Plastic vs Peat vs Ceramic Nursery Pots

You can use both plastic and biodegradable peat nursery pots. It’s up to you. In general, plastic pots are cheaper while biodegradable peat nursery pots are easier to use for newbies. Choose:

  • plastic if reusability, affordability, and finding a specific size are your top concerns.
  • peat pots if minimizing environmental impact, ease of transplanting, and good initial moisture retention are your priorities.

Plastic Trays: Cheaper

Plastic pots can be used for multiple seasons if properly cleaned and stored. This makes them a cost-effective option in the long run. Moreover, they’re generally cheaper and lighter than biodegradable pots.

Plastic Pots: Wider Variety

Plastic nursery pots and trays offer a wider variety of shapes and sizes compared to peat pots and trays. You can find plastic pots in various sizes and depths to suit your needs, including transplanting or container growing. [BUY FROM AMAZON]

Plastic pots come in a vast array of shapes, sizes, and depths. You can find options specifically designed for seedlings, transplanting, container gardening, or even hanging baskets. Plastic pots and trays are available in various colors and thicknesses, catering to different needs and preferences.

Peat pots and trays are primarily designed for starting seedlings. Common shapes for peat pots include round, square, and cell trays. Sizes are generally focused on accommodating young seedlings before transplanting.

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Peat Pots: Less Water

But, depending on the material, plastic pots might dry out faster than biodegradable options, requiring more frequent watering. Peat moss holds moisture well, which can be beneficial for young seedlings.

Peat Pots: Environment-friendly

Plastic pots contribute to plastic waste, especially if not reused. They can take hundreds of years to decompose in landfills.

Also, plastic production requires significant energy and resources, leading to greenhouse gas emissions and environmental impact.

On the other hand, durable plastic pots can be reused for multiple seasons if properly cleaned and stored, reducing overall waste compared to single-use options.

The reusability of plastic pots can make them a more environmentally friendly option in the long run, especially if used for many seasons. However, plastic production has a higher upfront environmental impact.

Peat pots decompose naturally in the soil, adding organic matter and minimizing waste.

But, peat moss is a non-renewable resource. Removing it from bogs disrupts ecosystems and can release carbon stored in the peat.

While less energy-intensive than plastic production, peat moss extraction still requires machinery and transportation, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions.

Plastic production is generally more energy-intensive than peat moss extraction. Processes like refining oil and shaping plastic require significant energy input.

If you’re an experienced gardener who reuses pots frequently, plastic might be a better choice in the long run.

Types of Biodegradable Plant Seedling Pots

There are several types of biodegradable plant seedling pots available, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.

Peat pots are the most traditional type of biodegradable seedling pot. They are made from compressed peat moss, a naturally occurring organic material. Peat pots are lightweight, easy to use, and decompose readily in the soil. However, peat moss is a non-renewable resource, and its extraction can damage wetlands.

Coconut coir pots are made from the husks of coconuts, a renewable resource. Coconut coir pots are similar to peat pots in terms of their ease of use and breathability, but they tend to drain better and have a slightly longer lifespan.

Paper pots are made from recycled paper or cardboard. Paper pots are an eco-friendly option and are often very affordable. However, they can be fragile when wet and may not hold up well in heavy rain.

Wood pulp pots are made from recycled wood pulp. Wood pulp pots are similar to paper pots in terms of their breathability and decomposition rate, but they tend to be more durable when wet.

Cow pots are made from composted cow manure. Cow pots are a good source of nutrients for seedlings and can help improve soil quality. However, they may not be suitable for all gardeners due to the presence of manure.

Newspaper pots are a free and readily available option for seed starting. While not technically purchased as a pot, newspaper can be rolled into a pot shape and used for seedlings. Be mindful of the thickness of the newspaper to ensure proper aeration and water drainage.

While rockwool can be used for seed starting, it’s not considered organic. It’s a mineral-based material and doesn’t decompose readily.

You can find a wide variety of biodegradable plant seedling pots on Amazon.

Peat-Pots: Less Effort

Moreover, since the pot itself is biodegradable, you can plant the seedling directly in the ground pot, eliminating root disturbance during transplanting. That’s the main reason why I use them.

Plastic Trays: Contamination

Also, keep in mind that plastic pots can potentially carry diseases from other plants if not properly sanitized before reuse. Disease-causing organisms like fungi, bacteria, or even viruses can survive on the surface or inside crevices of plastic pots for extended periods.

