Grow bags are gardening containers made from soft materials like felt, canvas, or plastic fabric. They can be used to grow a wide variety of plants both indoors and outdoors.
But what can you actually plant in a grow bag?
How Do Grow Bags Work?
Just like plant pots, grow bags are filled with a growing medium and used to hold plants. They are made from sturdy fabrics that can sit outside or inside.
Because they’re made from fabric, grow bags have better drainage than plant pots. You can’t really overwater a grow bag, making them a good choice for new gardeners and picky plants.
Grow bags are a useful alternative to plant pots and planters. They’re lighter, breathable, and sturdy enough for most types of plants.
They also work well in situations where space or weight are issues because they’re flexible and add almost no weight to the soil. These are useful qualities in a mobile home or balcony garden.
What to Plant in a Grow Bag
While grow bags have their advantages, some plants may not do well in grow bags. Plants with long taproots, water-loving plants, and particularly large plants may do better elsewhere.
Before you start planting, make sure you’re setting yourself up for success by choosing plants that will thrive in your grow bags.
Here are some of the plants that work well in grow bags, and those that don’t, broken down by plant types.
Vegetables that work in grow bags
Most seasonal vegetable varieties work well in grow bags. Here are the vegetables that can be grown in grow bags.
Root vegetables & tubers
- Potatoes (Read our guide: How to Grow Potatoes in a Grow Bag)
- Sweet potatoes
- Green onions
- Lettuce (Read our guide: How to Grow Lettuce in a Grow Bag)
- Swiss chard
- Collard greens
- Chinese cabbage
- Sweet basil
- Curry leaves
- Cuban oregano
Spreading plants & vines
- Peppers (bell, green, etc.)
- Chili peppers
Vegetables that don’t work in grow bags
Most of the plants that don’t work well in grow bags are plants that need a stable place to grow over multiple years or plants that need deep root space to support their growth.
Fruits you can grow in grow bags
These are the fruits that work well in grow bags, as long as you choose the right size bag. For fruit trees, you need to size up as the tree grows and needs more soil space.
Flowers that work in grow bags
There are endless different flowers that can be grown in grow bags. While I can’t list every single flower individually, these are some of the most commonly grown flowers that work well in grow bags.
Annuals & Perennials
- Sweet potato vine
- Black-eyed Susan vine
- Calibrachoa (million bells)
- Coral bells
- Elephant ears
- Lilies (daylilies, calla lilies, belladonna lilies, nerine lilies, etc.)
- Millennium flowering onion
- Winter aconite
Bulbs do well in grow bags because they are susceptible to rot if they sit in wet soil for too long. Make sure you choose a deep enough bag to give the bulbs room to spread their roots!
Not all mushrooms can be cultivated at home, but these varieties work well in grow bags:
- White button
Some of these mushrooms are naturally more difficult to grow at home than others, whether they’re in a grow bag or not. As long as you have the right growing medium and conditions, these mushrooms can grow in grow bags.
Read More: How to Grow Mushrooms in a Grow Bag
Trees & Bushes
Most trees can be planted in grow bags, as long as they are still young. Grow bags are excellent for saplings since they encourage good root growth through air pruning. They’re also a lot easier to move around, helping you get your saplings into the right conditions until they’re ready for planting into a permanent home.
If you want a permanent potted tree, you may consider repotting larger saplings into a pot, since grow bags are not as effective for permanent planting.
The same is true for bushes. While grow bags can support bushes for a while, they will need to be periodically replanted if they are in grow bags. Bushes will likely be easier to replant, but it’s still a hassle if you want to keep something for years.
Succulents & Cacti
Succulents and cacti do well in all types of containers, including grow bags.
Grow bags are useful for inexperienced growers because they help you avoid overwatering. Overwatering can be a big issue for succulents and cacti. When the soil stays moist for too long, the roots can begin to rot, quickly killing your plants.
Since grow bags drain water really well, there’s little risk of overwatering.
Choosing the Right Grow Bag
How do you know which grow bag to plant your seeds, seedlings, or saplings in? It’s good to tailor your grow bags to whatever you’re planting in them. Some plants will grow in any bags, while others do best in specific types of grow bags.
You have a few choices in terms of the size, material, and shape of the bags.
Grow bags come in a variety of sizes, measured by their soil capacity. Sizes are represented by gallons or liters. The size you need will depend on how many plants you’re putting together, what kind of plants they are, and how long they’ll be in the bag.
Remember that grow bags cannot be filled all the way to the top, so the capacity listed on the bag may not be the true amount of soil you’ll be adding to the bag.
Let’s break it down by bag size and see a few ways that each size can be used.
1-3 Gallon Bags
1 and-3 gallon bags are common in this size range.
These bags are pretty small, so they aren’t suitable for any medium-large plants, root vegetables, or long-term planting.
