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I was using old clear (transparent) plastic meat packaging to grow plants in. Is that a good idea? Are there any side effects of roots possibly being exposed to the sun?

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5 Answers 5

up vote 14 down vote accepted

Roots exposed to the sun might think they have reached the surface and start to put shoots out.

Those particular containers don't look very strong - don't underestimate the weight of wet soil. Ideally you should have some more rigid that does not collapse under the soil's weight or when you move them.

Do these containers have holes in them? Holes in the bottom are required for drainage, but holes in the side could wet (and degrade) black paper/card as recommend by @shanna.

Plastic pots can be okay, but you need something stronger and opaque. All plastic pots will eventually degrade with the UV from the sun. Perhaps not a significant problem at high latitudes, but here in Texas, they definitely have a limited life (as does plastic garden furniture!) and some are better than others.

@gunbuster mentions plasticizers. I suspect in this application they are less of a problem than in food containers, but this is another good argument for containers that are sold as plant containers.

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If you're stuck for containers and this is your only option (or you want to be environmentally friendly and re-use those pesky non-recyclable food trays), you could glue something like black paper or cardboard to the outside to keep the light from getting through.

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Plastic is not a good medium. It traps heat, melts in high temperatures and contains plasticizers (especially in soft plastic like yours) which may dissolve into the soil.

In addition, your container is too shallow for most plants. It can only be used as container for plant germination.

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What do you mean when you say that you are using clear plastic containers to grow plants?

Starting from seed, as seedlings, indoor plants that don't want direct light and whose roots aren't totally root bound?

I suspect all of the above would be fine, although the indoor plants may have problem with not enough soil depending upon the plant. Similarly, there may be some seedlings which need deeper soil level than that.

The other replies are all applicable, but I can think of situations where it would not be a problem, and there are probably others. What is your goal, and what are the specifics?


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Clear pots can be great for plants, especially transplants. Plants vary a lot, but in general, the roots reach the edge of a clear container, feel the sun, and stop growing. This prevents them from getting root bound. Once transplanted into the ground the root start growing with a minimum of transplant shock. Broccoli is an example of a traditionally transplanted crop that can really root bind and benefits from clear containers. Better yet is soil blocks...no pot. Blocks work great for large operations. Gardeners may find clear cups more convenient and economical.

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