How to grow a cactus in a recycled coffee pot

Cactus in a coffee pot Green Fingered Blog
What can you recycle to use as a plant pot? I re-use or recycle things whenever I can, so I thought I'd share this little idea with you. It saved me throwing something away, saved me having to buy a new container, and makes a slightly unusual addition to the windowsill.

I hate throwing things away unnecessarily, it seems such a waste. And I'm not keen on spending money on something new when I've already got something that can do the job just as well. 

Scroll to the bottom of this post for a really useful infographic full of simple tips on growing succulents from my friends at

Re-using things is not only cheaper, but a more sustainable way of living, helping to reduce your impact on the environment. Re-purposing something uses less energy, and creates less carbon emissions, than manufacturing a new one, or commercially recycling an old one. For me, a broken coffee machine was the perfect opportunity to put the remaining pot to good use.

How to grow a cactus in a recycled coffee pot

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Sadly the coffee machine itself had to go to my local recycling centre, but the glass jug was still in tact, so I decided to plant it up. Being glass, I couldn't put a drainage hole in the bottom which is normally used to maintain well drained compost. It will contain any water rather than it draining through the bottom. 

But as cacti don't need much water they should be suited to a pot that I don't want to be watering. So it was, that my plan for planting cacti in a coffee pot came about. Here's what I did:

I did have to buy some specialist cactus compost, and some gravel. Both these came in single use plastic bags by the way - just how do we eliminate these from our supply chains?
Cacti, compost and gravel for a Cactus in a coffee pot Green Fingered Blog
The ingredients for cacti in a coffee pot
I bought three small cacti (also in plastic pots but these will definitely not get thrown away, but used again many times) and the total cost of this mini project was only about £12 in total. Not bad for starting from scratch with plants which require quite particular soil conditions.

The plants are:
  • Aloe comptonii - Thick, bluish-green leaves that arch upwards.
  • Thrixanthocereus senilis - Column shaped with surprisingly soft white spines
  • Mammilaria - forms several smaller very spiny green columns. 
Though from different parts of the world, they are all naturally found in dry, arid and sunny conditions, so should survive together in the same pot.

I rinsed out the coffee pot and filled it to about a third full with ordinary horticultural grit that I had already had in the garden. 

The most important condition for these cacti is for it to be dry and well drained. 

They are adapted to retain moisture for long periods inside their structure, but are not good at tolerating wetness around their roots, which can cause them to rot and die. 

With no drainage holes in my pot, this means watering very sparingly, and including plenty of grit in the pot so that they won't be sat in water at any stage. 

With minimal watering, any that does make it to the bottom of the pot should get taken up slowly or evaporate.

Coffee pot with base layer of grit Cactus in a coffee pot Green Fingered Blog
The measurements on the coffee pot are helpful -
               the base layer of gravel goes up to about 4 
Having provided a free draining base layer of grit, I added a layer of cactus compost to about a third of the way from the rim of the pot. This is also a free draining mix, containing sand and fine grit. It's also formulated to the right balance of nutrients that cacti need. 

This is important as there is little opportunity to give them a liquid feed as won't be watering them very often as I've explained. A solid feed is also not very practical since they will be mulched with decorative gravel.

GREEN FINGERS TIP: In a narrow rimmed container like this, add a thin layer of compost, then place the plants in position and fill the rest of the compost around them. This is a lot less fiddly than putting all the compost in and then trying to make holes to plant them in afterwards.

After firming the compost around the base of each plant, making sure they ended up at the same depth they were in their pots, I added a layer of white gravel on the surface. 

The horticultural grit used for the base layer could also be used for this, but the white looks better. It's not only there for aesthetic reasons though. As well as looking good, it also protects the plants from any direct moisture.

Cactus in a coffee pot Green Fingered Blog
Cacti in a coffee pot - cheap, easy and fairly sustainable!
I watered them in a little, to help everything settle in the pot. After that they will need very little watering, as they're perfectly suited to long dry periods in nature. The occasional dribble, maybe once a month, is all they should need. 

They are on the brightest south facing windowsill that I have. I may move them out of the direct sun in summer - tomatoes will take their place - but they need a good amount of light all year round.

Have you used anything unusual as a container for your houseplants? What's the most interesting thing you've managed to recycle as a plant pot? Please share your inspirational ideas on the Green Fingered Blog Facebook page, with a photo if you can. It would be great to see some of your wacky, wonderful creations!


As promised, here are some simple tips on growing a whole range of succulents, from my friends at

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  1. This is such a great idea for reusing something most people would throw out. Thanks for sharing at #HomeMattersParty

  2. Thanks Donna, I hate to waste anything so I'll be posting more recycling ideas in the future too!