Garden Hack: A Citrus Peel Starter Pot For Seedlings

This is one of those desperation is the mother of invention moments.

I recently discovered that Mr. Foxypants had thrown out my seed-starting tray “to make room in the garage.”

Don’t get me started on the “WTF-buddy-throwing-away-tools?” screed.

I’m still mad about it.

You don’t want to hear it anyway.

Since I’ve pledged to once again “Buy Nothing New For One Calendar Year” and this year is also all about making everything by hand, buying a new seed-starting tray was out of the question.

So I had to improvise.

Luckily, all my jam-making is providing me with epic amounts of citrus peels. Just poke a hole in the bottom of the peel for drainage, fill with potting soil, then add two seeds and some water.


After thinning to one seedling per peel, I’m going to transplant the whole ding dang thing into the garden. The peels will compost directly into the soil to nourish the plants as they grow.

Since oranges, lemons, and grapefruits are springtime fruit in Southern California, I’m guaranteed an endless supply of seedling pots.

I don’t think I can ever go back to my plug tray.


  1. Posted February 17, 2011 at 4:37 am | Permalink

    What a fabulous idea! YOU GO MAX! Mr Foxypants got lucky this time.

  2. Plaidsneakers
    Posted February 17, 2011 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    Or you could claim all of mine? I’ve got a bunch of peat pots and a planting tray with the soil discs I am not terribly inclined to move. Everybody wins!

  3. Melissa
    Posted February 17, 2011 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    Awesome! I’m going to try this!

  4. Casey
    Posted March 31, 2011 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

    this wouldn’t make the soil pH to low?

  5. Posted March 31, 2011 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

    I’m sure this depends on the soil where you live. I have southern California clay soil which is alkaline and kind of salty, so I could add acid to my soil all day long no trouble. Do a mini test run with a couple seedlings and see if it works for you! I’d love to hear how this works for people around the country.

  6. Chris
    Posted March 31, 2011 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

    Wouldn’t the lemon start to mold after a few days? I have a lemon tree and if the lemons have been cut, or put a hole in them, I wind up getting green and while mild after a few days. Did your seedling trays have this problem?

  7. Posted April 1, 2011 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

    I’ve only gotten little white fuzzy spots on a few of the thicker peels, like the grapefruit pictured, but nothing gross. The little mold spots don’t seem to negatively affect the plant.

    However, my kitchen (where I do my seed sprouting) is dry enough that usually my citrus will dessicate instead of molding.

  8. jae_em
    Posted April 2, 2011 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

    what a great idea! just hope it doesn’t rot on me. real simple also suggested using eggshells as seed starter pots – which I’ve started to dry out.

  9. H
    Posted April 4, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

    I wouldn’t recommend planting it all in the ground together, the rind will decompose too slowly to be compost. Compost takes from 3-9 months depending on heat and water to become soil.

    Plus, the rind is too think for the root to penetrate, so the roots could easily become root bound. The plantable pots are designed to break down in days, so the roots can grow out through the walls. The basic idea still works, but remove the rind to plant it. Then toss the rind in the compost to be next year’s fertilizer.

  10. chinatown
    Posted April 4, 2011 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

    would this work for plants you plan on growing indoors?

  11. Hazel
    Posted April 4, 2011 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

    eggboxes are also a good option – the little cardboard holes can be cut apart and rot even better, without needing to worry about ph, which could potentially damage the little seedlings – I’d be more concerned about them than the soil, though yours seem to be doing ok!

  12. Posted April 4, 2011 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

    Great idea!

    Although I would cut the lemon with scissors when transplanting . I do compost and citrus is a bit too acid and would take some time to decompost.

  13. Posted April 4, 2011 at 10:21 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know if I would recommend this for indoor growing plants just because outdoor soil has so much more microbial activity than potting soil (which is usually sterilized). I planted the citrus potted seedlings outside in the third week of february and as far as I can tell, the peels around those plants have already disintegrated back to dirt.

  14. Sean at outsource
    Posted April 5, 2011 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    Great idea. Does the citrus pot dry up after a while and be reused again?


  15. btoblake
    Posted April 5, 2011 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    This is both clever and cute. At first, it didn’t occur to me that the rind would hold moisture far better than a newspaper pot. It might also deter mildew, citrus tends to be really resistant. If you are planning on planting them in the ground, you can cut the rind open before you plant (being able to direct root growth could be really useful), cut it right off, or for quick seed starters, you could line them with paper or a scrap of thin cloth, and reuse.

