Fabric Grow Bags and Plants: 21 Things to Know


Fabric grow bags are very popular for growing fruits, vegetables, and plants either indoors or outdoors. They are very sturdy because they are made of thick, breathable cloth, and provide ideal drainage, temperature control, and are reusable year after year. They are the near perfect alternative to the traditional plastic or ceramic pot.

If you’re considering using fabric bags to grow your plants, here are 21 things for you to keep in mind that might be helpful in that endeavor!

Photo of a plant growing in a canvas bag set on top of the grass
Photo by Lovelyday12

What are Fabric Grow Bags?

A fabric grow bag is exactly like it sounds: it is a cloth bag that can be used to grow plants. Fabric bags can be used to grow fruits and vegetables, indoors or outdoors, in big or small spaces. They can be arranged anywhere there is sunlight and are perfect for areas that do not have enough room for a full, in-ground garden.

Fabric grow bags are durable, lightweight, and offer flexibility as they come in a variety of sizes and an assortment of fabrics. They will not crack like a plastic pot or shatter like a ceramic pot and can be stored away much easier since they can be folded up just like a regular cloth bag. They are also well-aerated and have better drainage than other pots.

You can use fabric grow bags indoors to grow your favorite produce or show off houseplants, or outdoors on a porch, deck, or balcony. They are the perfect solution for an area that is limited in space, but still wants to be used for a garden.

They are versatile enough for almost any plant, although they work best with plants that have small root structures because of the confinement of the bag. However, if you get a fabric grow bag that is large enough, you could even grow a medium-sized tree in it. Fabric grow bags can be moved with ease and shaped nearly any way you like.

What are Fabric Grow Bags Made Of?

Fabric grow bags can be made out of a variety of materials, but they need to be a material that is durable enough to endure the different aspects of gardening, such as soil, water, and fertilizer, without wearing and tearing. Most grow bags are made out of a fabric called polypropylene, which is used to make reusable shopping bags.

Polypropylene is much more durable than regular natural fibers that cannot handle the daily pressures of a growing plant. Fabric grow bags can help regulate temperature because excess heat can escape through the bag, so that heat is not trapped during the summer months unlike plastic pots. Overall, polypropylene has many benefits:

  • Does not retain water but allows water to circulate
  • Does not retain heat
  • Is breathable for the plants to avoid exposure to root rot
  • Is soft enough for root pruning

This breathable material allows the free circulation of air, which is beneficial to the plants’ roots as it allows the roots to absorb water and nutrients from the soil more effectively. When the roots reach the sides of the bag, they are also exposed to oxygen, and this kills the root off at the end and allows the plant to grow another root directly from its source.

Do Grow Bags Actually Work?

Fabric grow bags work great for growing all different types of plants without needing any actual land. As long as you prepare them properly, you can grow your fruits and vegetables year-round by starting them off on a balcony when the weather is nice and then moving them inside in a warm area of your home that has adequate sunlight, if you live in a cooler climate.

Starting your fabric grow bag only needs a few things:

  • The grow bag
  • Seeds or plants
  • Organic soil or potting soil mix with peat
  • Starter fertilizer
  • Water
  • Compost additive (optional)
  • A sunny location indoors or outdoors

Once you have gathered your materials, you should choose where you want to grow your plants. Although fabric grow bags are easy to move, you should choose a location that has enough sun if indoors and is weather-appropriate if outdoors. Then you can start putting together your fabric grow bag for your chosen plants:

  • Fill your fabric grow bag with organic soil, leaving a few inches at the top
  • Moisten the soil and then mix in fertilizer
  • Sow the seeds into the soil mixture or plant the plants

Depending on what you are growing, you might need to fertilize the plants every four to six weeks to make sure they are getting the proper nutrients to grow well. You should also try to water at a consistent time each day. The great thing is that fabric grow bags will actually outlast the standard plastic containers as long as they are stored properly during the off-season.

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Jalape_o_Pepper_Lines (4)

Which Material of Fabric Grow Bags is Best?

As mentioned above, the polypropylene used in the reusable bags you see at the grocery store is the perfect material for a fabric grow bag. This unique material allows air to flow through its pores and cool the soil. This temperature control means the plants can actually self-regulate their temperatures and not cook when the temperatures are high.

