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The Best Tip for Filling Large Outdoor Planters

Let me tell you the best tip I have for filling outdoor planters this spring!

White hydrangeas in a planter.

This one tip will help you save money on soil for large outdoor planters. They will also be sturdy/heavy enough without being too heavy to move. Let me tell you my best tip!

I’ve also teamed up with some great blogger friends so we can all share with you our spring outdoor ideas. Thank you, Shauna from Satori Design for Living, for hosting this Outdoor Extravaganza series.

Pot filled with white flowers on wooden deck.

Now that it’s officially spring, it’s time to get my outdoor areas attended to and in true rainy Vancouver fashion, it’s raining of course.

I am not much of a gardener but I always do container planters every year. Years ago in my apartment dwelling days, I learned the best tip for filling containers.

There’s nothing worse than hauling bags and bags of potting soil up to your apartment patio for a few simple containers. I thought there had to be a better way so a friend of mine told me this trick.

Table and chairs outdoors with potted plants around the table.

Let me show you how I filled these large outdoor planters.

This post contains affiliate links for your shopping convenience. Click to read my full disclosure policy.

Could you imagine filling all those planters with potting soil? I wouldn’t be able to move them after and I can’t imagine how many bags of soil I would need to buy and haul into the car.

Here is the secret:  styrofoam packing peanuts!

Yes, that’s right, those packing peanuts you hate to see when a package arrives at your door. Well now you have a use for them!

Wicker chair outside with back of styrofoam on it.

I fill the pots up about two-thirds full with the packing peanuts.

4 large steel pots with the styrofoam in the bottom.

Here’s another tip: You can add the packing peanuts to pantyhose or put fabric in between the packing peanuts and soil. I think I’ll do this next time to prevent the roots from grabbing too much of the packing peanuts and not being able to detach the plants properly when changing annuals each year.

Soil on top of the styrofoam in the steel planters.

 (I bought these pots at Canadian Tire from their Canvas line but they no longer make them.)

Here are some other planters I’ve filled. I used plastic planters and pop cans to fill up the planter.

Cans and plastic containers filled in large planter.

Then I added a layer of landscape fabric over the recyclables.

Landscape fabric over plastic recyclables in large plant pot.

And finally added the soil. Time to plant!

Soil in large plant pot.

Similar Pots:

Packing the soil down into the planter.

Fill your planter pots like you normally do and water them. That’s it!

There is still enough soil in the planter that will not make the planter tip over. There are still a good weight but if you are concerned with tipping, you can add half packing peanuts, half soil.

Shrubs in pots on top of outdoor table.

These are the plants I used:

  • lavender
  • star of Bethlehem
  • calibrachoa – white
  • sky pencil holly
  • white hydrangea
Lavender sitting in pots on table.

Rain, rain go away. At least my flowers are enjoying it.

So next week you’ll be able to see how the plants are doing and how I put together my new patio table and chairs ready for outdoor entertaining!

Tall grey planters with shrubs inside and white flowers in pot on table.

I hope this has helped you with how to fill your large outdoor planters.

Now check out what my blogger friends have done to spruce things up!

Also, my readers have left some extra tips in the comments below!

Make sure to pin it for later!

The Best Tip for Filling Large Outdoor Planters poster.

Click in Case You Missed:

How to Plant Herbs in Metal Containers

Bug Repellent Outdoor Centrepiece

Outdoor extravaganza poster.

How to Give a Basic Clay Pot a Beautiful Copper Patina Finish by The Happy Housie

Faux Succulent Bird Cage Planter by Making it in the Mountains

Tomato Sauce Garden Gift Basket by Satori Design for Living

Paint Dipped Succulent Log Planter by The DIY Mommy

Front Porch Planters by Craftberry Bush

Spring Patio Flowers by Elliven Studio

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  1. Um, those planters are gorgeous. Wow! I love that tip as well Jamie, otherwise they get way too heavy (plus you have to use an insane amount of soil!). And yes – rain rain go away! Oh my goodness, what a rotten spring so far…

  2. Such a smart idea! I love the direction you’re going in with your plants, and those pots, gorgeous! Hope the sun comes out for you. We could use a good soaking here. So glad you’re joining us this year.

