Gardening Houseplants Repotting

Coffee Filters Can Also Filter Soil

By all means, put a coffee filter in the bottom of your flower pot, but do you really need to use a fresh one? Source:

If you’re the slightest bit up-to-date about houseplants, you know you don’t have to put a drainage layer of gravel or pot shards at the bottom of the pot when you pot up a houseplant. Plants actually grow better without a drainage layer! However, it’s rather annoying to see soil particles flow out of the pot and into the saucer when you water a freshly repotted plant. What can you do about that?

On the Internet you’ll often see an interesting tip: using a coffee filter to prevent soil particles from flowing out of the pot. And why not? It’s certainly easy enough: you simply place the filter at the bottom of the pot and then fill it with potting mix. And it works very well … any excess water flows out, but the soil remains in place. Problem solved, but…

Usually in the picture accompanying the text, you’re shown a brand-new coffee filter! What a waste!

20181204B Estormiz, Wikimedia Commons
A recycled filter will work just as well! Source: Estormiz, Wikimedia Commons.

Disposable coffee filters aren’t particularly cheap. It seems to me that, since you’ve paid for them, you might as well use them for their original purpose, to filter coffee. Afterwards, dump the coffee grounds into the compost and use the soiled filter to cover the bottom of the pot. You don’t even need to rinse: coffee grounds aren’t toxic, after all. You’ll soon discover a pre-used filter works just as well as a new filter.

Two birds with one stone: bravo!


20181204C LH.jpg
A piece of newspaper makes a great filter. Source:

Or recycle something else as a soil filter for the bottom of a pot.

I use pieces of newspaper. In fact, I keep a pile of little squares of newspaper, about 4 inches by 4 inches (10 cm x 10 cm), on my potting bench for exactly that purpose. You could try a section of old rag, a used dryer sheet or a leftover piece of window screen: anything that will let water flow through, yet keep soil in.

If you can find nothing around the home to recycle, you could use a sheet of paper towel or a square of toilet paper. Either would be much cheaper than a coffee filter and just as effective in keeping the soil in the pot!

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. After studies at the University of Toronto and Laval University where he obtained his B.A. in modern languages in 1978, he succeeded in combining his language skills with his passion for gardening in a novel career as a garden writer and lecturer. 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 is a regular contributor to and horticultural consultant for Fleurs, Plantes, Jardins garden magazine and has written for many other garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening, Rebecca’s Garden 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 50 other titles in English and French. He can be seen in Quebec on French-language television and was notably a regular collaborator for 7 years on the TV shows Fleurs et Jardins and Salut Bonjour Weekend. He is the President of the Garden Writers Association Foundation and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. An avid proponent of garden tourism, he has lead garden tours throughout Canada and to the gardens of over 30 countries over the last 30 years. He presently resides in Quebec City, Quebec.

2 comments on “Coffee Filters Can Also Filter Soil

  1. I’ve used coffee filters but never thought of recycling a used one. 🙂

  2. I use coffee filters in the bottom of pots. I never thought about using newspaper even though I use newspaper under mulch to kill off weeds. Hmmm. Of course, we no longer subscribe to a print edition of the newspaper, but I do have a stash in the basement and the weekly advertiser throw away would work as well. Great suggestion.

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