Use Dense Styrofoam In Plant Containers

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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April 27, 20161 found this helpful

Love this idea. I use the peanuts but didn't realize they were not good for drainage and yes such a pain when I want to repot. I will have to check around and see if I can find some of this.

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April 28, 20160 found this helpful

Good luck, though you shouldn't need any. This stuff is about everywhere.

Women have their crocheting and menu organizing. I have styro. When it's too early to go to bed but too late to start anything major, I take out a slab of styro and break it up.

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May 2, 20160 found this helpful

Can you use this for pots used for growing edible items like herbs? Do any chemicals leech into the soil that I wouldn't want in food?

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May 2, 20160 found this helpful

I found this other post and it sounds like it isn't a great idea for veggies and herbs. http://www.thri  6002501.tip.html

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May 2, 20160 found this helpful

To be perfectly honest, I don't know. The site you referenced only mentioned that styrofoam cups, when used excessively, had a cancerous effect. With the many millions of styro cups used every day for hot coffee, one would think there would be an epidemic of the type cancer supposedly caused by their use.


When people put these types of serious claims in print, they would do well to site specific references/sources. Otherwise, as in my case, the reader is very likely to view the statement with much skepticism.

The only personal information I can give is that I have used styro for years in containers I grow vegetables in. To date, I have suffered absolutely no ill effects from it's use. If there are any ill effects, it must take decades for them to become apparent.

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May 24, 20160 found this helpful

Everything that they r saying about cancer is true for very high heat which people don't usually do or reheating the stuff. The material you are using is fine and safe. I have used it for forty years. If you live by any kind of plant that makes anything it is much worse for cancer.


My dad was a chemist and I taught science for 27 years.That should be enough for ya. Also if you have those expensive cement planters and pots you can line it with that and it helps the roots and plants.

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April 15, 20170 found this helpful, I don't understand your answer; 'Everything they say for very high heat is true?' What does this sentence mean? Pls rephrase your answer to express complete thought, as readers we don't understand your thoughts as random as they are. Thx

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May 2, 20161 found this helpful

Regardless of whether it is ok for edible plants it sounds like a great idea for flowers. I have a back problem and this will help out when I have to move the pots.

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May 12, 20160 found this helpful

I do a lot of container gardening and some if not most of my pots are at least 10 - 30 gallon. I was running out of fillers used by many gardeners and began seeking out items I commonly recycle. What I have found economic and able to fill a large space in my containers was my empty gallon milk jugs. I've used them after crushing as much as I can and in many pots I've used 2 or more without crushing at all depending upon the size of my pots. When growing veggies that we will be eating, I only use organic matter.


I've saved egg shells, cashew shells, peanut shells (not Styrofoam ) corn cobs, twigs and small logs, I've saved dried shrubbery wood from spring trimmings and prefer to use that more than anything since it fills up the container and leaves plenty of air space for 02. I'm going to plant 3 tomato plants today into 20 gallon containers. I am out of organic filler since I have been busy getting my veggies going this spring. I thought I'd get some ideas from fellow gardeners. Thanks for everyone's input. Happy Gardening!

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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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May 22, 20170 found this helpful

The same can be said for any minimum wage paying job (and there are a lot- fast food, retail stores, pretty much anywhere that doesnt require a degree or years of experience.). It is the fault of the adult and their financial obligations that requires subsidation.

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