Pros And Cons Of Using Grow Bags For Gardening

By Shelley Pierce | December 10, 2019 Co Author: Tonya Barnett
Image by Grahamphoto23
by Shelley Pierce
December 10, 2019
and Tonya Barnett

Whether wishing to grow nutritious fruits and vegetables or looking to add vibrant color through annual flowers, the pros to gardening in grow bags are undeniable. Increasingly popular in recent years, grow bags are an invaluable asset to those gardening in small or less than optimal spaces. In addition to their versatility, grow bags offer gardeners a quick and easy way to establish lush, healthy landscapes.

While it’s difficult to downplay the pros to gardening in grow bags, there are some cons of using grow bags that must be considered too. The fabric grow bags are, by nature, soft but should we necessarily go “soft” on the valid concerns and questions they raise?

Pros to Gardening in Grow Bags

(Tonya’s viewpoint) Fabric pots can be found in the gardens of both professional growers and home gardeners. Their ease of use, in addition to accessibility, are just a few reasons to use grow bags. Though there are many types, it is best to select bags comprised of breathable and strong fabrics. These bags allow for durability, as well as contribute to better overall plant health.

Can be used anywhere. Many gardeners begin using grow bags when wishing to expand their home garden space. In fact, one of the biggest grow bag advantages is being able to grow plants in places which were previously considered unusable, such as in rented yards or even small apartment balconies.

Can use in areas with bad soil. Growers with heavy soils may specifically choose these bags as a means by which they are able to grow more successful crops of root vegetables such as carrots and potatoes. If your soil isn’t quite up to par, using a grow bag can fix that. Much like a raised bed or container, you can grow plants in a looser, healthier soil.

Ease of use. The ease of which grow bags are assembled make them a viable and cost-effective option for many people. Without the need to remove grass or prepare beds with the use of tools, even novice gardeners are able to create impressive vegetable gardens and displays filled with annual flowering plants.

Bags are breathable. Additional pros to gardening in grow bags relate to factors that can directly impact the health of the plants grown. High quality fabric grow bags allow for excellent drainage, so issues related to overwatering are alleviated. Frequent problems that occur with other containers, such as root rot, are not a common cause for concern when using grow bags.

Plants produce heathier root growth. Improved overall root health is one of the main grow bag advantages. As the plant roots become established in the bag, their sensitivity to heat and moisture naturally begin the process of “air pruning.” Simply, this process allows the plant to create a more robust root system.

Grow Bag Gardening Downsides

(Shelley’s viewpoint) No one can really argue that using grow bags is all bad, BUT before you run out and buy them, it’s a good idea to know some of the downsides that you’ll be facing. This way you can make a more informed decision. These may include:

Durability. Grow bags do not last quite as long as hard-bodied containers. It seems that the general consensus is that fabric pots last 2-3 growing seasons, with some suggesting that they might last as long as 4-6 seasons. This, of course, will vary with the environmental conditions the bags are subjected to and the overall quality of the bag you purchase.

Cost. If grow bags do not last as long as other container options, you will want to ensure that they are more cost effective, as you will be replacing them more often. And the cost savings may not really compute for you. The cost of grow bags can vary depending on the growing capacity of the bag and the manufacturer/retailer. A five-gallon bag, for example, can start around $6 on up. If you’re replacing the grow bag every 2-3 years, this will add up over time.

Aesthetics. Grow bags aren’t as pretty or chic as a ceramic or terra cotta pots. The bags are typically a solid color (oftentimes black or gray) and do not come in patterns or designer motifs. Hard bodied pots, in contrast, have more flair. They are more shapely (funnel, cone-shaped, etc.) and typically have some character to them with glazes or paints applied to the surface and textural interest with ridges and raised shapes. A grow bag, on the other hand, looks just like, well, a bag or sack.

Environmental concerns. The grow bags that are available on the market aren’t all eco-friendly, as they are not all biodegradable. Many are formed with poly plastics that don’t break down. This becomes a concern when the grow bags need to be discarded and replaced.

