Leaning into the Discomfort, Part One: How to Upcycle a 2-Liter Bottle into a Planter

2-liter bottle planters

Some of my most-favorite people directly caused one of my least-favorite scenarios a few weeks ago, when I hosted a party for my Girl Scout troop. The kids were delightful, and happily, our Girl Scout motto of “leave a place cleaner than you found it” also seems to apply to my place, because they left it sparkling in their wake. They washed all the dishes, picked up all the trash, and rinsed and placed into my recycling bin several iterations of the item that I hate most:

Two-liter plastic bottles, grrr!!!

One of my Girl Scouts, however, also recently gave me a piece of excellent advice: lean into the discomfort.

Her advice was technically not about recycling, mind you, but about my certainty that I was going to die during a snorkeling trip that I had signed up to chaperone without exactly realizing that I, too, would be expected to snorkel, ahem. But, I think that it applies. It’s given extra merit by the fact that, shockingly, I did not die while snorkeling. In fact, I had a lovely time!

So, for the next three weeks I am not going to disparage the bulky, wasteful, ethically problematic, nearly impossible to successfully recycle 2-liter plastic bottles filling my recycling bin. Instead, I am going to celebrate them by upcycling them into cool stuff that I will be happy to own and will use all the time.

First up: I never have enough planters, and I often need even more planters as cheaply as possible… for teaching Girl Scouts how to propagate so they can earn their Gardener badges, say. Or for leaving cuttings of the Happiest and Most Prolific Inch Plant in the World on neighbors’ porches when they’re not looking, in a futile effort to keep that Inch Plant from taking up literally every surface in my home.

Somehow, until I made the effort to really think about how I could reuse plastic 2-liter bottles, it never occurred to me that a plastic 2-liter bottle is a nearly perfect planter. It’s cheap, sturdy, and light. It’s easy to modify to fit a variety of needs.

And here’s how to make one!

You will need:

  • plastic bottle, clean and rinsed
  • Sharpie
  • craft knife or Dremel with cut-off wheel installed
  • drill or Dremel with drill bit installed
  • potting soil and plant

Step 1: Label, begone!

2-Liter Bottle Planters

Wash out the bottle and let it air-dry. Next, use a craft knife or pair of scissors to remove the bottle’s label?

Hey, you know what you should do with that label? You should bottle brick it!

I’ve never had a lot of success removing label glue from plastic. With plastic peanut butter jars, I’ll sometimes dip into the Goo Gone to make my life easier, but it hardly seems worth it for plastic 2-liter bottles.

Scratch that. That’s some plastic 2-liter bottle hate right there, and I said I wasn’t going to do that this month. You just go ahead and Goo Gone your 2-liter bottle if that’s what you want to do!

Step 3: Measure once, cut once, and live with the results.

Measure and cut the bottom off the bottle.

I’m actually cutting these planters a little tall, because what I ACTUALLY want is that top part to use in the project that I’ll show you next week. I kind of love it, though, because there is SO MUCH ROOM for my plants to grow! There won’t be any poor little rootbound babies in these planters!

However, just like there’s a lid for every pot, not every lid fits every pot. Make sure you know which plants hate having roomy pots so you don’t accidentally kill your philodendron with kindness.

My plants also don’t particularly like their feet to stay wet, so I drilled a drainage hole into the bottom of each bottle:

Drill a drainage hole

I’ll pair these pots with either terracotta or ceramic saucers.

Step 4: Plant a plant.

Plant a plant

Now that you have a planter, all you have to do is plant in it!

As awesome as this planter would be for carrots, I’d avoid planting anything edible in these plastic bottles. I’m not super picky about plastic, to be honest, but it’s hard to predict how plastic will degrade when it’s used outside of its intended purpose. For the same reason, I’d avoid using these planters outside, where UV light will most definitely degrade the plastic.

But give these 2-liter plastic bottle planters a sunny windowsill and a couple of spider plants, and I think they’ll be very happy in your home.

These plastic bottle planters are also perfect for group activities or community events, because you can create them in seconds on the spot. School and other youth groups can easily make and take their own planters, which, combined with a packet of seeds or some donated plant cuttings, could encourage countless children onto the path of keeping and loving houseplants. And think of how much more fun a community plant swap could be, with an easy way for attendees to share out their cuttings?

And just like that, I talked myself into one way to love my recycling bin full of 2-liter plastic bottles! Stay tuned, because next week, I’ll show you a project that I like even more!

Written by Julie Finn

I'm a writer, crafter, Zombie Preparedness Planner, and homeschooling momma of two kids who will hopefully someday transition into using their genius for good, not the evil machinations and mess-making in which they currently indulge. I'm interested in recycling and nature crafts, food security, STEM education, and the DIY lifestyle, however it's manifested--making myself some underwear out of T-shirts? Done it. Teaching myself guitar? Doing it right now.

Visit my blog Craft Knife for a peek at our very weird handmade homeschool life, and my etsy shop Pumpkin+Bear for a truly odd number of rainbow-themed beeswax pretties.

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