Two ways that you can make newspaper plant pots. One method gives you round pots in less than 30-seconds and the other is a square origami-style pot. Use either for starting seeds, or growing small plants in. Full video at the end.
It’s not news that our world is swimming in plastic. It litters our seas, communities, and countryside and so far the focus has been on single-use food packaging. Water bottles, carrier bags, and the like. What’s less talked about is the plastic we use in gardening. The plastic bags that compost arrives in, the flimsy pots we buy plants in. Sometimes it seems overwhelming.
Though many of these items can be reused, I’m loathe to buy any more plastic than I need to. That’s how I got into a panic.
It’s spring and my greenhouse is overflowing with seedlings. Tiny plants that need planting into their own pots. The ones I had already were used right away and before I knew it, I’d run out. Instead of guilt-buying more, the situation presented the perfect opportunity to learn how to make paper plant pots. The good news is that not only did I learn quickly, and think you can too, but you don’t need any special-made tools to do the trick.
recycled paper pots for growing seeds and plants
The gardening industry knows that demand is increasing for eco-friendly products and you can already buy plastic-free plant pots. There’s the popular peat pots, more durable bamboo pots, and compost plug pellets, among others. They can be quite expensive if you plan on growing more than a few plants though.
Using newspaper to create your own pots is cheaper and even more eco-friendly. Use up the newspapers you have already or take some home from your local recycling center. Once made, they’re durable enough for the purpose.
Is newspaper safe to use in the garden?
I originally shared how to make newspaper plant pots on YouTube and was surprised by how many people hadn’t heard of them before. Many people thought it was a great idea but some were worried about whether using newspaper in the garden was safe.
Ordinary newspaper with black or colored ink is considered safe to use for plant pots. In the past, inks were made with petroleum-based ingredients but these days it’s made mainly with soybean oil. That means that the ink and paper are both biodegradable. The colors in the ink come from non-organic substances but are in such small amounts that it would’t harm you to eat it. Eating newspaper might not be the best meal you’ve ever had though.
You might be unsure about your own newspaper and fortunately there are ways to check if it’s safe. Sometimes newspapers will include a section telling you about the printer, paper, and ink, so look for that first. If you can’t find anything, see if the ink rubs off on your fingers. If a lot of it does, then it’s old-fashioned petroleum ink that doesn’t completely dry. Modern soy inks don’t tend rub off. Here’s more ways to test.
As for other types of paper: avoid anything shiny. Shiny paper like the advertising inserts in some newspapers and magazines are made with paper and ink that may not be safe for your garden.
You don’t need a special tool
The reason it took me so long to make my own newspaper plant pots is that I thought that you needed this special tool. This is so wrong and I’m kicking myself for not looking into it earlier. I also found not one way but TWO ways to make paper plant pots. All you’ll need is newspaper, glass jars, and some basic crafts tools.
If you wanted to get the tool that I was thinking of, you can make smaller plant pots. They’re the type that would be most handy for growing smaller seedlings in. Saying that, I don’t think it’s necessary, especially when you see how to make plant pots using the easy method.
Easy newspaper plant pots
The easiest way to transform newspaper into plant pots is by using a glass jar. The diameter of the opening will be the diameter of your pot. Use different sized jars or glasses to create different sized plant pots. Just make sure you choose vessels with straight sides rather than tapered to make your life a little easier.
Standard sized newspapers are pretty big once you unfold them. Begin by cutting one down the folding line to separate it into two pages. Take one and fold it in half lengthwise. Next, place the jar at one end so that the closed bottom sticks out by a half inch or so. Roll the paper over the glass then crumple the overhanging paper into the open end of the jar.
Pull the jar out and your plant pot is nearly complete. Just squish the crumpled paper at the bottom flat and you’re ready to go. Easy-peasy and you’re on to making the next one in only thirty seconds. If any of this didn’t make sense, just watch the instructional video at the end.
Origami plant pots
Although the round pots are easy to make, square origami plant pots have their own charm. The learning curve on making them is higher, but once you have the method down you can make pots relatively quickly. It’s also a brilliant skill to have for making small gift boxes.
For this method I’m going to direct you to the video since it’s makes more sense to watch. The video clip below this section shows how to make them.
The most important thing to know before making origami plant pots is about paper size. You will most likely need to measure and cut your newspaper down before you begin folding. Your paper needs to be in a ratio of 1:2, meaning that it’s length should be double the size of its width.
- A piece of paper sized 11×22” will give you a finished pot that is 3” square
- Paper sized 8.5×17” will make a pot that’s almost 2” square
- Starting with paper sized 6×12” makes 1” square pots
How long do newspaper pots last?
Although paper plant pots seem like they would disintegrate, they’re actually relatively durable. The easier to make round pots have quite a few layers and that sturdy crumpled bottom. They are more hard wearing than the origami pots and standing up well in my greenhouse after several weeks.
Newspaper pots I’ve received in the past have lasted well over that. The rim of the pots that don’t get as wet actually hardens over this time. I’ve had to pick it off before planting the seedlings out.
This is my first time using the origami style pots. Though they’re not as sturdy they’re still holding their own.
Mold on newspaper pots
Another concern people have over paper plant pots is mold. Sometimes it starts growing on the sides of the pot and you might worry that it will affect your plants. Let me put your mind at ease.
Any color of fuzzy growth, or white filaments are mold and bacteria that feed on non-living organic matter. It’s a big issue in the book world when paper gets damp or is stored in humid conditions. The same thing happens to me sometimes when I grow plants in toilet paper rolls. These growths are interested in breaking down the cellulose in the paper, not your plants.
So when it comes to growth or mold on paper plant pots, don’t let it bother you.
Planting newspaper plant pots
Fill the pots you’ve made with compost, plant your seedling or sow the seeds, and water it. Treat it the way you’d treat any other plant pot. One thing that I’d recommend is setting them in some type of container that will give them a bit more support. I’m using empty seed trays and trays that I bought mushrooms in at the shop.
The pots will discolor and possibly mold with time but as long as the plants look healthy you’re fine. When it comes time to plant out, don’t forget to harden the plants off. Then you can plant them in the soil paper and all or gently pull the paper off first and compost it.
As already mentioned, newspaper is generally considered to be non-toxic. There are trace amounts of pigments that add the black or color to the ink but these too are not considered to be a threat. If they were, then just licking a finger to turn the page in reading the paper would be a hazardous act. Thankfully it’s not, or I’m sure folks would be lining up to sue.
More recycled gardening ideas
I hope you’ve found this recycled gardening idea helpful and please do watch the full video above. If you enjoy my videos I also invite you to subscribe to Lovely Greens on YouTube.
There are quite a few other items that you can recycle for use in the garden too. Plastic fruit and veg trays from the supermarket can make seedling trays. Paper cups can make plant pots – better yet if you can pick them up used from a coffee shop. There are loads more ideas over here.