Very water consumptive. Grow bags require more watering than traditional pots do and this is one of the biggest grow bag gardening downsides if you don’t have a lot of extra time on your hands. Grow bags are porous, meaning excess water will wick out of them rather quickly. This is an advantage in that the risk of over-watering your plants is very slim; however, it is a con of using grow bags for they will dry out quickly and you will need to water more frequently.

Mobility. While grow bags seem to be touted for their mobility, this is not always the case. Grow bags are available in 1 to 200+ gallon size bags. Any bags over 20 gallons may be difficult to move once they are planted because they do not have sturdy walls or structural strength like traditional pots and, in some cases, have weak fabric handles prone to tearing.

How Grow Bag Advantages Compare Overall to Their Drawbacks

Though there are several reasons to use grow bags, their use may not be needed in all gardens. Grow bags can be a good alternative but they are not necessarily the best option for everyone when you weigh the disadvantages of grow bags. They are short lived, not-so-pretty growing vessels that may nickel and dime you over the long term while demanding more of your time when it comes to watering. That being said, in some situations, well-maintained fabric pots allow for greater flexibility, and their ease of use and quick installation make the prospect of creating beautiful gardens more attainable.

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  • Malvika Gupta
    Comment added July 27, 2022Reply

    Thanks for sharing the pros and cons of grow bags in gardening. It is very much important for everyone who loves to do gardening. They really know about the benefits of grow bags. Please know more if you have any query :

  • Susan Andrew
    Comment added March 22, 2022Reply

    Informative! Just wanted to know that can we use a canvas bag instead of it. Nice article overall.
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  • Fstarr
    Comment added November 2, 2021Reply

    This was a great blog posting. Keep up the good work!

  • Charlene
    Comment added June 1, 2021Reply

    I ordered some grow bags, but are backordered for 2 days. Everyone is sold out, so I planted my tomato plants together in a big storage tube until they come in. Can I transfer these young tomatoes to the grow pots, or will I ruin the roots. I have 4 plants in a big storage tub, but I know you can only plant one in a container.

  • Shirley J
    Comment added April 20, 2021Reply

    Can I use a grow bag to start my scrubs?
    Once the bags fall apart I want to keep scrub in same place

    What do u think?

  • Trish Turner
    Comment added March 28, 2021Reply

    I am planting my garden in grow bags this year. They will be placed on my lawn. Do I need to put a weed barrier down underneath them, or set them on a pallet, or what?

    • Debra Krause
      Comment added April 12, 2021Reply

      I was wondering the same thing. I'm putting potatos in mine and my husband said to just set on the ground.

  • Cathy M WILSON
    Comment added March 10, 2021Reply

    I make my own out of landscape fabric.. use the thicker kind- cut and sew down one end- box the bottom- I leave an opening and use them as raised beds/pots. potatoes this year. Deff would need more water but out in the open they benefit from the rain as well. Thinking about making some out of tarps and old billboard 'tarps' the latter seem very much like the grow bag material and will be repurposing. All that vinyl though??? if you get the old bill board things- just note they have tiny holes in them

    • shirley hensley
      Comment added April 25, 2021Reply

      Hi Cathy! I was thinking, could you send me a pattern for the bags you make? Or a picture and measurements? Maybe you could post it on here! I would love to make some! Thank you so much!

  • Marla
    Comment added February 5, 2021Reply

    I have used my grow bags for two years. They have some green moss and some mildew on the outside of them are they still safe to plant in?

  • George
    Comment added January 29, 2021Reply

    These are fantastic for growing a large amount of early or late sow greens in a kiddie pool. One only waters the pool.
    Further, I make my own out of canvas dropcloth (thick, and very easy). I'm on season four with mine, although I will need to replace them after this one.

