I often hear the suggestion that it’s worthwhile putting a disposable diaper at the bottom of a pot – especially a hanging basket! – to reduce its watering needs. I’ve even heard a garden center employee recommend it to a client. Curiously, no basket in the garden center was thus equipped. Why then recommend to a client a technique that the specialist doesn’t even apply?
But It Seems Logical!
Like so many garden myths, the original pretense seems logical. After all, disposable diapers contain absorbent crystals called hydrogels. If you place a diaper in the bottom of the pot, wouldn’t it release the water it has absorbed to the plant above in times of drought?
But that’s not how a disposable diaper works. It is not designed to release water, but rather to absorb it and hold on to it. It’s not going to want to “share its bounty” with a needy plant. Besides, if it does dry out in the slightest, it is so efficient at absorbing water that it will actually cause the soil to dry out even more, stressing the plant even further.
In addition, a diaper placed in the bottom of a pot is going to prevent excess water from draining out. Is it not covered with impermeable plastic designed to prevent liquids from escaping? That means that, when precipitation is abundant, the plant can be left sitting in water for long periods, a situation that is likely to cause rot.
And of course, adding diapers to pots increases how much it costs you to prepare them.
As for the idea of cutting up the diaper and blending the hydrogels it contains into the potting soil, that is a different garden myth, one I already debunked. Read No Diapers for Houseplants for more information.
In conclusion, there really is no reason to put a diaper on the bottom of a pot. You’d do better to put it on the bottom of a baby!