Instead, small grow bags are good for smaller indoor gardens, especially if you want to grow herbs, salad greens, or sprouts for home use. They can also be used for starting seeds early in the season to transplant into larger growing areas later.
- Starting seedlings
- Temporary containers
- Small indoor herb garden
- Salad greens
- Small cacti, succulents
5-7 Gallon Bags
5 and 7-gallon bags are the most common in this size range.
These bags are great for indoor or outdoor growing, and they can fit a variety of smaller root vegetables as well as many common seasonal vegetables.
- Onions, radishes, beets, turnips, carrots
- Broccoli, cabbage (single), cauliflower
- Ginger, turmeric
- Medium-large cacti, succulents
10-20 Gallon Bags
At this range, bags are usually available in 5-gallon increments, such as 10, 15, and 20-gallon bags. These are larger bags that are useful for a wide range of common flowers and vegetables. You can grow root vegetables in these sizes, but they do best in 20+ gallons.
The larger bags in this size range may be able to fit multiple plants. For example, you could put a tomato plant with a basil plant and a pepper in a 20-gallon grow bag.
- Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant
- Squash, melons, pumpkins, cucumber, zucchini
- Beans, green beans, peas (multiple)
25-50 Gallon Bags
Common sizes in this range are 25, 30, 35, 40, and 50-gallon bags.
This is the range where you can comfortably grow root vegetables that need a large amount of soil and space. In 35+ gallon bags, you may even be able to grow multiple root vegetables together.
These bags give you a lot of freedom to companion plant. Make sure you don’t overcrowd your bags, but feel free to mix and match a lot of different garden plants into these larger bags.
- Potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, cassava
- Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries
- Small fruit trees (0-2 years old) – Lemon, lime, pomegranate, apple, avocado
50+ Gallon Bags
Sizes are commonly available in 10-25 gallon increments, including 50, 75, and 100-gallon bags.
These bags are meant for large quantities of plants. You can put a full vegetable garden in this kind of bag, making it similar to a raised-bed garden, but less permanent.
Plant a lot of different types of things together, or look at even larger plants such as banana trees and bushes.
Tip: If you want to grow a lot of smaller plants with shallow roots, fill the bottom half of the grow bag with a lightweight filler to avoid using too much soil.
- Raised-bed gardening
- Planting many different things together
- Bushes, shrubs
- Banana trees (supported)
Grow bags are available in a few different shapes. Each shape is meant for a specific type of growing.
These bags are shaped like cylinders or squares. They’re wide, round or square, and not too tall. The larger they get, the more they expand in all directions.
Normal grow bags are all-around useful. They’re the most common type, and they suit most types of plants.
In larger sizes, these bags begin to get very heavy and require either a filler or a very large amount of soil to be used.
Wide bags are useful for growing many small plants together, or for growing plants that spread around.
They are cylindrical, square, or rectangular, and they are usually significantly wider than normal bags. As they get larger in size, they are usually made wider rather than deeper.
These bags are great if you want to have an herb garden, greens, sprouts, mint, or anything similarly small without having to use filler or unnecessary soil.
Don’t use wide bags for any plants with deep roots or for root vegetables, since they don’t have the required depth for those plants to thrive.
Rather than being wide, these grow bags are made tall and skinny. They are usually cylindrical, not square, and they come in a limited range of sizes. The largest sizes are taller and only a little bit wider than the small sizes.
Tall bags have one main purpose: growing saplings.
Since saplings need space for a long taproot, these bags are an ideal solution for temporary planting. Plant nurseries regularly use tall grow bags for young tree saplings.
Grow bags are available in a few different types of materials: non-woven fabric, woven fabric, or plastic.
Related: Types of Grow Bags
Non-woven fabric grow bags are the most common since they offer the most benefits. They come in felt, polypropylene, and other fabric types. To make these bags, fabric pieces are heat-sealed or chemically sealed together to make a strong bond that doesn’t require any stitching.
Since these fabrics are pressed and not woven, they have much better drainage and airflow, which is what leads to the excellent water flow and air pruning you get from good grow bags.
Woven fabrics are less common in store-bought grow bags and more common in homemade grow bags. Canvas, hemp, and burlap are some of the most used woven fabrics.
Woven fabrics can be long-lasting, but they don’t usually have as good of drainage or airflow as non-woven bags. Plus, they can have issues with mold.
They can still be just as lightweight and flexible, making them a viable option if you want to try making your own grow bags or repurposing an existing bag!
Small plastic grow bags are commonly used for starting seedlings because they’re exceedingly cheap and easy to get.
These bags are not good for any long-term growing, since they trap both moisture and heat, creating a poor growing environment and increasing the risk of root rot.
