Planting In Styrofoam Containers – How To Make A Recycled Foam Planter


By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer

Have you ever considered planting in Styrofoam containers? Foam plant containers are lightweight and easy to move if your plants need to cool off in afternoon shade. Brand new Styrofoam containers are inexpensive, especially after the summer barbeque season. Better yet, you can often find recycled foam containers at fish markets, butcher shops, hospitals, pharmacies or dental offices. Recycling keeps the containers out of the landfills, where they last almost forever.

Can You Grow Plants in Foam Boxes?

Growing plants in foam containers is easy, and the bigger the container, the more you can plant. A small container is ideal for plants like lettuce or radishes. A five-gallon container will work for patio tomatoes, but you’ll need a 10-gallon foam plant container for full-size tomatoes.

Of course, you can also plant flowers or herbs. If you aren’t crazy about the looks of the container, a couple of trailing plants will camouflage the foam.

Growing Plants in Foam Containers

Poke a few holes in the bottom of the containers to provide drainage. Otherwise, plants will rot. Line the bottom of the container with a few inches of Styrofoam peanuts if you’re growing shallow-rooted plants like lettuce. A Styrofoam container holds more potting mix than many plants require.

Fill the container to about an inch (2.5 cm.) from the top with commercial potting mix, along with a generous handful of either compost or well-rotted manure. Compost or manure can comprise up to 30 percent of the potting mix, but 10 percent is usually plenty.

Elevate the container an inch or two (2.5 to 5 cm.) to facilitate drainage. Bricks work well for this. Place the container where your plants will receive the optimum level of sunlight. Place your plants carefully in the potting mix. Be sure they aren’t crowded; lack of air circulation can promote rot. (You can also plant seeds in Styrofoam containers.)

Check the container daily. Plants in Styrofoam containers need plenty of water during hot weather, but don’t water to the point of sogginess. A layer of mulch keeps the potting mix moist and cool. Most plants benefit from a dilute solution of water-soluble fertilizer every two to three weeks.

Is Styrofoam Safe for Planting?

Styrene is listed as a carcinogenic substance by the National Institute of Health, but its risks are higher for those working around it as opposed to simply planting in a styrofoam cup or container. It also takes many years to break down, and it isn’t affected by soil or water.

What about leaching? Many experts say the levels are not high enough to warrant any issues, and it takes high temperatures for this to occur at all. In other words, growing plants in recycled foam planters is, for the most part, considered safe.

However, if you’re truly concerned about the possible effects from planting in styrofoam, it is advisable to avoid growing edibles and stick to ornamental plants instead.

Once finished with your recycled foam planter, dispose of it carefully – never by burning, which can allow for potentially dangerous toxins to be emitted.

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No yard? No problem. Help save the world by growing native plants in pots

Native plants are the new darlings of the landscaping world, which is shifting its focus from ornamentals to building habitat to help hummingbirds, butterflies, bees and other beneficial pollinators find the food they need to survive.

But — news flash!—you don’t need a yard or vast tracts of land to promote biodiversity. Pollinators are more than happy to dine on native plants growing in pots on balconies or patios.

An earlier version of this story failed to credit photographer Genny Arnold for the image of the wildflower mix on the balcony. An earlier version also used an image of a miniature Joshua tree (Sedum multiceps) instead of the kind of Joshua tree (Yucca brevifiolia) found in California deserts.

If every balcony in L.A. sprouted at least one native plant, “we could create green buildings supporting the entire food chain in a very small space,” said Evan Meyer, executive director of the Theodore Payne Foundation for Wild Flowers & Native Plants in Sun Valley.

Even a pot of California buckwheat, with its showy white flowers and abundant seed pods, can provide lots of food for beneficial insects and birds. “It does great in containers,” Meyer said. “It takes full sun.”

Urban development has destroyed much of the habitat and food sources for native animals that evolved to eat and live among particular native plants. But Meyer said studies have shown that once you introduce native plants into a city matrix, “all of a sudden the pollinators will come. We’re talking about charming insects — not mosquitos or cockroaches who don’t need help living in an urban environment — but butterflies and native bees who are not only amazing pollinators but beautiful in their own right. And they support the food chain by feeding birds and larger animals.”

The Theodore Payne Foundation is one of several nurseries devoted to growing native plants and rebuilding habitat in Southern California. Its nursery has even developed wildflower seeds meant to be sown and grown in balcony pots.

Growing even a few native plants in pots “is really a way for individuals to participate in restoring nature,” Meyer said. “Our mission is to create conditions where nonhuman life can thrive along with human life in our city. We know there’s a path to get there, and this is the path.”

Late fall and early winter are the best times to start growing native plants in Southern California because the cooler, wetter months give them time to get established before things get too hot.

Before you start, here are a few important tips:

Consider your space
Some native plants require full sun, others prefer full or partial shade. Figure out how much sun your balcony or patio receives, then take that information with you to the nursery. For instance, white sage is a total sun lover, but hummingbird sage, its sweetly fragrant cousin, prefers shade.