  • Bruce Larson
    Comment added September 13, 2020Reply

    Hmmm... the "downsides" are obvious to anyone with even a modicum of experience. Moreover, you use one of the horticultural advantages - aeration of the root system as a disadvantage. Of course that will require more water... just as growing hydroponically OBVIOUSLY uses more water. Aeration of the root system provides more oxygen and more growth ergo more water will be consumed to feed it.

    Horticulture is a science. Opinions are Sciolism.

  • Nancy
    Comment added September 11, 2020Reply

    I used 10 gallon grow bags this year for the first time. I have been picking my wonderful tomato harvest for 3 months and they are still producing strong. I must pick 20 ripe ones from each plant a day! I’ve been giving them to friends and family as well as enjoying them myself.
    I must say I used wonderful bagged garden soil and also Dr. Jimz tomato fertiliser as well. I’ve never had so many big juicy tomatoes.
    When using grown bags you must water daily! Other than this I have found them to be super convenient!

  • Marilyn Tennant
    Comment added August 27, 2020Reply

    i want to use grow bags on my porch for grape tomatoes because it keeps them out of the rain, too much rain causes the tomatoes to split and I won't eat a split tomato. Growing them on the porch stops the splitting. Is a 3 gallon bag large enough for this plant?

  • FlowerFairy
    Comment added July 10, 2020Reply

    Our property is on the market and I have ordered 10-plus bare-root roses so these will go into grow bags until we sell and relocate. Affordability and mobility won over aesthetics in the short term.

  • Gary
    Comment added July 1, 2020Reply

    Can an ordinary canvas bag or burlap bag be used as a grow bag?

    • Cathy M WILSON
      Comment added March 11, 2021Reply

      yes, but burlap may only last one season but then can be used as mulch for rows

  • Don Walker
    Comment added June 21, 2020Reply

    I use grow bags for american chestnut seedlings, english walnut, peaches, and red raspberries
    Will plant entire bag in the ground for american chestnuts. 2 years is about right. Overwintering takes work if above ground

  • Robert Narris
    Comment added June 3, 2020Reply

    while giving my new grow bags a quick rinse a white foam appeared, are they safe to use for produce?

    • Toni R.
      Comment added October 25, 2020Reply

      I always wash before use. Because of the formaldehyde used to set the colors for bags...same with new clothing, wash before wear

  • Debra Gash
    Comment added May 21, 2020Reply

    With little full sun area and deer in the yard, I invested in grow bags for my deck. However, I can't figure out how to keep them from potentially damaging the deck. Any suggestions?

    • ValF
      Comment added April 26, 2022Reply

      I am wondering the same thing for apt balcony. Wondering if foldable waterproof transplanting/repotting mats on Amazon would work. They snap on each of the four sides, about $7-14. Thinking of buying a tarp and making my own. Hopefully can add a little water to help keep moist as well. Anyone have an answer? Can’t find this info anywhere, been searching. Saw YouTube video- You can build a tub with 2x6’s? …..And put pool fabric/plastic down also, then when leave on trip put water in bottom of tub and plants inside tub stay alive while gone.

  • Vertical Gardener
    Comment added March 25, 2020Reply

    Thanks for your perspective. I'm considering grow bags this year for two scenarios.
    1. Local soil improvement. I fall into the category of poor soil quality, so my hope is that I can materially improve the soil for select plants in the bags only, and save myself substantial cost.
    2. Can be used anywhere. I have a rather limited set of raised beds to work with, so I'm hoping these bags will let me expand the planting surface quickly.

    I was also wondering about the lifespan, so your comments are helpful. Most blogs claim the higher end, but I was doubtful.

    My first post is here, and I'll update once I've received my bags and transplant into them:

    • Vicky McPherson
      Comment added June 30, 2022Reply

      I am using a felt-type grow bags 10 gallon that I got from Amazon. It has been in the 90s is a gallon gallon and a half water enough for tomato plants in full sun? I do this in the morning should I be watering them in the evening also? If you can reply thank you.

  • Rajendra
    Comment added February 23, 2020Reply

    It is really helpful

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