Polypropylene is not the only material that is used for fabric grow bags. Some bags are made from recycled materials and other materials are biodegradable and can be planted directly into the ground. Felt is also a breathable material that works well for plants to properly breathe, control temperatures, and thrive in a fabric grow bag.   

The materials used in fabric grow bags are usually durable, inexpensive, and can be reusable (unless they are biodegradable). They are more breathable than plastic and ceramics and may come with extra elements like Velcro straps, handles, zippers, and compartments for growing specific produce. However, the simply made ones are also quite fine.

How Long do Fabric Grow Bags Last?

The length of time a fabric grow bag lasts depends on the quality of the material used and the care you take, but they can usually last anywhere from three to ten years as long as they are cleaned and stored properly at the end of each season. If you have a fabric grow bag that is sewed together with seams or stitched handles, they will be sturdy enough to last you for a few years.

If you have perennial plants in your fabric grow bag, you will need to decide if you are going to replant them outside (if they can handle the winter weather) or brought indoors for the winter. If you have annuals, you can remove them, clean your fabric grow bag, and then pack it away for the winter months.

Unlike plastic and ceramic pots, which take up storage space or become eyesores on the back deck, you can fold up your fabric grow bags nicely and tuck them away in any closet or storage space. Their fabric is pressed together, not woven, so they are durable when used and when folded away. They take up minimal space and storing them correctly will increase their shelf lives.

Two large green and one gray grow bag filled with potting soil sitting on the ground
Photo by Navaashay Rawat

What Sizes do Grow Bags Come in?

Fabric grow bags come in a variety of shapes and sizes. In addition to different sizes, fabric grow bags also come with different characteristics to help the grower. For example, some fabric grow bags are specifically designed with side openings so that you can harvest potatoes, while others have side pockets so you can stack strawberries.

Grow bags are lightweight and usually come with handles, so you can move them to different locations if necessary. Fabric grow bags can be anywhere from 3-, 5-, 10-, and 15-gallon sizes to as large as 100- to 400-gallon if you would like to use one in lieu of a larger raised bed garden.

How Big of a Fabric Grow Bag Should You Use?

Fabric grow bags are versatile for any garden’s shape and size, for displaying plants on a porch, or growing produce indoors. Most above-ground vegetables, like tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers, grow nicely in a 7- to 10-gallon size bag. The size of the bag really depends on what you are growing:

  • 3-gallon size: Good for a few plants like peas or leafy greens like lettuce, cherry tomatoes, herbs, tea plants, or one pepper plant.
  • 5-gallon size: Good for larger tomatoes, berry bushes, potatoes, flowers, peppers, or herbs.
  • 7-gallon size: Good for peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, squash, eggplant, onions, leafy salad greens, tomatoes, potatoes.
  • 10-gallon size: Good for an entire garden of large tomatoes, potatoes, basil, spinach, lettuce, and other salad greens.

You can even get a larger-sized fabric grow bag, anywhere from 100 to 400 gallons, which means you can plant nearly anything and everything in this one giant fabric grow bag. You can also do what is called companion planting, which means the grow bag will help encourage the mixed growth of the different plants and their complex root systems.

Since fabric grow bags can be cut without damaging their overall structure, they can be manipulated so that the vegetables can grow around the sides of the bag. This can be ideal for cucumbers, zucchini, and potatoes.

If you get the smaller 3- to 5-gallon-sized fabric grow bags, they are ideal for planting fruits, vegetables, or house plants in small spaces. That way, not having space for a garden bed will not prevent you from using the smaller-sized fabric grow bags to grow your favorite foods.

Do Fabric Grow Bags Need Drainage Holes?

Your plants need proper drainage to stay healthy, especially when you are growing vegetables. If vegetable roots are left to sit in standing water, they could be exposed to root rot, mold, infesting pests, or diseases. The vegetables could also drown and die if you do not have proper drainage. Luckily, fabric grow bags have superior drainage.

If you choose a fabric grow bag that is made of the recommended polypropylene material, it will not need drainage holes since this material is breathable and naturally allows water to escape. That way, your roots will not be exposed to the dreaded root rot. There are other materials that are breathable fabric and provide aeration and drainage.