  3. What an ingenious idea! Thank you for sharing with us. BTW- I love the plants you chose and the large gray pots. Could you share the info. on them?

    Thank you!

    1. HI Pamela,
      Thank you! I got them from Canadian Tire but they are selling out everywhere! I left the link in the middle of the post.
      Hugs, Jamie

  4. Do the peanuts degrade by the end of season? If not how do you then depose of them. Are these peanuts the kind you can actually eat? The first time I saw someone demonstrate that I gasped in horror! Who knew! Beautiful pots and plant choice!

    1. Thanks Gwen! The peanuts are made of styrofoam so I used to reuse them every year and they didn’t degrade by the end of the season.
      Hugs, Jamie

  5. i’ve seen that tip before, and it’s still a good one, but what about them being blown over in wind? This would never last at my house, maybe b/c i’m on a corner, but on a really windy day i’ve had my doormat blown over, some pots on the stairs blown over, and these are smaller pots filled with soil! enjoy yours!

    1. Well, that is a very windy corner! I filled these with half packing peanuts and half soil so they are still heavy as they’re quite tall. I would definitely avoid this tip for your planters then 😉 Thanks for your comment!
      Hugs, Jamie

    2. A brick or some rocks in the bottom can help anchor the pot. Then the peanuts, then the soil. Obviously this doesn’t keep it light, but in your case, you want it bottom heavy.

  6. Another tip is to use empty soda/beverage cans…they take up that bottom space and are also lightweight! I have done that will a couple of my larger containers. I slightly crush mine so they “hold” the soil better from falling thru to the bottom.

  7. I did this last year and it was disaster! We got a lot of rain and the packing peanuts starting floating up in the soil and my plants came out and hit the ground. How do you get yours to stay under the soil?

    1. Oh no! We get lots and lots of rain here in Vancouver and I haven’t had a problem but I do put a lot of soil on top of the packing peanuts to prevent them from coming through the soil. I make sure to pack it down quite a bit too.
      Good luck!
      Hugs, Jamie

    2. Make sure there are holes in the bottom of the pot for drainage. You may have to drill some in.

    1. HI BJ,
      I’ve never had a problem with the peanuts floating up….I’m curious if there wasn’t enough soil on top of the packing peanuts. If it’s a small container, I don’t use peanuts, only for large planters so there’s a good amount of soil to pack the peanuts down.
      Hugs, Jamie

  8. Smart lady. I did the same thing 2 years ago in my large planters on my patio, I knew I would never be able to move them once they were filled with potting soil and it would take boocoos of potting soil to fill all of them and I had bags of packing peanuts in my shed soI utilized them. Like you I put the soil right on top of the peanuts and no problems.

    1. Hi Judy,
      I got them at Canadian Tire. They were running out everywhere though. I left the link about the middle of the post.
      Hugs, Jamie

  9. I have done this for YEARS and it works great. Just be careful, some of the packing peanuts now melt when they get wet! I discovered this by accident. Now I test them when they come in a package before I save them. Love your planters.

  10. I have used the packing peanut tip in large planters for several years, but goofed one year by not testing first to be sure I wasn’t using the eco-friendly water-soluble kind! My gorgeous huge fatsia kept sinking lower and lower in the pot each time I watered or it rained! Another idea is to use the water and soda bottles that are bound for the recycling center (when he planted is finally “unplanted” and retired, the bottoes are still good for recycling. Also, cut up pool noodles make great planter filler.

