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Filler Ideas for Potted Plants

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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.


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5 found this helpful
August 25, 2016

This is a great tip for lightweight hanging pots for indoor plants! Pots can get really heavy when using pebbles or stones for drainage, which can be very taxing on the hooks hanging from your ceiling. Next time, try this instead: Use old bath-scrubbies in place of rocks! New ones are inexpensive, or you can recycle old ones you already have. (Just be sure to thoroughly rinse in hot water for a few minutes to remove any soap residue).


It only takes a second to poke around in the scrubber and find the thread that ties it all together- snip this and you'll end up with yards and yards of excellent, lightweight drainage material for the bottom of your pots.

Depending on the size of your pots, you can choose to use the scrubber whole or cut up lengths of the material from just one. (Mine yielded about 9 yds).

I also use a piece of weed-blocking cloth on top of the scrubbie material to help keep soil loss to minimum. I hope you found this tip to be helpful. Happy potting!

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September 21, 20160 found this helpful

Anxious to try this suggestion. Thanks for sharing.

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April 25, 2016

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.

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September 7, 20161 found this helpful

Shopping at Walmart is disgusting. The government has to subsidize the wages of workers so the Walton family can rake in millions.

Never Ever shop at Walmart!!

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1 found this helpful
October 22, 2016

Flower pot filled part way with plastic bottles and with a wrought iron trellis in the center.

CommentPin It! Was this helpful? 1

I have large and small planters, they can be heavy and costly to fill with soil. This is a more cost saving and eco friendly idea. With recycled bottles in my planters and pots, it allows me to use less soil, and provides better drainage for my seasonal plantings.


13 found this helpful
June 15, 2009

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.

Comment Was this helpful? 13

12 found this helpful
April 25, 2011

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.

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5 found this helpful
September 3, 2012

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.

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October 15, 2014

view down into pot with cloth and shells

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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.


2 found this helpful
September 20, 2007

Potted Flower Pots

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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.


August 9, 20051 found this helpful

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.

Comment Was this helpful? 1


Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

0 found this helpful
May 13, 2017

I have some rather large flower pots and was wondering if I could fill them part way with shredded paper.

Answer Was this helpful? Yes
May 14, 20170 found this helpful

What are you putting in them?

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May 14, 20170 found this helpful

You can. It will decompose.

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May 15, 20170 found this helpful

You can use the plastic pots the plants came in. Put them upside down. I use small sticks, shredded paper, or the foam peanuts that come in packages.

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0 found this helpful
June 1, 2015

What do you do with the Coke cans when you place them in the bottom of the potting containers? Are they crushed or left whole cans?

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March 30, 20170 found this helpful

Do I rinse coke or beer can before placing in pots for draining and should they be crushed or bent?

Reply Was this helpful? Yes

April 2, 20130 found this helpful

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

By Linda

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ThriftyFun is one of the longest running frugal living communities on the Internet. These are archives of older discussions.

June 15, 20091 found this helpful

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


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

Comment Was this helpful? 1

April 25, 20110 found this helpful

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


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

Comment Was this helpful? Yes
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