How to Plant in a Grow Bag
Planting in a grow bag is just like planting anywhere else, just a little floppier. All you need is your growing medium (soil, compost, etc.), your seeds/cuttings/transplants, and a good place to set it all down.
Related: Grow Bags vs Plant Pots
Adding your growth medium
Growth mediums depend on what you’re growing. You can put anything in a grow bag, as long as it won’t cause a rip. For example, if you’re growing mushrooms, opt for woodchips or sawdust rather than whole logs, since these are more likely to damage the bag.
If you’re using a soil-based growing medium, remember that grow bags cannot be filled to the top. Leave space between the growing medium and the top of the bag so you can use it effectively and move it if necessary. The larger the bag is, the more space you need to leave at the top.
When filling a very large grow bag, consider using a filler material at the bottom of the bag to reduce the weight and conserve soil.
Planting or transplanting
Plant your seeds, cuttings, transplants, spores, etc. as normal. Plant as high as possible in the soil so the plants can take advantage of the whole space. When needed, you can use a filler.
If you plant close to the bottom of the bag, you might get weak root growth and higher risk of root rot.
Positioning your grow bag
Grow bags can be placed indoors or outdoors.
If they’re going inside, you need to find a space that provides enough light for whatever you’ve planted, consistent temperatures, and indirect airflow.
For outdoor grow bags, you need to think about the surface they’re sitting on and exposure to the elements, usually sun, wind, and rain. Grow bags dry out more quickly than other containers, so they may do best in an area with a little more shade and less wind.
Grow bags can sit on any surface, but the best place to put them is on a surface that doesn’t collect water. Think gravel, shelving, elevated platforms, or directly on the ground.
Moving grow bags
Once you put your grow bags down, it’s best if you don’t move them around too much. The more you have to move them, the more you risk rips, tears, and other damage.
Soil is heavy. Your bags will handle that weight better when they’re stationary than when they’re getting moved around regularly.
Making Grow Bags Last
Grow bags can last for years with constant use, or even longer if you’re growing seasonally. You don’t have to do much to extend the life of your grow bags, just take a few simple steps between each seasonal use.
If you’re growing seasonally, wash your grow bags in the off-season and store them until it’s time to plant again. Even if your growing season is all year round, take some time between plantings to wash your grow bags.
Most grow bags can be washed in a machine or by hand with a regular detergent.
Read more: How to Wash, Store, and Care for Grow Bags
During the offseason, store your grow bags inside so they won’t get damaged by the elements. After washing, put them somewhere dry and away from the sun.
Outdoor Placement & Movement
Place your grow bag where it won’t get damaged. Don’t put it on top of very rough or sharp materials.
Consider the conditions you live in and how they can affect a grow bag.
If you live in an area where the sun is intense, put your grow bags in a shadier spot that only gets partial sunlight.
If the wind is strong, place the bags somewhere that’s a little more sheltered.
If you’re planting at a time when frost is still a risk, you might want to bring your bags inside overnight.
Whatever the environmental challenges are in your area, adapt to them to find the best place for anything you’re growing.
Bags made from sturdier materials can be repaired if they get damaged. Both woven and non-woven fabric grow bags are repairable, as long as you catch the problems early.
If you’re repairing a fabric grow bag, use a large patch that fully covers the hole. For smaller, straight rips, you can try sewing the 2 sides together with a tight stitch pattern.
Handles are the parts that usually break first. You can sew these back on, or just carry the bags from the bottom instead of using handles.
When to Replace Your Grow Bags
Some grow bag damage can’t be fixed.
When your bags have huge holes, rips away from the seams, or thin, worn-out material, it might be time to think about replacing your bag instead of trying to look at repair options.
Grow bags are a great tool to have in your gardening arsenal. Now that you know a little more about how and when to use grow bags, you can make the best decision for your own garden.
Grow Bag FAQ
How Many Plants Can You Put in a Grow Bag?
The number of plants you can put in a grow bag depends on the size of the roots. Plants with large or sprawling roots, like potatoes or sunflowers, need a lot of room. These kinds of plants take up more space underground than aboveground.
Check out each plant you want to grow and see how much space it requires when it’s alone. Then, add the space requirements together to get a rough estimate of how much space you’ll need to plant them together.
Should You Put Holes in a Grow Bag?
No, you don’t need to put holes in grow bags. Fabric grow bags are already good at draining even without holes. Plastic grow bags are usually too thin to cut holes in without ruining the bags completely.
How Long Do Grow Bags Last?
Most fabric grow bags can last 3-5 years with regular use. If you care for them well, they can last even longer. Sturdier materials last longer than thin materials, and bags with more secure seams tend to last longer as well.
Should Grow Bags Be Outside or Inside?
Grow bags can be outside or inside. As long as you can put them in the right conditions for your plants to thrive, that’s all that matters.