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Garden Myth: Irrigating Plants with Disposable Diapers


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!

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

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