Can You Reuse Potting Soil in Containers?

Can you reuse potting soil from year to year? Learn how to select a quality potting mix and how to clean containers for a fresh start each growing season.

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“When I got out my pots from last fall, tons of little bugs with wings covered the old soil. Can I reuse the potting soil?” asks Suzanne Foote of Cayuga, New York.

Discarding potting soil each year is probably overkill for most container plants. A valid and affordable alternative is to simply work in a little compost from year to year to improve the soil structure and provide added nutrients. But if you’re growing a rare or cherished plant you’d hate to lose to disease, it’s worth the investment to change the potting soil annually.

In general it’s best not to save and reuse potting soil when the mix or plants are infested with insects or infected with disease. So discard that soil and clean the pots before you use them again.

To clean your containers, dip each pot in a solution of 1 part bleach to 9 parts water. Then rinse the pots in clear water and they’ll be ready for fresh soil and new plants! Follow these 5 steps for preparing a garden for spring.

Don’t use soil directly from the garden. As tempting as it is to dig up some backyard dirt and throw it into a container, potted plants need drainage. Use a high-quality potting mix or potting soil when planting containers. The best blends are designed to stay slightly moist while allowing excess water to drain. This keeps the mix light and airy so plants receive more oxygen. Look for potting mixes that have vermiculite, peat moss, compost and perlite.

If your container doesn’t have drainage holes on the bottom, drill a few holes yourself.

Next, check out easy plants you can grow in containers.

Melinda Myers
Nationally known gardening expert, TV/radio host, author, columnist and speaker.