It is virtually impossible to overwater your plants when you use a fabric grow bag. The excess water is easily drained through the breathable material, but the soil does not wash away and stays moist, but not saturated or wet. Other containers without aeration could smother the plant if the roots grow to the walls and fill up the container.

If you find the fabric grow bag you are using does not let the water escape and the bag does not have drainage holes, you will need to put holes in the bag yourself. But the main recommendation is to just purchase a fabric grow bag that has breathable material so that excess water escapes on its own for healthier fruits, vegetables, and plants.

Do Fabric Grow Bags Leak Water?

Since fabric grow bags are made from breathable materials, they will drain water better than regular pots and dry out faster than a plastic or ceramic pot would. You will not be able to soak a plant in a fabric grow bag (but would you really want to?) in that the water does leak out faster. That being said, it will be nearly impossible to overwater your plant.

If you want to get very professional, you could always install a drip watering system into your fabric grow bag. That way, any leakage will not dry out your plants since the fabric grow bags will get a continuous supply of moisture.

Do Fabric Grow Bags Need a Saucer?

Since fabric grow bags do leak water because they are breathable and drain very fast, you will need to put them on a large saucer if you are using them indoors. You can even place a container underneath your fabric grow bag and fill it with a little water so it can be there if your plant needs it. Just be careful it is not too deep and that it does not overflow.

You will also want to make sure most of the roots are still in the air if you decide to fill a saucer or other type of container with water.

Photo of canvas grow bags filled with soil and plants growing out of them
Photo by Donnahayden

What Should You Put Under a Fabric Grow Bag?

You will want to make sure you have enough drainage with your fabric grow bag, but not too much drainage. Finding that balance is difficult, as you want to make sure your plants stay moist, but you do not want to drown them in too much water. Lining the fabric grow bag or putting something under it will help alleviate any issues with drainage.

If you do not think the potting mix you are using is good for proper drainage, you can line the bottom of your fabric grow bag with at least an inch of chunky perlite or clay pebbles to aid the drainage. A container filled with water can be put underneath the fabric grow bag can help keep the plant moist if there is too much drainage.

How to Clean a Fabric Grow Bag

Properly cleaning your fabric grow bag will increase its shelf life, probably by years. Some individuals just empty out the soil, give the bag a good shake, and then fold it up and store it away for the winter. Others may just rinse it out with a hose or in the sink and then let them air dry. However, these steps will guarantee a long lasting grow bag:

  • Empty out all the soil and grow material, brushing and removing as much dirt as you can.
  • Make sure to shake or loosen any hardened growing material.
  • Let the fabric grow bag dry for 24 hours.
  • Using a high-pressure hose nozzle, wash out the bag and any remaining dirt.
  • Add a tablespoon of baking soda and a tablespoon of dishwashing liquid into a plastic tub or into your sink.
  • Fill the tub or sink halfway with water and wait for the baking soda to dissolve and the dishwashing liquid to produce suds.
  • Soak your fabric grow bags in that liquid for 20 minutes.
  • Wash them with a soft-bristled brush.
  • Rinse them well and let them dry for another 24 hours.

You will want to make sure your fabric grow bags are completely dry before you fold them up and store them away for the winter. That way, they will not produce any mold or mildew and can be used year after year. Do not throw your fabric grow bags in the dryer to try to save the 24 hours of drying time as that will only weaken its structure.

Which Vegetables and Fruits Grow Best in Grow Bags?

You can plant almost any herb, fruit, or vegetable in a fabric grow bag. Herbs grow perfectly in smaller bags like a three-gallon bag, while vegetables grow in the larger bags indoors or outdoors. In addition to herbs like basil, parsley, or chives, here is a list of fruits and vegetables you can easily grow in a fabric grow bag:

  • Tomatoes
  • Strawberries
  • Lettuce
  • Cucumber
  • Carrots
  • Kale
  • Chiles
  • Radishes
  • Pumpkin
  • Bell peppers
  • Zucchini
  • Squash
  • Blueberries
  • Potatoes
  • Lemon trees

Depending on how big your fabric grow bag is, you can even grow multiple fruits and vegetables, or even an entire garden, inside one bag. Most vegetables need anywhere from six to ten hours of sun and moderate water, so planting them together would work just fine.

