Repurposing a boot tray for houseplants
Garden of Eatin', House & Home

Repurposing a Boot Tray for Houseplants

Two new things happened in my house after I moved from a perennially mild climate to a cold and snowy climate: boot trays and overwintered houseplants. Lots of overwintered houseplants.

In fact, they’re not even houseplants in the sense of peace lilies or mother-in-law’s tongue (low-light varieties that live inside all year), but plants like bloody dock. And mint. And lemongrass. They’re plants that moved with us to Oregon after we dug them out of our California garden, and they’ve been hibernating in a sunny window for the past few months, waiting patiently for the frost to pass.

(And, um, that could be a while… I’ve heard stories of frost happening in June here!)

Herb overwintering in a fabric pot

We had so many plants to overwinter that it was a challenge to find a spot for them inside our house, as the only rooms with full southern exposure were our bedrooms. We ended up clearing the tops of our dressers and bookcases so we could line up all the plants against the windows, and used these fabric pots from Root Pouch when we divided and repotted them.

The Root Pouches are lightweight and easy to lift and move with their built-in handles. The fabric allows for a breathable growing environment and prevents roots from circling the perimeter of the pots (a problem seen in root-bound plants). Instead, the fabric makes the roots send out even more new roots, forming a dense, fibrous root system and an overall healthier plant.

We use their non-degradable Boxer line so we can keep our plants in them for a few years without worry of the fabric disintegrating. We have lots of them in different sizes, but find the smaller sizes (between 1 gallon and 3 gallons) to be the most practical for overwintering our herbs.

Houseplant in a Root Pouch fabric pot

The only thing that stumped us was figuring out how to protect the surfaces of our furniture from moisture. We could place individual saucers under each pot, but they presented a potential risk of overflow. We also needed the flexibility of clustering several plants and seeded pots in the window come spring, and did not want to buy dozens of saucers.

While surveying what we had in the house that could double as drip trays (baking sheets, plastic seed starting trays…), my eyes landed on our front door, or more specifically, what was next to our front door. Our boot tray!

Copper-plated metal boot tray

We have this beautiful embossed boot tray with a copper-colored finish. It’s elegant, durable, and most importantly, watertight. We actually have a few of them now: one is still being used for its intended purpose (corralling our muddy shoes), one is in our bedroom, and two more are in the guest room.

Boot trays make great watertight drip trays for plants

Metal boot trays are an attractive drip tray option for houseplants

Embossed metal boot tray repurposed as plant tray

These metal boot trays been the perfect solution for our drainage issue and I love how versatile they are once our plants move outdoors. I can see them being useful for pruning or repotting small plants in the house, or keeping spills from our dog’s water bowl off the carpet. They can also be filled with river stones and a little water to create a humidity tray for finicky plants. As the water evaporates, it increases humidity around the plants; the stones keep the pots lifted and away from a pool of water.

Herb plants overwintering indoors in a sunny window

The coppery metal is definitely one of the more attractive options out there for a boot tray. (These are similar to what we have, and they come in more patterns.) We have a more utilitarian plastic boot tray with a drainage grid in our mud room, and while it can handle plenty of puddles, it’s not something I’d want to have on display.

I know it isn’t a groundbreaking idea to repurpose a boot tray for houseplants, but sometimes the best solutions are the simplest ones. Are you overwintering any plants in the house? What do you usually bring in?

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