What’ll I Do With All These Plastic Pots?

April 6, 2009 | By | Comments (11)

Most of the plants we buy at garden centers come in black plastic pots. After a while, you accumulate so many you could build your own Tower of Babel.

So what do you do when your garden center doesn’t want them, the recycler won’t take them, and town ordinances don’t allow pagan towers? You’re stuck. 

It doesn’t have to be that way, of course. If growers grew plants in biodegradable pots that you could safely put in the ground, the problem would be solved. Well, the Grump is happy to report that Bonnie Plants, one of the country’s biggest suppliers of annuals, vegetable, and herbs, is doing just that.

Chances are, you’ve seen Bonnie’s plants.  Established in Bullock County in Alabama in 1918, Bonnie now operates 33 growing facilities around the country and supplies wholesale plants to hundreds of garden and home centers.

Bonnie sells most of its plants in 3″, 4″, and 5″ pressed peat pots that are completely biodegradable. Once you place them in the ground, roots grow through the sides. Eventually, the whole pot decomposes and actually improves the soil. For larger plants, Bonnie uses a one-gallon “jumbo pot” made of recycled paper. You can treat it exactly as you would a peat pot. Bonnie claims its new pots saved more than 100 million pounds of plastic from winding up in landfills. Now, I can’t say whether Bonnie’s motives for this are totally altruistic — for all I know, peat pots probably cost a lot less to make — but you can’t argue with the result.

Good for the Earth, Good for the Plant

Biodegradable pots that you place in the ground do more than help the environment. They also help the plant by reducing transplanting shock, because you never have to remove the plant from the pot. Plant the right way and the annual, vegetable, or herb never knows it’s been relocated. Here’s how to do it:

Step 1 — Water the plant thoroughly before you plant, so both the peat pot and the soil inside it are moist. Let the pot drain a few minutes before planting. Plant in moist soil, because dry soil may steal moisture.



Step 2 — Remove the shrink-wrap plant label from the pot. Tear off the rim of the pot, so that no peat shows above ground after planting. (Leaving peat exposed could wick away moisture from the roots.)



Step 3 — Tear off the bottom half of the peat pot before you put it in the hole. This places roots in direct contact with the soil and gets your plant off to a good start. You can dump the torn-off peat in the compost and just crumble it up and add it to your soil.


Step 4 — Place the plant and pot in the hole and fill in with soil so that the top of the root ball is even with the soil surface. (Tomatoes are an exception. They like to be planted deeply, so that only the top set of leaves show.) Then water thoroughly to eliminate air pockets.

Step 5 — Tell all your neighbors how you’re saving the world. You da man! (Or da woman, whatever the case may be.)


  1. Grumpy Gardener

    Good idea. Maybe I could get rid of my old sneakers that way.

    April 20, 2009 at 12:47 pm
  2. Son Nguyen

    What you could do is posting for sale/free on Craigslist and someone will be interested.
    I just bought several 5-gallon and 15-gallon plastic black pots from another person from Craigslist. One’s trash is another treasure, don’t waste it.

    April 19, 2009 at 10:55 am
  3. chathamcorabbit

    I’m not at all sure that Haint Blue will be a pleasing color combination with Highway Sign Green; however, if one is wearing Mad Dog goggles…

    April 17, 2009 at 10:06 pm
  4. Grumpy Gardener

    I think I’ll go with Haint Blue. It matches my eyes. The shrine is beside the liquor store,where Grumpians are encouraged to partake of MD 20/20 Pink Grapefruit in my honor.

    April 17, 2009 at 8:55 am
  5. chathamcorabbit

    I’ll be dang- born in Sanford… We have these lovely road signs at the city limits with pretty pictures and “Welcome to Sanford” followed by some generic slogan… (generic slogans have a way of leaving your mind.) I’m thinking that “Birthplace of Steve Bender” would probably be better. (Do you have a preference between Safety Orange, Safety Yellow, John Deere Green, or Haint Blue?)
    Which shrine is yours- the one between K-Mart and the Waffle House, or the one beside the South Horner liquor store?

    April 16, 2009 at 8:50 pm
  6. Grumpy Gardener

    The Grump is encouraged to hear that some enlightened garden centers will accept plastic pots for reuse. No use sending them to the landfill.
    By the way, the Grump was born in Sanford. I’m sure you’ve seen the shrine.

    April 16, 2009 at 9:03 am
  7. chathamcorabbit

    I work at an independent garden center in Sanford, NC – right up the road from faithful poster Cameron- and, no, we don’t accept used containers for credit. However, we gladly accept used containers for reuse. (So I guess that depends on which retail establishments you frequent.)
    I won’t even get started on peat pots… and certainly not on Lowe’s…

    April 16, 2009 at 12:44 am
  8. Tom (7th Street Cottage)

    Bonnie has been bringing Gerber Daisies and Geraniums to our Lowe’s in peat pots. So far, those are the only ones we’ve gotten. All their herbs and veggies are in peat pots.

    April 7, 2009 at 7:06 am
  9. Cameron (Defining Your Home Garden)

    The wholesale nurseries around here will accept the pots for credit. All pots have to be cleaned before taking them in. Of course, that doesn’t work at retail places.
    I like the bio-degradable pots and look for those whenever buying herbs. I’ve not seen them used for perennials or annuals so far up here.

    April 6, 2009 at 9:14 pm
  10. Grumpy Gardener

    Karen, that’s a very good point. Over the years, I’ve saved a number of black, 1-gallon pots. I use them just as you do — to cover and protect tender plants from a late freeze.

    April 6, 2009 at 5:23 pm
  11. Karen

    I have gotten some plants in the pots that you mention and they are great. One use though for the old plastic pots – stack them up in an unused corner of the workshop according to size – save about 10 or 20 of each size. Then when you get a late in the season freeze warning as we have in central Arkansas tonight you have something to cover your plants up with to protect them. I also save rags – I put one or two rags around the plant depending on it’s size and put a plastic pot over the top of it and set a rock on top to keep it in place in case it is windy like last night was. I was going to throw some of them away and now very glad I had them handy.

    April 6, 2009 at 4:59 pm

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