Large planted parts are a great way to grow all kinds of plants, but drainage is always something to consider. If too much water collects in the bottom of a pot, it results in root rot, which can quickly kill the plant.
Most plant pots have drainage holes, but these can quickly get blocked by packed soil or growing roots. There are many materials suitable for putting in the bottom of a planter to facilitate drainage. Here are some of the best available.
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Things to Consider
Before you choose a material for the bottom of a planter, there are a few things to think about.
You might be wondering why you just can’t fill the pot with potting soil. Well, you can, it’s just not always the best idea.
First of all, potting soil is expensive, and you don’t really need to fill an entire planter with it if you’re only growing things on the surface. Second, it’s also really heavy. If you want to move your planter, filling it from top to bottom with potting soil is not the best choice.
You also need to think about what you’re planting. Some plants and flowers have shallow root systems and don’t need very much soil to grow. If you want to plant something like this in a large planter, using a planter full of potting soil is overkill.
On the other hand, if you’re planting something like a lemon tree that has a larger, deeper root system, you will need more soil than you might think.
We touched on this when talking about potting soil, but if you want to move your planter, you also have to be careful with what you choose to use instead of potting soil. For example, pebbles or rocks are also very heavy. So, you can choose a lighter material that facilitates easy movement.
Consider the planter you choose, too, especially if you plan to move it. Ceramic or clay pots are heavy, and the bigger they are, the heavier they are. If you want a big planner that’s easy to move, choose a lighter material, like plastic or fiberglass.
Now that you know what you’re planting and what planter you’re going to use, it’s time to consider what to put in the bottom of the planter.
Materials to Use in the Bottom of a Planter
Many people assume that things like marbles or pebbles facilitate drainage in a large planter, but these materials don’t really deliver the results you might think. They don’t help pull any water from the soil and can actually prevent it from draining if they block the drainage holes.
Here are some of the materials to consider instead:
Bottles and Cans
If you’re looking for something to fill up space in the bottom of a large planter, used bottles and cans are a good choice, and they give you a fresh way to recycle. Large two-liter-sized bottles with the lid in place can fill a lot of space without adding a lot of weight, and crushed cans can be packed in strategically as needed.
One the bottles and cans are in place, cover them with mesh before adding the soil. This holds the soil in place while letting the water drain through the bottle below and out of the bottom of the planter.
Cheesecloth is a great choice if you’re looking for something to put in the bottom of a planter. It allows the water to run through and drain freely while preventing the soil from escaping and washing away through the drainage holes.
Coffee filters are an amazing option for drainage because it’s just what they were designed to do. When you make coffee, the hot water drains through the filter, leaving the grounds inside. When watering a plant, the water will go through and the soil will stay behind.
Small flat rocks or broken pieces of tile or terra cotta are a good choice for drainage, too. You can add mesh to the bottom of the planter before adding the rock, but you don’t have to.
Flat rock is a much better option than round pebbles or marbles as there is less chance that they will block the holes.
If you have a nice planter with inadequate drainage, you can always keep the plant in a nursery pot or a smaller pot with good drainage. Pull the inner pot out when it’s time to water, let it drain, then place it back inside the smaller pot until the next time. Check the bottom of the large pot regularly to make sure excess water isn’t pooling in the bottom.
If you plan to line your plants with plastic mesh, choose one that is very fine. Place it in the bottom of the pot before adding your soil and the water can drain through without taking the soil along with it.
It’s important to use plastic mesh and not metal as metal can rust over time and may damage sensitive roots. Plastic mesh is also a good choice because it can be cut and shaped to fit the inside of any planter, and you can reuse it season after season.
Perlite is one of the most popular materials to increase soil drainage. You’ve probably seen perlite before. It’s the small white balls that are usually added to potting soil. Perlite is available to buy separately, and you can add it to your soil when you need more drainage.
This one might seem like an odd choice, but it’s one of the best materials for a large pot that needs a lot of material in the bottom. They’re lightweight, so the planter is still easy to move, and they allow the water to flow through freely.
If you find that you need something else to help prevent soil loss, you can use mesh or cheesecloth to cover the holes, then use the peanuts to fill in the rest of the space.
Why is Drainage Important?
Root rot is one of the most common plant problems, and an easy way to prevent it is to ensure adequate drainage. The easier that water can pass through the soil and out of the bottom of the planter, the less likely root rot is.
There are many reasons why you might want to fill the bottom of a planter. Maybe you just have one that you love that’s too big for what you want to plant in it and you just want to take up some space. Or, maybe you want to be able to move the planter around easily.
Whatever the reason, you must always keep drainage in mind. Root rot is one of the most common plant problems, and the best way to avoid it is to prevent water from collecting and pooling in the bottom of the planter.
There are many materials you can put in the bottom of a planter to facilitate drainage, whether you choose something natural like flat rock or recycle plastic bottles, cans, or styrofoam peanuts. Go with whatever works best for you, and keep your plants happy and healthy.