Piles Of Stacked Containers
dirty flower pots
(Image credit: Marcell Mizik)

If you've accumulated a large collection of used flowerpots and planters, you're probably thinking about reusing them for your next batch of container gardening. This is a great way to be frugal while still keeping up a lush and varied plant collection but reusing containers can be a problem unless you clean them. Let's take a look at washing pots before planting so you can grow healthy plants.

Importance of Garden Pot Cleaning

So why is it so important to clean containers for the garden? Soil builds up salts that can damage plants, and these salts get deposited on the inside of planters. In addition, any diseases your plants may have carried last season can get transferred to your new plants. The solution is cleaning used flowerpots before using them again. Garden pot cleaning only takes a few minutes, but it can keep your plants healthy and productive.

How to Clean a Container

The best way to clean containers is outside in the spring before planting, or in the fall after you discard dead and dying plants. Washing pots before planting has the added bonus of moistening terra cotta, which helps to keep soil from drying out during the first crucial day of transplanting. Garden pot cleaning begins with physically removing any dirt that clings to the inside and outside of the containers. Use a stiff scrub brush and clear water. If stubborn salt deposits stick and don't come off with the brush, try scraping them off with an old butter knife and vinegar. Once the pots are clean, make up a large container filled with a 10 percent bleach solution. Use one-part unscented household bleach and nine parts water, filling a container large enough to hold all the pots. Submerge the pots and let them soak for 10 minutes. This will kill off any disease organisms that might be lingering on the surface. Rinse off plastic pots to remove any residual bleach and allow them to air dry in the sun. If you have terra cotta pots, submerge them in a container filled with clear water and allow them to soak for an additional 10 minutes to remove the bleach from the pores of the material. Air dry these as well. Knowing how to clean a container can preserve the health of your seedlings and will give your container garden a new and fresh start to the season. Make a habit of cleaning every pot as soon as it's emptied to reduce the possibility of diseases being transferred from one group of pots to another.