  16. Posted April 5, 2011 at 11:14 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for sharing. We will start using some of the ideas you provide for saving waste that can be used later to grow stuff to feed people.


  17. Posted April 18, 2011 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    it seems that it is good to have this pot in your own apartment .. very refreshing and will give a very nice ambiance ..

  18. Posted April 20, 2011 at 5:18 am | Permalink

    That was a wonderful idea!!!. .Can you imagine if we all try to do this??! Planting and at the same time we can already help Mother Nature because we also applied recycling !!!. . See??. . small things and deeds can do a big help and change to our Environment!!!. .

  19. Posted May 29, 2011 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

    Awesome idea !

  20. Posted June 4, 2011 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

    And it’s so cute!! =)

  21. Tania
    Posted August 20, 2011 at 12:58 am | Permalink

    Brilliant! I can’t wait to try this 🙂

  22. Posted September 26, 2011 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    well it seems that this plant is so beautiful and refreshing to see, and im sure that many people wants to have this

  23. Becky Ezra
    Posted October 20, 2011 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    well you can do as well another thing that i think you will love to do!!
    take the peel and soke it in water, for 3 days, (every 1/2 day change the water) and do a jam from the peel it self, that is sooooooooo good!
    try it, have great time!

  24. Mindi
    Posted March 26, 2012 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

    It’s a good idea, don’t get me wrong. But using egg shells is a way better way to go.

    Citrus fruits, such as lemons, can take years to break down. Whereas egg shells will feed the plant, and break down/crack from the plant itself growing.

    Happy planting!

  25. whitney
    Posted March 30, 2012 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

    Hi ,
    This is just a great idea! I am going to do it with my girl scout troop on next week! I was wondering though… did you wait until your seed sprouted to plant the whole thing? how long before the rind starts to mold? or did you germinate your seeds first?
    thanx, whitney

  26. Posted March 31, 2012 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

    what a nice idea you are sharing i am going to try this defenetely as i am very impressed with your article

  27. Posted March 31, 2012 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

    i was surprised with this amaging articloe must try this and let you know the results

  28. Posted April 2, 2012 at 3:03 am | Permalink

    I grew the mint in the photo directly in the peel. I didn’t germinate the seeds first. I waited until I had two mature looking leaves to transplant. I would recommend thinner peels because they tend to dry and shrink as opposed to getting green and moldy. Also, I live in a dry climate so I don’t know if or how quickly the peels would dry/mold in colder or more humid areas. My soil is very alkaline, so the acid in the rotting peels actually help balance the ph of my dirt.

    For the girl scouts I would recommend something easy to sprout like tomatoes of beans for the fastest sprouting results.

  29. Lonni
    Posted June 17, 2012 at 2:26 am | Permalink

    Great idea! Thanks much..

  30. Paula
    Posted July 17, 2012 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    As someone mentioned, you can use eggshells. I make sure to open them from the top, so I get to keep most of the eggshell intact, let it dry on the window sill and then the idea is when transplanting to the garden, to crush the eggshell and plant along with the seedling for extra calcium supplementation. I’ve already got 2 dozen eggshells ready for the fall planting, but I don’t know how good that the whole thing work. This citrus peel idea sounds ingenious though, as long as you open the peel for the roots to break through. Neat!!!

  31. Posted July 26, 2012 at 7:37 am | Permalink

    Hello Special Agent! I love, love love your grapefruit seedling pot post. may I share it on my blog…it’s all about gardening with salvaged plants and materials. Your post would be a perfect fit. Please let me know if that’s okay with you and if so, how you want the attributes to go. Thanks! – Sarah

  32. Posted July 27, 2012 at 12:06 am | Permalink

    Oh please! Share away! Just please link to my blog and give me a photo credit if you decide to use my photo. I’m going to check out your blog for sure, because I’m always looking for cheap-o garden hacks because I’m part of a micro-farm project that helps teach people who live below the poverty line how to start a victory garden.

  33. RLekha
    Posted August 4, 2012 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

    I sprouted fenugreek seedlings in a grapefruit rind. The whole rind is now green/moldy, not just spotted… Will that harm anything if I keep it in the rind? Or should I completely transplant? I’m in San Francisco where it’s damper in the summer.

