How to Start Seedlings in Repurposed Plastic Bottles

Many of us try to avoid single-use plastic bottles as a general rule, but sometimes drinking from one is unavoidable. When it’s empty, you can either toss the bottle in the recycling bin . . . or use it to start seedlings by creating a fantastic reusable seed-sprouting container!

Here’s how to get started:

Start with clean water, soda, or other plastic bottles or milk cartons. Friends, family, and organizations will be happy to save them for you all year just for asking.

Step #1: Cut a plastic bottle in half.

Cut Bottle

Step #2: Cut an “X” in the lid for drainage.

Cut Lid

Step #3: Invert the top half, and fill it with soil.

Step #4: Place the inverted top inside the bottom half.


Step #5: Plant your seed and water the soil.


Seeders can be grouped in shallow boxes or trays, and—perhaps best of all—you can reuse the seeders again and again!

This article was submitted by Donna Lucy as an entry in The Grow Network’s Spring 2015 Writing Contest. It was originally published on May 23, 2015. The author may not currently be available to respond to comments, however we encourage our Community members to chime in to share their experiences and answer questions!

Featured photo copyright 2011 by DesperateGardener.com

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  • cmig says:

    What a great use for these! Thanks.

  • Debbie says:

    That is a good idea to use the whole bottle, with the bottom half for water. I have been using repurposed food containers to start seeds for a long time. For shallow trays, the plastic or foam containers from fresh mushrooms work great, or even the smaller tofu containers. For a deeper pot for a single plant, I will use a yogurt container. Then there are old food storage containers that are missing lids or have become cracked or too dingy to keep food in. I look over everything before it goes into the recycle bin to see if it can be reused as a planter.

  • Donna Lucy says:

    I’ve done this for three years now and the plants are usually so healthy that the stems are as thick as a pencil! Much better than store bought seedlings. Vote for me above.

  • noreen says:

    Good idea – just wondering about the water in the bottom. Will the seedlings pull it up or do you have to change it?

  • Alice says:

    If you run a strip of cotton rag from the soil into the water below, your system becomes self watering. I have started seeds this way for years and love that I do not need to think about how often or how much to water, plus it conserves water. I leave the cap off and tie a knot in the cloth strip to keep it from falling out.

  • Luana H says:

    Anyone who is interested in economy and ecology to the extent of growing your own groceries should not be wasting plastic by buying these bottles in the first place! There are lots of other things already out there that could be used for starting seedlings. Like making pots out of newspaper, for instance, or used yogurt cups, etc.

    1. noreen says:

      I have never needed to buy plastic bottles, they are in the trash all over the place!

      1. noreen says:

        Thanks Alice I thought of that . Did it years ago but never had any success. Will try it in the bottles.

  • Scott Sexton says:

    I like this. Until we can fully wean off of those plastic water bottles, I’ll start saving them up and give this a try.

  • Leslie Bauer says:

    Great idea! Indeed, I pick up trash everywhere here in rural Kentucky; no need to buy any plastic bottles! A win win. Love this idea!

  • DebiB says:

    I’ve seen a similar set up for a very small worm bin using 2 liter bottles. The bottom has a few worms with food and bedding material and the top has a plant that you can add to worm castings to. The 2 liter bottle set up is meant for education purposes, I don’t see it as a long term solution for keeping worms.

  • Lisa K says:

    My dad used to something similar by creating mini greenhouses for rooting plants.

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