What to Put in the Bottom of a Planter and Why

Shells in a Plant Pot

Some planters look amazing but it is just impossible to find an inner pot that fits it nicely. Is it impossible to use those planters? Not at all! You fill up the bottom of your planter to make an inner pot fit it perfectly.

Ceramics, kitchen sieves, terracotta pots as well as pieces of wood, concrete, or brick can be put into the bottom of a planter to elevate the inner plant pot for better drainage as well as for aesthetic preferences. Any material used should provide an even and stable surface.

Here are some tips on materials that can be used and what to consider when putting something at the bottom of your planters!

The Difference Between What Goes at the Bottom of a Planter and What Goes at the Bottom of an Inner Pot

There is a major difference between why you want to put some material or stuff in the bottom of a planter or in the bottom of an inner pot:

The bottom of the inner pot serves as a drainage layer while putting something at the bottom of a planter mainly has aesthetic benefits.

Typically, the plant resides within an inner pot full of soil which is placed in a decorative planter. The decorative planter is the one you look at in your living space and it does not have drainage holes while the inner pot has drainage holes and remains mainly invisible when looking at the planter.

Now, some planters are beautiful but their shape or depth are not appropriate for any type of inner pot. Let’s say you have a planter that is too deep. If you still want to use that unshapely planter for a plant, you will have to fill up its extra depth with some material to elevate the inner pot to the right level.

Hence, filling up the bottom of a planter mainly has to do with aesthetic preferences. On the other hand, creating proper drainage at the bottom of the inner pot is crucial for the plant’s well-being. The drainage holes of your inner pot help a lot but they can get clogged up over time by the soil pressing down. By adding some material such as pieces of ceramics or rocks, you help keep the space open for water to flow through and out of the pot.

Important Note: Some people recommend creating a drainage layer in the bottom of the planter which is done by elevating the inner pot by putting a piece of wood or brick below it. While this prevents having the plant sit in water, it does not help against the clogging up of the soil in the inner pot. This is why I recommend creating appropriate drainage in the inner pot, not in the planter.

Avoid Creating a Full Drainage Layer

Whether in the planter or the inner pot, never create a full drainage layer such as out of pebbles or gravel. It is better to use single pieces.

A drainage layer will over time create its own saturation zone as it gets more compact and pressed down. This has the counterproductive effect of containing water in its layer instead of enabling water to better drain out of the pot.

If you are keen to learn more about how to create appropriate drainage for your plants (and why they need this), read on in my post on creating drainage for all kinds of pots.

Now, let’s move on to what materials you can use at the bottom of a planter.

What to Put in the Bottom of Your Planters?

If you want to elevate the inner pot to level up nicely with the top rim of the planter, there are several materials that you can use to do that.

The most important factor in whatever material you choose to use is that you can make an even and stable surface out of it. Your inner plant pot will be standing on it, hence an even surface is necessary to make sure it doesn’t fall or incline. Otherwise, you may have water overflowing the pot each time you water it.

I recommend putting the following materials for the bottom of a planter:

Old Ceramic Dishes, Cups, or Bowls

Do you have any old ceramic dishes you no longer use? Turn them upside-down and put them in the bottom of your planter to elevate the inner pot.

Ceramic lasts forever and the bottom of bowls or rounded plates provide a perfect surface for your inner pot to stand on.

Wide and Flat Terracotta Pots

The same goes for terracotta pots. There are plenty of terracotta pots for succulents that are wide and flat. Turn them upside-down to put your inner pot on them.

Another benefit of terracotta is that those pots are usually very cheap, so if you don’t already have one at home, it doesn’t cost a fortune to buy one.

Kitchen Sieves or Colanders

Is there an old plastic or metallic kitchen sieve or colander in your cupboard that has served many times for your draining your favorite pasta but which you no longer use?

Put it upside-down in your planter and voilĂ , you have found a new life for your kitchen sieve!

Rectangular Pieces of Wood Cuttings, Concrete, Bricks

You can also use any rectangular piece of material that is water-resistant. Any cuttings of wood, pieces of concrete, or bricks will do to be put at the bottom of your planter.

Just make sure that they are right-angled to provide the inner pot with a stable and even surface to stand on.

Can You Use Styrofoam at the Bottom of a Planter?

Well, technically you can use styrofoam as it is more or less water-resistant and provides a stable surface. Also, styrofoam can be easily cut into the proportions needed and is therefore adaptable to any type of planter.

On the other hand, it contains many chemical ingredients, and similar to plastics, when exposed to water for a longer period, it may release some of these chemicals into the water. This is why I think styrofoam can be a short-term solution if you have nothing else at hand but I recommend exchanging it with some more natural and long-lasting material as soon as possible.

Related Questions

Can I Put Rocks in Plant Pots?

Rocks in plant pots can be good or bad depending on how you use them. Layers of pebbles can have some disadvantages for your plant while edgy single pieces of rock can be beneficial.

Want to find out why? I explain all about how to use and how not to use rocks in plant pots in the post linked right here!

How to Water Plants When Away?

Is going on vacation always a struggle because you don’t know how to keep your plants alive during your time away? Or are you the kind of person that realizes right after departure that you forgot about your plants at all?

Don’t fret! There are plenty of simple ways to take care of your plants for shorter as well as longer periods. Discover what ways there are to water your plants when away as well as many helpful tips in my post!

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