    1. Yes! I’m always careful not to buy those kind. I’ve gotten them in a package once and realized they looked different. I love the plastic bottle idea, I’ve seen that one before too but forgot about it. Pool noodles…amazing idea.
      Hugs, Jamie

  11. This is such a great idea and I love how it won’t add weight to the planters, which is exactly the problem that I have!!! Absolutely love the plants that you chose to go in the large planters too!

  12. This is such a clever trick!! Thank you for linking up with It’s a Spring Tea Link Party – we are so happy you joined us! Angelina @ Petite Haus

  13. Your containers are lovely!! You can also use aluminum cans from soda to fill plant containers. I have been doing that for about 20 years…. The packing peanuts tend to degrade over time where the cans do not…

  14. Pool noodles are the easiest and least expensive of all of the fillers. They can be bent to fit the shape of your large urns or containers. I used to use peanuts years ago but they are so messy to clean up at the end of the season and not worth the trouble. Most USA packing peanuts are biodegradable and are not being used by many packing companies anymore. Empty water bottles (not returnable in Michigan) work well for many containers. Soda bottles and cans are returnable in Michigan. Think about what works in your state or province. Martha Stewart is selling false bottom large planters online. Leave it to her to make life easier for gardeners.

  15. I fill large pots with other things too if it’s just flower and decorative plants. Makes it easier to move around and less expensive to fill for seasonal plants. For food/garden plants, I fill the entire thing with soil.

  16. I love these pots and love how you filled the extra space with packing peanuts! I usually fill my large containers with upside down empty, plastic pots, but this is another handy idea for those who get a lot of items shipped to their house! I’m featuring this as one of my favorites from the Spring Tea link party; thanks for linking up!

  17. Hi Jamie! I have used the styrofoam peanuts for a few years now and I believe that is why my potted herbs thrive! I am having trouble finding some peanuts this year because I haven’t ordered anything with peanuts for a while and I am actually going out on the hunt for some today at a local office supply store that has given me some in the past.
    You had me at lavender, so I couldn’t resist featuring this post this week at TFT!
    Thanks for linking up!

    1. Aww, thank you so much, Amber! There are so many tips in these comments from readers on what other items you can use: water bottles, cut up pool noodles, so many tips!
      Hugs, Jamie

  18. A company called Bloem now makes a disk called Ups-a-Daisy. I found it locally and noticed it’s also on Amazon. You measure the inside of your pot where you want the soil to stop, and buy that size disk. Works like a charm! I used styrofoam peanuts one year and they were such a mess to clean up at the end of the season. The next year I put the peanuts in some mesh bags which could be easily rinsed off, which worked well, but then we moved and I pitched them in an effort to reduce our stuff. For people who find wind to be a problem, a brick in the bottom of the pot could help weigh it down a bit without adding unmanageable weight.

  19. I agree the packing peanuts idea is great. But, I read that one woman who used this idea forgot, and when she went to pour out the soil at the one of the season, they blew all over her yard. I recommend enclosing them in a plastic (or mesh, as one of your commenters suggested) bag. Then they can easily be stored in the cleaned pot over winter. Also, it is very windy where I live and some pots blow over, so it put a brick in the bottom of the pot. I know the purpose of the peanuts is to lighten the weight of the pot, but my purpose is to conserve on the use of potting soil.

    1. Yes, such great tips from the other readers, Patricia. I love the mesh bag for enclosing the peanuts. It’s not windy where I live (just rainy) but the brick in the bottom is a great idea!
      Hugs, Jamie

  20. You can buy large plastic waste baskets that have a shape similar to your containers. Spray paint them with a stone finish paint. They will look similar to your pots and would be less expensive.

  21. I love the idea of using the styrofoam peanuts in the bottom of pots, but wondering if there is any concern of the styrofoam contaminating the water table as pots drain?

    1. Hi Cris,
      There might be a possibility of contamination. It’s definitely something to consider! I’m definitely not an expert in this department. Let me know what you decide to do.
      Hugs, Jamie

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