Just make sure the bag is deep enough, and the diameter is wide so that the roots can spread within the fabric grow bag. If you use the fabric grow bag outside, try inter-planting clover to help keep weeds away from your fruits and vegetables.

Can You Bury Fabric Grow Bags?

You should only bury your fabric grow bags if you are sure they are biodegradable. If you bury a polypropylene pot, it will not deteriorate because those usually are not biodegradable. On one hand, polypropylene fabric grow bags last for years while biodegradable bags usually only last one season.

If you want an environmentally friendly option, the biodegradable fabric grow bags can be used for one season. Then, you can bury them in your garden and they can help fertilize your soil and provide your plants with nutrients. You will just need to check to make sure the fabric grow bag is BPA and chemical free.

Can You Transplant Plants from a Fabric Grow Bag?

You can definitely transplant your plants from a fabric grow bag just like you would from a plastic or ceramic pot or garden bed. If the plant you would like to transplant already has an established root system, make sure you gently separate the roots before placing the plant in its new home.

You will then want to surround the plant with enough soil to just cover the roots, but do not choke the plant with too much soil during the transplantation process. Lightly pat down the soil and then water your plant to help it establish itself.

Since plants that grow in fabric grow bags develop a solid, fibrous root system, you can break up the root systems before transplanting and encourage more growth. Just remember that plants that are more fragile will not grow as well if their roots are broken up so you will want to avoid this process before transplanting them into the ground.

Do Plant Roots Grow Through Fabric Grow Bags?

When a plant grows in a traditional plastic or ceramic pot, the roots will grow until they hit the wall of the pot. They will then turn and continue growing along the walls of the pot looking for water and nutrients. Eventually, if in too small of a plant, the plant’s roots could end up circling themselves and getting entangled, and this could cause them to get less water and nutrients and become unhealthy.

Roots grow healthier in fabric grow bags because of a process called self-air pruning. When the roots hit an air pocket and sense the dry soil, they will realize they have reached their growing limit and automatically prune the root and create a side bud instead of turning along the wall in search of water and nutrients.

  • Root bounding (root entanglement) does not happen in fabric grow bags like it would in a traditional container
  • Air pruning causes the plant to produce new, healthy roots that branch off the original ones that are burned off through air pruning
  • Oxygenation and water stagnation is more likely to occur in traditional pots and not in fabric grow bags 
  • Air pruning also prevents root overgrowth and eliminates roots that damage the structure of the plant itself (called girdling roots)

Due to all the issues above, roots will grow healthier in fabric grow bags. The plants will grow more fibrous roots from the main root and will help the plant take in more nutrients and water from the soil. Fabric grow bags also allow the roots to get their own nutrients since they will not have “neighboring plants” stealing nutrients from them.

Fabric grow bags promote both soil and root oxygenation since their permeable material is ideal for the aeration of the soil and keeping the temperatures low. The lightweight material promotes the proper amount of air circulation, which allows the plant roots to absorb more water, nutrients, and oxygen from the soil and result in a healthier plant.

Can You Overwater Fabric Grow Bags?

It is much easier to control the water content and to avoid overwatering your plants when you use a fabric grow bag. The small holes and pores in the permeable fabric will help excess water drain from the bag and prevent overwatering. But, although you probably will not overwater your plants, there is a chance of underwatering them when you use fabric grow bags.

Underwatering is a risk when using fabric grow bags because of the free air circulation, which can dry out the soil quickly. It may also occur because fabric grow bags are so good at draining than traditional plastic or ceramic pots. So, you actually want to water your fabric grow bags regularly to make sure your plants stay moist.

In addition to controlling water content, fabric grow bags are also better at controlling the temperature than traditional plastic or ceramic pots so that the plants do not risk overheating or cooking. So even though they may need to be watered more frequently because of the breathable material, the temperature will be better controlled.

Photo by Glen Jones

How do You Prepare Soil for a Fabric Grow Bag?

