Packing peanuts are a lightweight filler for planters and are often free.

How to Fill a Tall Planter

by Nannette Richford

The key to a dramatic container garden display is to choose several containers with a similar style, or color or made from the same material, such as terracotta, stone or wood, but in varying sizes. While tall planters add height and interest to the arrangement of containers, you may shy away from large containers due to the expense of filling them with quality potting mix. Fortunately, there is a trick to filling tall planters that reduces the reduces the cost of soil and makes them lighter, too.

Fill the bottom one-fourth to one-third of your tall container with filler material, such as packing peanuts, 2-liter soda bottles or aluminum cans. The filler material takes up room while lightening the weight of the finished container. What you use for filler material doesn't matter as long as it is lightweight, nontoxic and will not break down or deteriorate during the season.

Place a piece of landscape fabric, cut to the size of the interior of your planter, over the layer of filler material. The landscape fabric prevents the soil from falling into the cracks in the filler material, while allowing water to drain through.

Fill the rest of the planter with commercial potting mix or your own mix. Mixing 1 part peat moss, 1 part all-purpose potting soil, or garden soil, and 1 part perlite makes a lightweight potting mix suitable for containers.

Items you will need

  • Recycled bottles, cans or packing peanuts
  • Landscape fabric
  • Scissors
  • Peat moss
  • Perlite
  • All-purpose potting soil


  • Place your planter in its final spot before filling it. Even though the filler material makes the planter lighter, large planters may be difficult to move after filling.
  • Placing a large upturned plant pot at the bottom of a tall planter reduces the amount of filler material you need. An inexpensive plastic pot from a discount store works well.
  • Don't use biodegradable packing peanuts made from corn. They disintegrate as soon as they get wet. Use only polystyrene packing chips.


  • Avoid using recycled containers that once held toxic material as you may contaminate the soil.
  • Only use planters with drainage holes to prevent problems with soggy soil.

About the Author

Nannette Richford is an avid gardener, teacher and nature enthusiast with more than four years' experience in online writing. Richford holds a Bachelor of Science in secondary education from the University of Maine Orono and certifications in teaching 7-12 English, K-8 General Elementary and Birth to age 5.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/ Images