Can You Reuse Potting Soil in Planters?

Updated: Nov. 08, 2022

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

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Can You Reuse Potting Soil?

“Can potting soil be reused, or does it need to be thrown away after a plant is removed?” asks Bob Nelson of Buffalo, New York.

Consider using fresh potting soil in your annual planters each year. This helps avoid future pest problems caused by insect or disease populations that may be building in the soil. Try composting the soil as well as the plant. Soil contains wonderful microorganisms that help with decomposition. It’s a great way to recycle potting mix back into the landscape.

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.

Check out the best potting soil for every type of plant.

Bugs in Potting Soil

“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.

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.

If you don’t want to discard potting soil each year for container plants, there is a valid and affordable alternative. 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.

Follow these 5 steps for preparing a garden for spring.

How to Clean Garden Planters

To clean your planters, 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!

Next, check out easy plants you can grow in containers. Plus, here’s how to fertilize your plants the right way.