Contamination Routes

When you reuse an unsanitized pot, these pathogens can come into contact with your new plant and infect it. Here are some ways this can happen:

  • Soil Transfer: Residual-infected soil clinging to the pot can introduce pathogens to the new plant’s root system.
  • Splashing Water: Water splashing from the infected pot to the new plant’s leaves can transmit diseases.
  • Tools and Hands: Using the same tools or your hands on infected pots and then touching healthy plants can spread diseases.

How to Sanitize Plastic Pots?

Before reusing plastic pots, it’s crucial to clean them thoroughly:

  • Scrape off visible debris: Remove any leftover soil, roots, or plant material from the pots.
  • Wash with soapy water: Use a solution of mild dish soap and lukewarm water to scrub the pots, paying attention to crevices and drainage holes.
  • Disinfect: For added protection, disinfect the pots by soaking them in a 10% bleach solution (1 part bleach to 9 parts water) for 30 minutes. Rinse thoroughly afterward.
  • Air dry completely: Allow the pots to dry completely before storing or using them again.

Are Ceramic Pots better for plants?

Ceramic pots are strong and can last for many years with proper care. They are resistant to cracking and fading compared to plastic pots.

Most noteworthy, the porous nature of ceramic allows for better air circulation around the roots, which can promote healthy root growth and prevent root rot.

Moreover, the weight of a ceramic pot provides stability, especially for top-heavy plants or in windy conditions.

Additionally, ceramic pots add a decorative element to your garden or indoor space. They come in a wide variety of styles, colors, and glazes. I use them in bigger seedlings.


However, ceramic pots can be more expensive than plastic pots, especially for larger sizes.

While breathability is a benefit, some ceramic pots may not have drainage holes. Ensure the pots you choose have drainage holes to prevent overwatering.

The weight of a ceramic pot, which is a pro for stability, can also be a con when it comes to portability. Moving large ceramic pots filled with soil can be challenging.

Furthermore, although durable, ceramic pots can crack or break if dropped or mishandled.

Is Terracotta pot the same as Ceramic?

Terracotta is actually a type of ceramic. Terracotta is made from a specific type of reddish-brown earthenware clay rich in iron content.

Ceramic is a broader term encompassing various types of clay and ceramic materials, including terracotta but also stoneware, porcelain, and earthenware made from different clay compositions and firing processes.

Moreover, ceramic is a wider range of colors, textures, and finishes are possible depending on the type of clay, glaze, and firing techniques used. Glazed ceramics can be shiny, smooth, or have decorative patterns. On the other hand, terracotta is known for its characteristic reddish-brown color and unglazed, matte finish.

Terracotta is generally more porous than other ceramics due to its composition and lower firing temperature. This allows for better air circulation and faster moisture drainage.

Moisture-loving plants like ferns might do well in glazed ceramic pots that retain moisture.

Other Tips

If you reuse pots for specific plants, label them to avoid accidentally planting a susceptible variety in a potentially contaminated pot.

Practice crop rotation in your garden to prevent a buildup of soil-borne diseases. Don’t plant the same type in the same pot year after year.

Use fresh, high-quality potting mix for your new plants. This reduces the risk of introducing pathogens from old soil.

Pots for Growing SeedlingsPin

Creative Pot Ideas

Growing seedlings doesn’t have to be confined to traditional plastic or peat pots!

Newspaper Pots: Use old newspapers to create small, biodegradable pots. There are many online tutorials for folding techniques. These are great for starting small seeds like herbs or lettuce.

Toilet Paper Rolls: Cardboard toilet paper rolls can be another option for small seedlings. Decorate them with your kids for a fun and colorful touch!

Egg Cartons: Repurpose egg cartons by separating the compartments and using them as individual seedling pots.

Yogurt Containers: Clean and reuse empty yogurt containers with drainage holes punched in the bottom.

Tin Cans (for larger seedlings): Clean and decorate tin cans (think soup cans or coffee cans) to create unique and colorful pots. Remember to punch drainage holes.

Eggshells: Carefully crack an eggshell in half, clean it out, and poke a drainage hole. Eggshells offer a natural source of calcium for seedlings.

Biodegradable Pots: Commercially available biodegradable pots made from materials like coconut coir or recycled paper offer a more sustainable alternative to traditional plastic pots.

