Keeping plants in pots is a great way to add some green to your home and yard, and the larger the pot, the more plants you can plant. However, did you know that a single gallon of dry garden soil can weigh almost 12lbs (5.44 kg) and adding water adds another 8lbs (3.64 kg)? With all that weight, you can see why it’s helpful to find ways to make potted plants lighter.
Here are a few essential ways to make your potted plants lighter:
- Change your soil type.
- Opt for a lighter planter.
- Use a light filler.
- Use a heavy filler.
- Other methods to lighten the load.
A single 2-gallon (7.57 l) plant could weigh up to 20lbs (9.07 kg. And if you’re filling lots of larger containers, the cost of soil can really add up. Thankfully, this article will go into details about all the different ways you can lighten up your potted plants – whether you are a brand new gardener or a seasoned pro.
1. Change Your Soil Type
If you find that your pot seems unreasonably heavy, a good place to start is to change the type of soil you are using. While there are loads of different kinds of soil on the market, from plant-specific soil, organic, to soils guaranteed to increase vegetable yield, here are the three main types of dirt that gardeners encounter.
Most novice gardeners reach for the garden soil bag when at the garden center. It’s relatively cheap, the bags generally feature lots of gorgeous plants on them, and the label has the words garden and soil. What could go wrong?
While it’s great for inground gardens, providing excellent water retention, and packed full of nutrients, garden soil is terrible for containers. This is because it holds on to water a little too well, adding weight to your pot and eventually suffocating and rotting your plant’s roots.
There are some instances in which you can use garden soil in a pot, but more on that later. If you’re experiencing an overly heavy pot, the fact that it’s filled with garden soil might be the reason.
Container Soil/Potting Mix
This stuff is also found at your local garden center, but you can also make your own. The critical difference between container soil and the other types mentioned here is that most container soils don’t contain soil. They are usually a blend of peat moss, vermiculite, and compost with some other ingredients mixed in.
As a result, container soils are fluffier and lighter, and while still absorbing water, they provide more drainage than other soils. This is the ideal substrate for plants living in pots. Unfortunately, it tends to cost more.
Novice gardeners might spot stacks of giant bags of topsoil at their garden center that are literally dirt cheap. Don’t let those low prices sway you – topsoil is not for plants. It does not contain enough nutrients to sustain plant life, and on top of everything, it’s the heaviest soil out there. Please do not use it in pots unless you’re mixing it with something else.
There are many different types of soil types, but the key takeaway here is to stick to potting soil or container mix and avoid topsoil at all costs. Simply replacing the soil in your pots with container mix can alleviate some of the weight problems associated with other types of dirt. However, this is a pretty pricey option.
2. Opt for a Lighter Planter
While the type of soil in a planter dramatically contributes to its weight, the planter itself might be the culprit.
Larger clay planters can be incredibly heavy, especially those made with porous clays such as terracotta, as absorbent clays take on water weight too. While these pots are gorgeous and great for drainage, the added weight can be a major problem – especially if you want to be able to move these plants around.
Opt for a lighter planter such as those made from fiberglass or plastic. Many fiberglass pots nowadays are significantly lighter than their clay counterparts, but can have just as much charm. Indeed, some fiberglass pots are nearly indistinguishable from decorative clay containers.
Plastic pots are a great option as well, often at the same price range as clay pots or even cheaper. One thing to keep in mind is that some lower-end plastic pots can become brittle from UV radiation over time and will need to be replaced more frequently.
3. Use a Light Filler
In addition to changing the soil or switching to a lighter kind of pot, you can use a light filler to make your potted plants less heavy. A filler is any material added to the soil or bottom of the pot to reduce the amount of dirt and thus, reduce the total amount of weight in the pot. Some fillers are also great for drainage and can be used to make garden soil more plant-friendly.
Some great light fillers include:
- Empty plastic bottles – leave the caps on and set them in a loose circle at the bottom of the pot.
- Aluminum cans – you can crush these or leave them whole, just point the open end downwards, so they don’t fill up with water. Arrange them loosely to fill the bottom of the container.
- Vermiculite – while pricey, vermiculite is an excellent drainage material and is incredibly light. Fill the bottom of the planter with vermiculite and then put the soil on top, or mix your soil with vermiculite if you don’t mind seeing the little white pebbles.
- Newspaper – you can bunch these up into wads or stack them in piles at the bottom of the pot. In the past, folks advised against using newspapers due to toxins in the inks, but nowadays, newspapers are printed using vegetable-based inks.
- Compost – Garden waste like leaves, branches, and grass is best but be aware that these will degrade over time. You also want to avoid packing the bottoms of your pots with oak leaves as these contain high levels of acids that are not well suited for all plants.
Add these fillers to the bottom of the pot, but not in amounts greater than ⅓ of the pot’s capacity. This allows ample room for drainage and ensures that the plant has enough soil to retain water and feed the plant. Note that over time organic materials such as newspaper and compost will biodegrade and need replacing.
4. Use a Heavy Filler
Filling a pot with heavy fillers in an effort to make a potted plant lighter seems counterintuitive, but surprisingly is another excellent way to make a potted plant lighter. Heavy fillers block parts of your pot, allowing you only to fill a small amount of the pot with soil.
Examples of heavy fillers include:
- Cinder blocks – place these in the bottom of the pot to take up space, so less dirt needs to be used.
- Logs – use these the same way as cinder blocks but note that the logs will break down over time.
- River rocks – pile these in the bottom of the pot to increase drainage and reduce the amount of dirt you need to use.
- Bricks – use these the same way as logs or cinder blocks.
5. Other Methods To Lighten the Load
Changing the soil, using fillers, or even changing the type of pot are all great ways to lighten your pots. However, with a bit of ingenuity, there are even more ways to reduce your pot’s weight. Here are some examples:
- Add a pot within a pot. Simply place your plant in a small pot into a larger pot. Pad the bottom and sides with light fillers such as plastic bottles, then cover with mulch or dirt to hide the filler.
- Place your pot on casters. While this doesn’t change the weight of your pool, it does make it easier to move around.
- Pack the bottom of the container with a bale of straw and plant on top. This works if you’re dealing with a larger planter.
It’s possible to have large potted plants at a fraction of the expected weight when using these simple tips. Take up one of these suggestions to make your potted plants lighter or combine a few of them to make your pot less heavy and easier to handle.
If your houseplant is growing too big, this article is for you: How to Stop an Indoor Plant from Growing Too Big (9 Tips)