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Can You Reuse Soil from a Dead Plant? Tips, Facts, & FAQ

plant box with dead plant

When a plant dies, it might feel like a good idea to toss the old soil out with the plant. But switching soil every time you have a plant die can get messy and expensive. Some plants die every year, leaving you scrambling to buy more and more potting soil to replant your favorite species. You do not have to change out your soil every time you have a plant die. In fact, you can reuse the soil from a dead plant over and over again as long as the soil is healthy.

In most cases, it is safe to take the old soil from a dead plant and reuse it to pot a completely new plant. You can even keep the old soil in the same pot and simply plant something directly in the old soil. Soil does not go bad unless it’s infected with pests. In nature, the soil is reused over and over and over again, sometimes for millions of years. It is completely natural to reuse soil from a dead plant to help grow a new plant.

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First of All: Remove the Old Plant

Shovel with soil
Image By: Neslihan Gunaydin, Unsplash

The first thing to do when reusing old soil is to completely remove the dead plant from the soil. Dig out the plant and remove the roots completely. Sift through the soil and remove any clumps of organic matter, like root clusters.

Sometimes a dead plant can help reinvigorate the soil. Old leaves and dead stems can break down and add fresh organic matter to the soil, which can actually improve the health of the soil over time. In that way, old soil can actually be better than fresh soil. Especially if it is free of pests.

Things to Look Out For

The only time you need to be wary about using old soil is if the soil is infested with pests. Soil with mold or bugs can harm a new plant, especially if the mold or pests were the reason that the original plant died. Look for white spots, fuzz, mushrooms, or bugs in the old soil. If you see any of these things, you might want to toss the old soil and start fresh. If you are insistent on reusing the old soil, there are ways to remove the pests and refresh the soil.

How to Remove Pests from Old Soil

close up of woman in gloves pouring soil to flower pot at home
Image By: Syda Productions, Shutterstock

You can easily remove pests from old soil by pouring the soil into a baking pan. Turn your oven to 200 F. Cover the pan with tin foil and put the pan in the oven. Bake the soil for an hour. The internal temperature of the soil should reach 180 F and remain at that temperature for 30 minutes. Just like cooking food, the oven will sterilize the soil and kill anything that might be lurking inside.

After you bake your soil, you can remove it, let it cool, and then store it in a container for future use or you can pour it back into the pot and prepare it for a new plant.

You can also naturally sterilize soil by setting it in the sun. You can pour the old soil into a capped bucket and put it out in direct sunlight. Putting the soil into black garden bags can also work. Leave the soil in the sun for four to six weeks and reuse it during the next planting season.

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Should You Add Fertilizer to Old Soil?

You can add fertilizer or plant food to old soil to help refresh the soil. After you remove the dead plant, you can prep the old soil for new growth. Adding compost, plant food, and fertilizer can help juice up the old soil. Make sure to work in the fertilizer and plant food throughout the entirety of the soil from top to bottom. Using gloves, you can break up the soil, stir it up, and add nutrients throughout. You can also soak the soil and get it moist to help bring out the natural nutrients.

Not all old soil needs fertilizer or compost to be used again. Only add fertilizer if you think the soil is worn out and could use extra nutrients. If you let the dead plant break down in the old soil, you might not need any fertilizer at all.

How Many Times Can You Reuse Soil?

Indefinitely. As long as the soil does not have any bugs or mold in it, you can reuse the soil over and over and over again. Just like in nature, the soil does not go bad. Most dirt is millions of years old. Some of the best soil in the world is ancient. Farmers reuse soil repeatedly for generations by managing the soil and making sure it remains free of pests and filled with natural nutrients. If you manage your own soil at home, you can also reuse soil repeatedly.

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It is perfectly safe and natural to reuse soil from a dead plant. Dying plants do not taint the soil. Just make sure the soil does not have chemicals, bugs, or mold in it. As long as you manage your soil, you can reuse it repeatedly. Reusing soil can have numerous benefits and can help save you money by reducing the need for fresh bags of potting soil on a regular basis.

Featured Image Credit: JumpStory


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