When you receive a plant from foli8, you will notice that it is planted in something a little different.  This is our coir pot, which has benefits for both the plant and the planet and will make care for your plant a little easier too.

What is coir?

Coir is a natural material made from the waste husks of coconuts - it is the fibrous layer found between the coconut kernel and the outer coat.  Over a quarter of a million tonnes of coir are produced annually, mainly in India and Sri Lanka.

Coir has been used for years to make products such as door mats, brushes and ropes and also as a peat-free alternative to potting compost.  In the UK, it has been used since the middle of the 19th Century for the manufacture of mats and floor coverings, and arab sailors used it for ropes and ship rigging as early as the 11th Century.

It is inert, lightweight, completely compostable and can be formed into blocks and sheets for manufacture into durable, yet completely biodegradable, products, such as plant pots.

Why make coir into plant pots?

The horticultural industry in Europe gets through billions of plastic pots every year.  Some can be recycled, but many just end up in landfill or incinerated.  Because coir can be formed into simple shapes, it is an ideal material for plant pots, and in many ways is superior to plastic.  For indoor plants, coir is the ideal material for a pot to go into a decorative planter.

Benefits of coir plant pots

Coir pots help keep the soil aerated

Because coir is porous, it allows air to get to plant roots.  With plastic pots, if the soil gets too wet, there is no way for air to pass through the pot into the soil and oxygenate the roots.  Coir allows air into the soil, and also absorbs excess water from the soil, which can then evaporate.

This property also means that it is much easier to manage the watering of plants, which I will explain a little later.

The roots can grow into the coir pot

One problem with conventional plastic pots is that once the plant grows significantly, it becomes pot bound.   This means that the roots are unable to grow into fresh soil and they form a tight, tangled bundle in the bottom of the pot.  This makes it difficult for the roots to obtain the water and nutrients that the plant needs and the pot ends up with more roots than soil.  When you come to repot your plant, you sometimes have to try and disentangle the roots from the drainage holes in the pot, which might cause some damage to them.

With a coir pot, this issue is minimized.  The roots can grow into the pot, so when the time comes to repot the plant, you won’t have to take it out of its old pot. All you have to do is get a bigger decorative pot, pop your plant (still in its coir pot) into the new pot and surround it with some fresh compost (ideally, peat-free coir compost).  The roots will grow through the coir pot into the new soil and the coir pot itself will slowly decompose.

When your plant gets to the end of its life, which may be many years hence, the plant and its coir pot can be put on the compost heap or put out with garden waste for collection without having to separate it from a plastic pot.

Coir pots make watering more efficient

Many professional interior landscapers will tell you about the benefits of sub-irrigating plants - watering plants from the bottom up.  This method is really good for indoor plants as it puts the water right where it is needed (near the roots) and reduces the risk of soil compaction from heavy top watering. As the surface of the soil remains dry, this in turn reduces the risk of fungus gnats (sciarid flies), which thrive in damp compost.  Fungus gnats need to lay their eggs in damp soil for them to hatch, but they are not able to dig more than a couple of centimetres into the soil, so if the top layer of soil is dry, the eggs are less likely to hatch.

With a coir pot, you can get the benefits of sub-irrigation very easily.  When you need to water the plant, lift the plant (in its coir pot) out of the decorative pot, pour in some water (up to about a quarter full) and then put the plant back in.  The coir pot will absorb the water at a controlled rate and deliver it to the soil and roots just where it is needed.  Make sure that the decorative plant pot is completely waterproof.

These photographs show how a plant in a coir pot has absorbed water and taken it directly into the root zone, but left the upper layer dry - perfect conditions.

Furthermore, this way of watering takes some of the guesswork out of the process - the plant will take water as it needs it - and if you are going to be away from home for a while, you can give your plant some extra water to last an extra week or two without worrying about over watering it or risking it getting too dry.

Coir pots are good for the planet too

Coir pots are made from an entirely natural, sustainable material.  Coir is incredibly lightweight, which means it takes less fuel to transport the raw materials and the finished goods, and at the end of the pot’s useful life, it can be put on the compost heap, chopped up and dug into the soil of a flower bed, or disposed of with your other garden waste.  There is no plastic waste to dispose of and very little energy consumed in manufacture and transport.

by Kenneth Freeman
8 March 2021

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