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Home HortTechnology Biocontainers Hold Their Own in Tests with Plastic Pots
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BATON ROUGE, LA—Environmentally sensitive disposal of plastic plant containers can pose challenges for producers and consumers alike. To address this issue, more plant producers are looking to alternative, biodegradable containers that can be composted or planted directly into the soil, thus eliminating the need for plastic containers. The most common non-plastic biodegradable containers in the market are peat pots, but a variety of new, alternative biocontainers are being introduced. Innovative 'bio-brands' include varieties that incorporate spruce fibers, containers composed of coir or coco fiber, and pots manufactured from composted cow manure.

Research horticulturists Jeff Kuehny, Matt Taylor, and Michael Evans designed experiments to compare the feasibility of biocontainers with commonly used plastic pots in the production and performance of popular bedding plants. The team evaluated a variety of container types and sizes using geranium, vinca, and impatiens at four geographic locations. The full results of their study were published in HortTechnology.

According to the report, of the 5-inch containers tested, the highest geranium and vinca shoot growth occurred in plastic containers compared with bioplastic and rice straw containers. Of the 4-inch containers, paper containers produced the greatest geranium shoot growth compared with the peat containers at two locations. Shoot growth in impatiens was similar for all types of containers at all three locations. "When all container types were considered, we found no difference in the root growth of geranium or impatiens at all three locations," said corresponding author Jeff Kuehny. "However, vinca had the highest root growth in paper containers compared with that in peat and coconut fiber."

"Our results showed that plants grown in 5-inch plastic or paper containers generally performed better than those grown in other containers," Kuehny said. "However, plant growth in all the containers used in the greenhouse portion of our study produced marketable plants. This study indicated that direct plant biodegradable containers can provide landscapers with suitable alternatives to plastic or compostable containers."

The authors suggested that greenhouse producers closely monitor cultural practices and the growing environment when using biocontainers, as differences in plant growth can occur. "Growers and landscapers should be aware of growth differences that may occur when using biodegradable containers and align production practices accordingly," they noted.


The complete study and abstract are available on the ASHS HortTechnology electronic journal web site:

Founded in 1903, the American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS) is the largest organization dedicated to advancing all facets of horticultural research, education, and application. More information at


Original Article:

Greenhouse and Landscape Performance of Bedding Plants in Biocontainers
Jeff S. Kuehny, Matt Taylor, and Michael R. Evans
HortTechnology 21:155–161. [Abstract][Full Text][PDF]

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