  34. Posted August 4, 2012 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

    I’d just plant it and find out! My rinds end up decomposing quickly once planted, and I suspect that the mold will just hasten the rotting process for you, so you won’t get a root bound plant. Some people have had success with my direct planting method, and other people just use to rinds as starter pots instead of using plastic or paper pots, and do the traditional transplant method. Since I’ve personally only been playing with this technique for two years and haven’t tested it outside of my kitchen and backyard, I don’t know how effective this technique is in other climates or with soil that is extremely acidic. Experiment with just one plant and see what happens!

  35. Amber
    Posted August 6, 2012 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

    Just a thought, but wouldn’t the acid of the lemon kill the plant?

  36. Posted August 6, 2012 at 11:40 pm | Permalink

    I have really alkaline soil in my backyard so the decomposing peel probably helps offset the ph of my garden dirt. I use sterilized, neutral ph potting soil in the peels, and so far, I haven’t had any problems sprouting plants this way.

  37. RLekha
    Posted August 22, 2012 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

    the green mold on the grapefruit rind started white mold on the surface of the soil. it eventually got so bad that when I’d water, mold “dust” would fly into the air. I had to throw it out – the little shoots were not doing well and stopped developing further.

  38. Posted September 10, 2012 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    It is a great idea to plant them in lemons. I just hope that they do not attract mold.

  39. Sandra
    Posted September 24, 2012 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    It looks really cute! I can’t imagine though that the acidic environment would be very good for the shoots. Unless you have organic lemons they also have lots of pesticides on them. Also, the peels of citrus fruits are usually very hard to compost. We only throw little cut up pieces of them on our compost because they take ages to rott.
    To avoid buying a seeding tray my Mom and I have simply been using yoghurt cups! They have a perfect size but they don’t look that pretty… 🙂

  40. Sarah
    Posted January 7, 2013 at 5:56 am | Permalink

    I think that in more humid climates if you really wanted to use citrus rinds that it would be prudent to bake the empty rind first to dry it out. I would imagine 200F for an hour would do the trick. It would be more like a tiny terra cotta pot that will later decompose and avoid the green slimy mold that will kill your plants. I have an orange loving toddler so I will probably try it and let you know how well it works.

  41. Kelsey
    Posted February 5, 2013 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    Will it make the herb taste like the citrus rind you use?

  42. Posted February 5, 2013 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

    Hi Kelsey–I don’t know! I didn’t notice that the mint in the photograph had any distinct citrus flavor.

  43. Posted February 25, 2013 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

    Hi there- My name is Jill and I blog at I LOVE this idea, and I was wondering if it would be ok if I included it on a post I’m working on about repurposed, seed-starting pots? I would like to include your photo– but it would be linked back to your blog, and I would also include a text link. (I won’t be including any text from your post– just a link.)

    Anyway, I couldn’t find any info on your contact page, but if you could let me know if this is ok, that’d be great.

    Thanks! 🙂

  44. Posted February 25, 2013 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

    Hi Jill!

    No problem! I’d love to be a part of your post. Thanks for the links, the photo credit, and all that good stuff. I am looking forward to checking out your blog. Happy gardening!

  45. lisa
    Posted March 23, 2013 at 4:35 am | Permalink

    Great stuff! I’m in the Bay Area, so this should work for me as well.

  46. Posted March 25, 2013 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    Hi there!

    I am contacting you on behalf of NIDO magazine. NIDO is a magazine for young urban families and is part of the
    Magazine Group (Gruner + Jahr) in Germany.

    We would like to publish the image of the citrus image in our next issue and we would be very excited if you allowed us to do so.

    With regards,

    Alina Neumeier

    Picture Desk

  47. Posted October 5, 2013 at 7:02 pm | Permalink


    I loved this post and was wondering if I could use your picture in an upcoming post I’m doing on recycling your groceries. It would be perfect! I would of course link back to you and give you photo credit. I look forward to hearing from you! Thanks so much!

    Best wishes,

  48. Debra Y Mathis
    Posted August 14, 2014 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

    Hello, I just wanted to mention, since it seems no one has, that if you are attempting to garden organically, and you put non-organic peels into your garden, you’ll be ‘undoing’ your efforts to create an organic (non-pesticide ridden) soil base for your garden.

  49. Posted October 29, 2014 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    I’ll definitely try that! Amazing idea! I love it! Thank you so much for sharing!

  50. Posted February 6, 2015 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    Does it smell eventually?

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