep soil from leaching out. This could be good for an African violet or other small plant. For a large plant, you will need something else.

So, before I add the pecan shells, I add two layers of nylon mesh landscape fabric which were cut using the top of the pot as a template. You can expect the shells and fabric to last for ten, if not twenty, years.

landscape cloth and shells

    By likekinds [61]

    Tip: Filler for Flower Pots

    Potted Flower PotsIdeas for fillers for the base of flower pots from the ThriftyFun community.

    Pot Within A Pot

    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. If its one that you plan on keeping in the same place, rocks work well and allow for drainage

    By Lonefive21

    Easter Eggs

    I have used plastic Easter Eggs. Very lightweight.

    By Sara


    You could try some pebbles, which would help with drainage, broken clay pots, crumpled up tin foil, or a couple of tin cans (upside down) would fill up some space.

    By Sundays Child


    I've used newspaper before in a pinch.

    By Misty

    Plastic Containers

    I have used empty plastic containers (used milk cartons, water bottles) in the past with good results. Just cut the bottles in about 3 pieces, fill the pot up to a third full, then add your potting soil.

    By Tamak

    Pop Bottles

    Pop bottles with the caps on. Bubble wrap. Common dirt. Store bags. So many of the things we call garbage. I would not use styro peanuts because they have a way of being hard to get out of the dirt when you put the pot away for the winter.

    By Kimhis

    Aluminum Cans And Other Recycled Items

    When I fill really big pots, I use empty aluminum pop cans in the bottom. Just place them opening down. They are lightweight, take up a good deal of room, and after can still be recycled. Another thing I use are packing peanuts, but don't just toss them in the bottom of the pot. Pour them into those plastic net bags that oranges, onions, etc, come in and tie them closed. That way, when you repot the plants, it'll be easy to fish the peanuts out. These ideas will make the pots light, so be careful that the wind doesn't blow the plants over.

    By Susanmajp

    Step By Step Tips

    First, add a simple coffee filter over the drain hole. Then add whatever you have, newspaper will work, but when wet, it will pack down, so allow for that by packing and wetting yourself and not adding too much. You need to know how big your plants will get. If over 24 inches tall, and only one, you can afford to fill the pot with other material. But if more than one or two, I'd use gravel, new charcoal, and find some ordinary soil to use in it, because otherwise you will have good growth until the roots get to the soilless material and likely take a turn for the worst, perhaps even dying. That would be tragic, so I'd add gravel and ordinary soil. Watch for traffic and lusting workers and don't go there alone. You should not need more than two or three shovels full of extra soil, beneath your store bought better soil.

    If you plan to leave a clay pot outside in the heat, it will dry out, so watch your watering or mulch with pine needles, cut grass layer, or crushed rock. If overwintering outside, the clay pots will crack with ice. If plastic pots, then they should work, but the drainage is often a problem since they seldom have enough space between bottom and saucer. You could remedy that problem with a few marbles of the same size inside the saucer under the pot, to allow for better drainage. Good luck and God bless you. : )

    By Lynda

    Recycled Packing Materials

    You can also break up bits of polystyrene packing material - works the same way as the packing peanuts.

    You can get two kinds of packing peanut - plastic ones would work in your pots, but the biodegradable corn starch peanuts might not hold up too well.

    By Corrinne

    I always use broken polystyrene or those little bows that come in packaging. The pots aren't as heavy and of coarse you save money by not having to buy as much compost. Hope this helps, Jan, Grantham, UK

    By Blackbess

    Use packing peanuts or break up Styrofoam into small clumps. Don't forget to cover the hole in the bottom with, say, a coffee filter then your packing stuff then your potting soil. Water then add more soil. That should do it.

    By Glenda

    I use styroform. I save it from the stuff I buy (TV's, stereos, appliances, etc), then I break it into smaller pieces. Before I put it in the pot, I first place a piece of newspaper on the bottom to cover the hole. Then, I add the styrofoam one third to half way and fill the rest with potting soil. Not only is it a filler, it weighs nothing!

    By Smartfell-r

    Tip: Replacement for Pebbles at the Bottom of a Pot

    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. It will hold in the soil, allow the water to drain, and it costs less than a penny.

    By Louise the Frugal Yankee

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    Here are questions related to Filler Ideas for Potted Plants.

    Question: Good Drainage Material for Garden Pots

    I am wondering would I be able to use normal barbecue charcoal to act as drainage in my garden pots?

    By Linda


    Thrifty Fun has been around so long that many of our pages have been reset several times. Archives are older versions of the page and the feedback that was provided then.

    Archive: Recycling Ideas For Drainage Fill In Containers

    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

    RE: Recycling Ideas For Drainage Fill In Containers

    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)

    By mpotorti

    Archive: Diapers for Potted Plants

    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.

    By Kat

    RE: Diapers for Potted Plants

    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)

    By Meari