Choose the correct soil
You don’t want to plant in a richly amended organic soil. Native plants are used to dry, nutrient-poor soil that drains quickly, said Flora Ito, Theodore Payne’s nursery manager. A soil with rich organic material holds on to its moisture for a long time. That’s fine for some garden plants, but it promotes root rot in native plants. Theodore Payne makes its own soil mix for native plants, but any nursery should sell good potting soil for cactuses and succulents that crumbles easily and drains quickly.

Pot size matters
Many native plants send out deep roots, so a deep pot will be your goal. When plants are young, you want to start with a pot about double the depth and width of its original container. Otherwise you have too much soil that never dries, encouraging root rot, Ito said. You could move a plant in a 4-inch pot into a gallon-size pot, Ito said, but nothing much bigger until its roots are pushing against the sides of the pot. Transplanting in the fall or early winter is best, when the cool weather will make it easier for the plant to adjust to its new home.

Spare the fertilizer
Native plants in the ground don’t need any fertilizer besides what they get from decomposing leaves, etc. But because nutrients are leached out of pots with repeated watering, Ito recommends a light application of fertilizer, diluted to quarter strength, once or twice a year at the beginning of the growing season. Do not fertilize after transplanting or when plants are dormant.

Water with care
Most California native plants don’t need much water in the ground because they have evolved to live in dry conditions. But plants in pots dry out more rapidly, so they will need regular watering. Ito recommends using your fingers to probe the soil to check for moisture. It’s OK for the top inch or two to be dry, but the soil should be moist farther down. When you water, soak the soil until water drains from the bottom. Never let the plant sit in water, which can cause it to “drown.” Ito recommends adding pebbles, rocks, wood mulch or even corks to the top of the soil to help it retain moisture and add color and interest to the overall display.

Want to know more?
Visit nurseries (or their websites) that specialize in selling native plants. There are several in Southern California besides Theodore Payne, such as the California Botanic Garden in Claremont, Tree of Life in San Juan Capistrano and Artemisia Nursery in Los Angeles.

Here are Theodore Payne’s picks for 12 native plants that can be grown easily in containers. But Meyer and Ito also encourage experimentation. For instance, Ito said, white sage will grow in pots, but it can also get very large, so be prepared to keep it trimmed. When possible, we’ve paired young plants with older ones in these photos, so you can see how they grow.

Hummingbird sage (Salvia spathacea) is fragrant and low growing, with spikes of deep magenta flowers that bloom from March to May. The plant prefers shade or partial shade.

St. Catherine’s lace (Eriogonum giganteum) is a rare, endangered buckwheat with gray-green leaves and clusters of large, creamy pink blooms that turn to rust as they age. It grows quickly in full sun.

Giant chalk Dudleya, a.k.a. Britton’s Dudleya (Dudleya brittonii ) is a large, showy succulent with chalky blue leaves tipped in pink and large clusters of yellow flowers. Prefers part shade keep out of direct afternoon sun.

California buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum) is a sun-loving shrub with clusters of white and pink flowers that are highly attractive to butterflies and native bees.

‘Emerald Carpet’ manzanita (Arctostaphylos ‘Emerald Carpet’) is a low-growing shrub with glossy green leaves, red stems and white flowers that bloom in January and February. It prefers sun in coastal areas but part shade in inland locations with intense afternoon sun.

Chaparral yucca (Hesperoyucca whipplei) is a round succulent with spiky, silver-green leaves and a tall, cream-colored bloom that looks like a feather duster. It grows in full sun.

Wildflower balcony mix is designed by the Theodore Payne Foundation to be grown in pots 12 to 14 inches wide and at least 6 inches deep. A packet includes at least five flowers — red maids, foothill poppy, bird’s-eye gilia, goldfields and baby blue eyes. Grow in sun or part shade.

Shaw’s agave (Agave shawii) is a dramatic succulent with textured, deep-green, serrated leaves edged with sharp magenta “teeth.” It blooms with red and yellow flowers on a tall stalk and likes full sun.

Catalina currant (Ribes viburnifolium) is a bright green shrub with red stems, a citrus fragrance and reddish flowers that attract butterflies. It prefers part shade.

Joshua tree (Yucca brevifolia) is a slow-growing succulent with spiky leaves ending in sharp, dark points. The plant prefers full sun and grows to a tree in the wild, but its size is stunted in containers. It produces creamy conical blooms.

Island snapdragon (Gambelia speciosa) is an easy-to-grow perennial with vine-like branches, bright green foliage and deep-throated red flowers that attract hummingbirds and other pollinators. Can grow in full sun to part shade.

Oregon grape (Berberis aquifolium) has deep green, holly-shaped leaves that turn purple and red in the winter, as well as clusters of yellow flowers and purple berries that look like grapes. The plant grows in sun and full and partial shade.

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Jeanette Marantos began writing for the Los Angeles Times’ Homicide Report in 2015 and the Saturday garden section in 2016, a yin and yang that kept her perspective in balance. In early 2020 she moved full time into Features, with a focus on all things flora. She is a SoCal native who spent more than 20 years in Central Washington as a daily reporter, columnist, freelancer and mom before returning to the land of eucalyptus and sage. Her present goal is to transform her yard into an oasis of native plants, fruit trees and veggies.