Fabric grow bags work well with both high- or lower-quality soil, so you do not need to spend money on expensive soil bags. However, there are still recommended mixtures you should consider using if you want your fruits and vegetables to grow as healthy as they can in your fabric grow bag:

  • Start with a one-to-two-inch layer of Perlite, which is a porous mineral that looks like white, round balls that are often intermixed with potting soil and helps water drain better
  • Fill the rest of the fabric grow bag until it is 3/4 full with either loamy soil or a potting mix of moss, compost mixture, and vermiculite
  • Mulch the fabric grow bag with wood chips, similar to a garden, to help keep the soil on top moist

The best soil for a fabric grow bag is a soil that is easy to drain, which is why one of the above potting mixes work best. You can reuse this soil mixture every year by simply removing the wood chips, emptying the fabric grow bags, and then adding around 10 to 20 percent of new compost during the beginning of the new season.

How to Apply Fertilizer to Plants in Fabric Grow Bags

Fertilizing fabric grow bags is easy and is no different from fertilizing a pot or container. The fertilizer can either be purchased at the store or found around the home. Epsom salts and eggshells are great natural fertilizers, or you can mix in micro-biotic nutrients. All you need to do is mix in your fertilizer in your soil, in the ratio that makes sense for what you are growing in your grow bag.

Can You Make Your Own Fabric Grow Bag?

If you are crafty and have an upholstery sewing machine handy, you can definitely make your own fabric grow bag. To do this, purchase black landscape fabric and take the following steps to making your own fabric grow bags:

  • Figure out how big you want your fabric grow bag to be—one square foot will need four feet of black landscape fabric and an inch of seam allowance.
  • Select the right stitch you want to use since the fabric grow bag needs to hold the weight of the soil and the plant or multiple plants.
  • Fold the material in half to determine how high you want the fabric grow bag to be to hold your plants.
  • Now that the material is folded, sew the bottom and the sides to make the bag.
  • Fold the corners to secure them properly.
  • Draw a line from each corner that is six inches long.
  • Draw a 12-inch line from the middle.
  • Fold the top of the bag and finish it off with the sewing machine by stitching the lines at least a half-inch apart to make sure the fabric is reinforced.

If you want to stitch on handles, make sure they are at least an inch wide so that they are sturdy and are fully secured at the seams. The handles should be placed around four inches down the sides and sewed securely. Also make sure not to twist the handles when you are placing them on the bag.

Can You Reuse a Fabric Grow Bag?

As long as your fabric grow bag is not biodegradable and you clean the bag properly before storing it away for the winter, you can reuse it year after year. Proper care is the key to reusing your fabric grow bag. You should also make sure you do not move them often as they could tear, which will ruin their shelf life.

Fabric grow bags are very sturdy and will not crack or shatter like a traditional pot. You can simply clean them, fold them up, and then use them again next year. They could actually last up to ten years if washed out properly and then stored in a dry location.  

If you do have a biodegradable bag that cannot be reused, you can always bury it in your outdoor garden and then use it to fertilize your plants next year.

Closing Thoughts

Fabric grow bags are great alternatives to your run-of-the-mill plastic or ceramic planters. They are sturdy, yet breathable, and can last for years if taken care of.   

Here are Some of my Favorite Gardening Products and Tools

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you found it helpful for growing some new plants in your home or garden. Here are some products I like that I hope you’ll also find helpful. These are affiliate links, and I am compensated for referring traffic. But in all honesty, these are the exact product that I use or recommend to everyone.

Soil: For high-quality soil, I really like Fox Farm Ocean Forest. I do all my growing in containers and this soil has worked great for me. I like how they use nutrient-rich contents like earthworm castings, bat guano, and composted crab and fish.

Fertilizer: Currently I am using a seaweed-based organic fertilizer call Neptunes Harvest. This is a great milder fertilizer option if you want to use something organic. If you want a more powerful fertilizer, I recommend Fox Farm Liquid Nutrient Trio, lots of people have had great growing success with this product.

Pruning Shears: Pruning shears are one of the most useful gardening tools to have because it’s important to prune your plants to keep them healthy. The pruning shears I recommend are the Gonicc 8’’ pruning shears. I like them because they are built sturdy and work both on bigger and smaller plants, so you don’t need to have multiple pruning shears.

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Supriya

Hi! I'm Supriya. I'm a home cook, bulldog mom, spicy food lover, and founder of The Spicy Trio. I have been a home cook for about 15 years and have been growing plants for the past six years.

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