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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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
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. 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:
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
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.
Ideas for fillers for the base of flower pots from the ThriftyFun community.
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. : )
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.
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
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 GlendaI 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!
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.
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?
I am wondering would I be able to use normal barbecue charcoal to act as drainage in my garden pots?
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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)
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)