How to Plant in Larger Containers Using Less Potting Soil


Large containers add beauty and interest to the landscape. The increased size of the container allows the gardener to plant shrubs, small trees or perennial plants. Big containers use a tremendous amount of potting soil. The added expense is wasted simply to fill the bottom of a large pot that won't ever house plant roots. Save some money and use everyday items around the home to plant large containers using less potting soil.

Step 1

Position the container in its final location, and monitor the amount of sunlight the container receives over the course of the day. Select plants that match the sun. Sun tolerance is an absolute necessity for container plants receiving exposure for more than six hours each day. Partial sun plants need four to six hours of direct sun per day and partial shade flowers need three to four hours. Full shade plants thrive in reflected or dappled light.

Step 2

Check the container for drainage holes placed every 4 to 5 inches along the pot bottom. Attach the drainage tray to the pot bottom, and turn the pot upright.

Step 3

Make your choice of the best material to fill the large container. Use whatever you have around the house. Most gardeners recommend packing peanuts, since these Styrofoam pellets are so light. Partially crush the aluminum cans, and pull the lids off plastic bottles. Punch a few holes into the plastic bottles to limit pooling of water in the pot bottom.

Step 4

Place a layer of material on the pot bottom and work upward to create a solid bed of material. Leave at least 8 to 12 inches of container space for potting soil to accommodate plant roots. The materials may shift slightly with the addition of more cans, bottles or plants pots. Place plastic plant pots face down so soil doesn't collect inside the pot. Packing peanuts can be poured straight into the container.

Step 5

Cut a section of a yard waste bag to fit the pot interior and punch holes every 6 inches for drainage. Lay the paper over the filler material. Pour potting soil on top of the bag up to 3 inches from the pot rim.

Step 6

Remove plants from transplant containers, and pull apart the roots slightly for freer growth. Position the plants in the container so the upper roots lie 1 to 2 inches below the pot rim. Fill in around each plant with fresh potting soil and firm it gently. Finished soil level should lie 1 inch below the pot rim.

Step 7

Water the container around each plant at the soil level to encourage drainage in the potting medium. Monitor moisture levels regularly to ensure healthy plants.

Things You'll Need

  • Crushed aluminum cans
  • Packing peanuts
  • Empty plastic bottles
  • Plastic plant pots
  • Unused yard waste bag
  • Knife
  • Potting soil
  • Trowel
  • Plants
  • Garden Hose


  • University of California, Davis: Container Gardening
  • University of Illinois: Container Gardening for Vegetables
Keywords: filling large containers, potting soil basics, container potting soil

About this Author

S.F. Heron is an avid gardener with three years of experience in online writing and a working background in aviation and earth and ocean sciences. She is published on various sites, including Helium, eHow and Xomba. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism from the University of Maryland.