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Why I put plastic bottles in big pots
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Use Plastic Bottles for Lighter Pots

I use plastic bottles to make large pots lighter before I add potting soil. It makes pots easier to carry, cuts down on the amount of soil needed, and is better for shallow-rooted succulents. Before I plant any tall or large pot, I half-fill it with tightly capped empty water bottles.
Why I put plastic bottles in big pots
Good design and aesthetics dictate that large spaces need large pots. They make a “wow” statement in any garden, patio, entryway or sunroom. Pots that aren’t in scale with a big space can be visually lost or add clutter.

Problem is, if you fill a big pot with soil, you might not be able to move it, especially after you water it. And if succulents sit atop soil that never dries, roots may rot. My solution, a result of trial-and-error, also works for window boxes.

Kalanchoe luciae

To make my deep window boxes less heavy, there’s a layer of plastic bottles beneath the soil.

Mistakes to avoid

— Initially I tried placing a succulent, still in its nursery pot, inside a tall glazed pot. The plastic rim showed, which looked tacky. I tried the nursery plant in a different large pot. The plastic pot dropped too far inside, making the succulent look like it was hiding. Not to mention I hoped to put more than one succulent in the focal-point pot. I considered half-filling it with rocks, but being denser, they’re even heavier than soil. As for lightweight organic matter, like chipped wood, it makes the soil level sink as it decomposes.
— I tried keeping the lower half of a large pot empty by using a pot saucer as a shelf inside it. It was tricky to find a saucer that fit and would rest where I wanted it to (about a foot below the rim). Plus it needed a drainage hole.
— Next I tried filling the bottom half of a large pot with styrofoam packing peanuts. Later, when I emptied the pot to reuse it, I discovered that wet soil plus styrofoam equals a sodden mess that’s no fun to dispose of.
— I also tried dumping clean items from my recycling bin into a hefty pot, but discovered that bottles and crushed cans hold soil and water—an anaerobic mix that becomes a microbial soup. Even bubble wrap, when stuffed into a pot, forms nondraining pockets.

My cheap and easy answer

I fill large pots half full with empty plastic water bottles, tightly capped. As far as roots are concerned, bottles are the same as rocks. Yet empty plastic water bottles don’t weigh anything. Some soil does fall into gaps, so it’s a good idea to pour pumice into the pot prior to adding potting soil. Pumice, a lightweight volcanic rock, absorbs excess moisture. Make sure bottles are tightly capped, so inside them is only air and the weight of the soil won’t make them collapse.
Use bottles to make pots weigh less
Empty water bottles make big pots weigh less, save on soil, prevent soggy roots, and are easy to remove when emptying the pot. Simply hose them off before returning them to your recycling bin.

Use Plastic Bottles for Lighter Pots
Step-by-step [see the video]

— Assemble your materials: Pot, plants or cuttings, empty plastic water bottles, potting soil, pumice.
— Place empty bottles in the pot to midlevel, or to about 12 inches from the rim.
— Add enough pumice to nearly cover the bottles.
Use bottles to make pots lighter
— Remove plant/s from nursery pot/s and arrange in pot.
— Add soil so the crown of the plant (where roots meet stem) is a bit lower than the rim.
     OR, if planting cuttings, simply insert them in the soil.
— Move pot to its new location. Protect flooring from drips if need be. Water lightly to settle roots.
— After a week or so, insert a wood chopstick several inches into the soil to check its dryness. If the stick comes out clean, add water until it flows out the drain hole.

Related Info on This Site:

Showcase succulents in large pots

Use pumice to make pots lighter
Books by Debra Lee Baldwin
Gallery of large pots of succulents
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Showcase Succulents in Large Pots

For a dramatic, memorable enhancement to a garden or patio, showcase succulents in large pots. Big containers are both sculptural and eye-catching. Add succulents and you have a dynamic, ever-changing display as plants grow and seasons shift. Examples here are from my own garden and others I admire. Find more great ideas for succulents in large pots in my books, in particular Succulent Container Gardens and Designing with Succulents (2nd ed.).

Gallery of large pots of succulents

A nonfunctioning fountain planted with string-of-pearls and Dasylirion whipplei is at the end of an entry walkway adjacent to the front door.

 

Gallery of large pots of succulents

Big red pots planted with dasylirions add height and color contrast. The trio create a centerpiece for a rectangular bed of assorted ice plants. The pots also serve to relieve the eye in the midst of a lot of fine-textured plants.

 

Gallery of large pots of succulents

A series of knee-high pots planted with Agave ferox borders a walkway and contrasts with a coral wall. Beneath the pots, a topdressing of rocks and gravel provide texture and continuity.

 

Large pots in the garden

Large pots are an investment, but well worth it. This one, planted with Sedum burrito cuttings several years ago, is a surefire conversation piece. The homeowner sees it from inside her home and whenever she uses her patio.

 

Gallery of large pots of succulents

A sloped poolside planting includes succulents in large pots that stand out and add interest to a colorful assortment of succulents.

 

Gallery of large pots of succulents

Big pots needn’t be upright. This one, spilling Portulacaria afra ‘Variegata’, lends whimsy to a garden and a suggestion of motion. This is also a great way to utilize a cracked or damaged pot.

 

Large pots in the garden

Red glaze on a pot in my garden repeats the upthrusting lines of a red aloe nearby.

 

Gallery of large pots of succulents

A rectangular pot fills wall space and adds a welcoming presence at the entry to Jeanne Meadow’s garden. She planted it with aeoniums, aloes and trailing Portulacaria afra ‘Minima’.

 

Gallery of large succulent pots

A red pot containing a variegated sansevieria makes a clean-lined statement in the side garden of a contemporary home. Rounded river rock covers bare dirt and provides contrasting texture.

 

Gallery of large succulent pots

A pot in my garden adds height and interest to a terrace overflowing with succulents. I planted the pot with lampranthus, sedum, Othonna capensis and a variegated yucca.

 

Gallery of large succulent pots

In a patio in downtown Carmel, CA, a large pot with overgrown Aeonium ‘Cyclops’ creates a photo op and focal point.

 

Large pots in the garden

This large unplanted pot serves as a sculptural element in Patrick Anderson’s garden. Its rounded lines contrast with spiky agaves nearby, and their orange leaf margins repeat its terra-cotta color.

Related Info on This Site:

Use plastic bottles for lighter pots

On My YouTube Channel:

Video how to make large pots lighter

 

Books by Debra Lee Baldwin