What can I use instead of plastic flowerpots?

Even though plastic flower pots are recyclable, few get a second life before disposal. Jean Vernon offers five alternatives to plastic flower pots

toilet rolls and egg boxes planted with seeds

Most gardeners have a stash of flowerpots lurking in the shed or greenhouse. Many of us use and re-use them over and over again.

I sow a lot of seeds and take many cuttings over the season, sharing my plants with other gardeners and almost always re-using old flowerpots. Some of my favourite pots are over twenty years old and still bear the marker pen plant name graffiti scrawled upon them, that I used to identify what I’d planted. But these days, with plastic under the spotlight there are ways to avoid using plastic pots entirely, either with a little ingenuity or by investing in some alternatives.

Reuse your old plastic pots and recycle when they break. Image: Jean Vernon

Some plastic pots are now kerb side recyclable, but if you just want to avoid plastic totally then here are five ideas to get you started.

Wooden seed trays

Back in the day, gardeners used wooden seed trays to raise the seedlings. They lasted a fair time, especially when stored dry and stacked carefully for winter, and like many things from yesteryear they are making a bit of a comeback. You can buy new wooden seed trays, or why not make your own from some treatment free scrap wood? A coat of linseed oil once a season will help prolong the life of the wood.

Bamboo pots

If you shop around you will find a new range of plant pots made from alternative materials. Some are made from bamboo and rice, like these.

Swap your plastic pots for bamboo, rice and resin alternatives. Image: Haxnicks

You can use them again and again, they have a life expectancy of around five years, and when they do crack or break, you can break them up add them to the compost heap, where they will break down in 6-12 months and can be returned to the soil. There’s a range of bamboo pots, saucers and seed trays all made from a sustainable bamboo fibre with rice starch and resin – all naturally occurring organic compounds.

Paper Potter

Make your own little pots for seedlings and cuttings using a paper potter and newspaper. You can fill with compost and when the roots start to show through the paper you can plant straight out into the garden.

You can recycle old newspaper too, so you are re-using one resource (paper) and negating the need for plastic pots too.

Paper potter
Make your own biodegradable pots with a paper potter and old newspaper. Image: Adobe Stock

Cardboard tubes

Recycle your toilet roll and kitchen roll inner tubes and use them as ‘pots’ for deep-rooted seedlings. Save them up all year round so that you have plenty when you need them in spring and summer. Simply fill with quality compost and sow your seed inside. You can also use toothpaste packaging or other cardboard tubes, in a similar way. Once your seedlings have rooted strongly you can either plant them outside into the garden with the cardboard tube still in place, or soak them first and carefully peel the wet cardboard off before planting to allow the roots to grow into the surrounding soil.

Sweet peas germinating in paper pots. Image: Debi Holland


Don’t forget that terracotta is a perfect material for growing plants. If you can find some vintage terracotta pots even better as these have stood the test of time and you are re-using and recycling. You can buy tall long toms or large terracotta pots for your bigger plants and use small ones to raise seeds and cuttings.

Handmade traditional terracotta pots look fantastic and last for years. Image: Martin Mulchinock

Remember that unglazed terracotta is porous and the compost will dry out more quickly than plastic, so it’s important to keep on top of watering. You can buy terracotta pots from most garden centres, or consider buying handmade pots made by a specialist potter such as these from Whichford Pottery.


Get 10% OFF your first order

Be the first to get our latest special offers, gardening tips and news. Sign up and get 10% OFF your first order!

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

The home of Flower Power

Over 1,000,000 sold worldwide

Tried, tested & trusted

Professional formulas made for all

Over 50 years experience

Tried, tested & trusted garden care

Used by award-winners!

Over 100 golds won at garden shows