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  • Easy to start for beginner gardeners.
  • Much easier to move than traditional, in-ground garden setups.
  • Easier to control the soil, light, water and fertilizer levels.
  • Does not require much space.
  • Many different types of plants can thrive in a single container together.

Bigger is better . The greatest challenge of container vegetable gardening is watering since soil dries out faster in pots than in the ground. A larger volume of soil won't dry out as quickly, so choose the largest gardening pot you can find. It's fine to mix compatible plants together in a single large planter. Make certain that every container has holes so excess water can drain away from the soil.

Plan for watering . So-called self watering containers have a reservoir beneath the soil topped with a grid through which the roots can reach down to the water. With these containers you won't have to water as often, but you still have to keep that reservoir filled. In the hot summer mature plants will empty that reservoir fast, so you may have to fill it daily. Spread mulch over the soil in pots just as you would in a garden, to keep moisture from evaporating. Planning a summer vacation? It may be wise to stick to spring and fall crops, such as greens, peas and radishes, and let the pot garden go fallow while you're gone.

Start with herbs . They are easy, especially if you begin with transplants, and will add a fresh-grown taste to almost any meal. Just remember to give them the conditions they prefer. All herbs need full sun, but some, such as rosemary, prefer dryer soil and fewer nutrients basil needs more fertilizer and watering.

Move your plants . With pots, you may be able to finesse a sun shortage. Place a wheeled pot trolley (available in garden centers) under a large pot and move it to follow the sun. For example, move it into the sun in the morning in the evening, when you want to sit on the patio, scoot it out of the way.

Green up . Baby greens, such as lettuce and spinach, are perhaps the simplest vegetables to grow in containers, beginning in spring when they will tolerate cool temperatures. Sow seeds right in the pot. They will take a week or more to sprout, but then will quickly reach a harvest size of three to four inches. Use scissors to snip off only the largest leaves and you can keep your harvest going for several weeks. Then pull out the plants and re-sow.

Accept the challenge . Everybody loves tomatoes, but they can take some work to grow as a container vegetable. For pots, seek out varieties specifically recommended for containers, that are "determinate"--meaning they will grow to a certain size, then stop and bear all their fruit in a few weeks. You will need a large container, at least 20-24 inches in diameter. Tomatoes sprawl and the fruits get heavy, so provide a cage for all but the most dwarf determinate tomato varieties. Or install sturdy stakes in the vegetable container when you plant and be attentive to tying new shoots to the stakes.

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Growing Plumeria plant in containers

  • The best time for Growing Plumeria cutting in spring. At this time, you cut healthy stems of the plant which is a new growth of about 12 inches or more. Leave the cutting within the house for three to seven days to recover heal, now it is ready to plant.
  • Dip the lower part of the cutting with the rooting hormone and keep it aside.
  • Place the gravel or broken pieces of pot on the lower surface of the pot. Mix equal amount of perlite and sand with commercial potting mix. Fill an approximately-three-quarters of the 1-gallon pot with the prepared mixture.
  • Pour the water in the filling mixture, until it starts moving out of the drainage hole in the surface.
  • Put approximately 3 inches cutting in the potting mixture, and press the soil around it well.
  • Now place your pot in a light shade for approximately two weeks, and then move it to the full sun area. If the temperature is below 65 degrees Fahrenheit, put the pot inside.
  • Pour your cutting to a little water for 3-4 days, until the roots are established and there are no leaves in it. It occurs approximately two or three months after planting. Put your finger in the soil and observe and pour water when the soil is dry.
  • After developing the root system, place the pot directly in the sun. Water it regularly in the summer months.
  • Fertilize liquid fertilizer during the Growing Period, use 10-15-10 NPK Fertilizer in every 2-3 weeks.
  • Do not prune the immature flower, it puts stress on the root system of the plant and can cause the plant to die.
  • When the plant reaches the dormancy period, its leaves fall, at that time you bring it to the shelter area and avoid Do to water or fertilize. When new leaves appear, then start watering and fertilizing it.
  • Put a stake on the edge of the pot. Which touches the pot surface, then bind it to a twine, from which frangipani did not move from its place.
  • Set your pot to light shade for two weeks, and then move it to the full sun area, when the temperature is below 65 degrees Fahrenheit, take the pot inside. Read more .

Read also: How to grow Jade Plant . How to grow Cantaloupe in containers. . 8 Frugal Gardening tips. Peppercorns Growing and caring tips. Pansy flowers growing and care guide. Growing Anthurium plant indoors. Onion Growing and caring tips. Houseplants care tips. Growing Lily in containers. Kidney beans growing and caring guide. Impatiens growing and caring guide. Cloves tree growing at home. Soybeans growing and caring guide. Mulberry growing and care tips.


Watch the video: Growing tomatoes in a foam container at home is very simple - Tips For Agriculture


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