Money Month

This $0 Hack Plant Shop Pros Swear By Makes Potting Big Plants a Breeze

published Oct 8, 2021
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October is Money Month at Apartment Therapy! That means we’re sharing stories about saving money to buy a home, hacks to help you stick to your budget, and more all month. Head over here to see them all!

Sometimes you fall in love with potting containers that don’t fit your needs. It happens! But too-small planters are rough on your plants because they don’t give them room to stretch their roots. Too big planters can give plants more room than they need, and cause them to spend too much energy filling up the pot with roots rather than throwing shoots into the air. But even if your giant planter is the exact right size for your (also giant) plant, it presents a few other obstacles. The tricky thing about large and extra-large planters is that they can hold bags and bags of soil. Not only does that make your containers extremely heavy, but it’s expensive to put that much potting soil in a pot! And, over time, the soil compresses and before you know it, it’s time to add another bag. 

But here’s a secret I learned in my days working in a nursery: With large and extra large containers, it’s possible to load up the bottom third — or sometimes even half — with filler before adding soil. The solution helps lighten the load and your costs.

As far as filler goes, you want to find something both lightweight and that won’t absorb water. The good news? There are a few easy-to-find materials that are completely free that will do the trick. Here’s what to look for.

Planter’s Pots

Since you’re planning on planting your large container, there’s a pretty good chance that you have plastic planter’s pots hanging around your home. These are the containers that plants come in from the nursery. They come in all different shapes and sizes, and when flipped upside down they can take up a significant amount of space. 

Depending on the size of the container you’re trying to fill, you might want a single layer, or multiple. Simply stack the pots off center or crush them into each other to take up more space. This is what we often used at the plant shop where I worked, with great success.

Plastic Bottles or Containers

Using any type of plastic bottle is a great solution to filling space in a large container. Think about all the options! From milk jugs to soda bottles to seltzer pints and everything in between, there are tons of options that are super easy to access (and you likely are already tossing in the recycling anyway). You can also use things like yogurt and dip containers. Make sure to wash all of these out with soap and water to ensure that you’re not attracting bugs with old food and drink.

Broken Terracotta or Plastic Pots 

If you’ve been wondering what to do with your broken or unusable cracked pots, this is your chance to move them. 

If the pots are still too big to do the job, grab some safety glasses and a hammer and crack them up. While terracotta will absorb a little water, it’s not enough to cause an issue for you or your plants.

Packing Peanuts 

Unfortunately not all packing peanuts are biodegradable; fortunately, the non-biodegradable ones do a great job of taking up room in pots so if you have them, you might as well put them to use. You can put them in a garbage bag or empty soil bag to keep them from separating in the container — helpful if you decide to repot and don’t want them spilling out all over the place.