What can I use instead of plastic flowerpots?

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.

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

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.

Look out for the new Taupe Pot in garden centres that has been designed to make it 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?

Wooden seed trays are pretty and practical
Image: Crocus

A coat of linseed oil once a season will help prolong the life of the wood. Crocus sells pine seed trays online here for about £12.99 each.

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 from Haxnicks.

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. A pack of five 6cm sage green pots costs around £6.99.

Paper Potter

Make your own little pots for seedlings and cuttings using an Original 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.

Sweet peas germinating in paper pots
Image: Debi Holland

You recycle old newspaper too, so you are re-using one resource (paper) and negating the need for plastic pots too. This paper potter from NetherWallop Trading costs around £11.50 and will save you from using lots of plastic for many years to come.

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.


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.



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