Can Toxins leach into the soil?

Cardboard is generally considered safe for composting and doesn’t contain harmful toxins in significant amounts. It will break down slowly in the soil, adding organic matter.

Some yogurt containers might contain Bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical used in some plastics. BPA can potentially leach into the soil, but the health risks associated with this minimal leaching are debated. Choose yogurt containers labeled “BPA-free” for better assurance.

Metal cans are coated with a thin layer of lacquer or other materials to prevent rust and preserve the food inside. These coatings may contain trace amounts of metals that could leach into the soil in very small quantities. If you’re concerned, use cans with a food-grade liner, which acts as a barrier between the soil and the metal.

Before using any recycled container, wash it thoroughly with warm soapy water and dry it completely to minimize any potential contaminants.

Keep an eye on your seedlings for any signs of distress that could indicate a problem with the container material.

The leaching of toxins from these containers into the soil is likely minimal and shouldn’t pose a significant health risk, especially for growing seedlings.

Tips for Upcycled Pots

Ensure proper drainage by poking holes in the bottom of any upcycled container you use as a pot.

Consider lining upcycled pots with plastic wrap or a trash bag to improve moisture retention and prevent them from breaking down too quickly.

Try to match the container size to the seedling’s needs. Smaller containers are suitable for herbs or leafy greens, while larger ones can accommodate vegetables like peppers or tomatoes.

What’s the best Pot for Root development?

Pots with sufficient depth (generally 6-8 inches or more) allow roots to grow downwards freely, promoting better overall root development. This is especially important for plants with deep taproots.

Biodegradable pots (made from materials like coconut coir or recycled paper) decompose over time, allowing roots to grow outward without restriction. This can be beneficial for preventing root circling, a condition where roots become pot-bound.

Keep in mind that air pruning pots have small holes or slits along the sides that allow air to reach the roots. Air pruning encourages root branching and prevents circling. Additionally, some materials, like terracotta pots, allow for better air circulation around the roots compared to solid plastic.

Avoid using solid plastic pots without drainage holes, as they can lead to waterlogged soil, hindering root respiration and potentially causing root rot.

Prioritize deep pots with good drainage, and consider biodegradable or air pruning options for optimal root health.

What about Soil Blocks?

A soil block is a compressed block of growing medium used for starting seeds organically. It functions similarly to a seedling pot, but offers several advantages, especially for promoting healthy root growth.

It’s formed using a soil blocker tool into small cubes or blocks. The size can vary depending on the type of seed being started, with smaller blocks for herbs and larger ones for vegetables. [BUY HERE]

Soil blocks allow roots to grow naturally, avoiding the circling pattern that can occur in pots. This translates to less stress and faster establishment when transplanted into the garden. During transplanting, the entire soil block is planted, minimizing root disruption and promoting quicker growth.

Additionally, the loose mix in soil blocks promotes air circulation around roots, preventing root rot and allowing better drainage of excess water.

Soil blocks are often made with a mix of organic materials like compost and peat moss, promoting beneficial microbial activity in the root zone. This leads to healthier and more resilient plants.

Soil blocks can be arranged tightly together, maximizing space utilization for starting multiple seedlings.

However, there are also some considerations when using soil blocks. Creating soil blocks might require some initial practice compared to simply using pre-made pots and also, they dry out faster than pots, so they need more frequent watering attention.


Neither plastic nor peat pots definitively outperform the other for starting seeds. The best choice depends on your individual needs and gardening style.

You can even experiment with both types to see which works best for you. Even ceramic pots could make your garden beautiful and enhance root development.

Pros & Cons of common nursery pot materials


  • Pros: Affordable, lightweight, widely available in various sizes and depths.
  • Cons: Not eco-friendly (unless reused), can dry out quickly, some may lack proper drainage.


  • Pros: Breathable, promotes healthy root development, good drainage, durable.
  • Cons: Can dry out soil quickly, heavy, susceptible to cracking in cold climates.

Ceramic (Glazed):

  • Pros: Decorative, retains moisture better than terracotta, durable.
  • Cons: Can be expensive, drainage needs verification (not all have drainage holes), heavy.


  • Pros: Eco-friendly, eliminates transplant shock, good for root growth.
  • Cons: Costlier than plastic, less durable, may break down too quickly in some climates.

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