Are Tea Bags Good For Plants?

Are Tea Bags Good For Plants
Image by pasja1000 from Pixabay 

As an avid gardener and heavy tea drinker, I wondered if there was any way to combine my two passions. I knew used coffee grounds (and coffee filters) are good for garden soil and I have been using adding them to the garden soil for years.

But are tea bags good for plants? Yes, they are. Used tea bags can be added to the compost pile to speed up the decomposition process or they can be added directly to the soil to increase nutrients. Now you will be able to enjoy your tea, even more, knowing that the used tea bag will help your garden grow.

Why Are Tea Bags Good For Plants?

Tea leaves contain tannic acid (tannins) which are natural compounds found in plants. Tannic acid promotes better nutrient absorption by the plant.

The tea bags themselves are made from bio-degradable material (buy bags that don’t have plastic) and will improve soil structure when buried in the garden soil. The tea bags also help generate heat within a compost pile so the organic matter decomposes quicker.

Tea bags are also a readily available food source for plants that is versatile and good for indoor or outdoor plants.

How To Use Tea Bags In Your Garden (Indoors & Outdoors)

Used tea bags can be used in different ways to provide food for indoor or outdoor plants.

Allow the tea bag to cool completely before using it in the garden and you may want to save the used bags in a container until you have several to add to your garden.

To use the tea bag as-is, simply dig a small hole near the plant and bury the tea bag. Be sure to not disturb the plant roots when digging the hole. The bag is made from food-grade plastic, filter paper, muslin, or other organic material and will decompose quickly in the soil. 

The bag will help the soil hold moisture, prevent compaction, increase the nitrogen level within the soil, and attract beneficial bio-diverse sub-cultures, like earthworms, to your garden. You can bury a tea bag or two in a potted plant the same way.

Used tea bags can be tossed into the compost pile to decompose and become part of the nutrient-rich organic matter to be used to improve garden soil. Adding them to the compost pile also helps reduce waste at the landfill and recycles something that is still useful. The moisture that remains in the tea leaves accelerates the decomposition process so organic waste is transformed into compost quicker.

If you prefer not to bury the tea bag, just cut it open and empty the contents onto the soil around the base of the plant. This is the ideal way to recycle the use tea bags for houseplants or container gardens. Sometimes the containers are shallow or filled with the plant’s root system and digging in the soil could injure the roots. Sprinkle the tea leaves, moist or dry, on top of the soil and discard the bag in the trash or compost pile.

What Plants Like Tea Bags?

All plants can benefits from the use of tea bags because they act as a natural pest deterrent. Most garden pests dislike the scent of tea and will stay away from areas that have tea bags or leaves nearby.

Sprinkling tea leaves around plants will also keep cats away from them. Place tea leaves on top of the soil in containers that cats like to lounge on or use as a litter box. A generous sprinkling around the perimeter of outdoor flower and garden beds will also help to deter cats from entering.

There is a lot of nitrogen in used tea bags and adding them to the soil will help all plants produce more above-ground growth. The tea bags will also slightly increase the acidity in the soil and provide benefits for acid-loving plants like tomatoes.

In addition to tomatoes, these vegetables, fruits, and flowers benefit from a boost of nitrogen and increased soil acidity:

Beans, cucumbers, squash, onions, sweet corn, turnips, broccoli, potatoes, sweet potatoes, peppers, radishes, eggplant, basil, blueberries, cranberries, elderberries, strawberries, azaleas, hydrangeas, camellias, daffodils, and dogwoods.

Tips On Using Tea & Tea Leaves On Your Plants

Another way to recycle used tea bags to improve plant growth is by making a second brewing with the bags and watering the plants with the weak tea.

Save your used tea bags and place them in a container of hot water to steep for 10 minutes. This will create a weak tea liquid that can be used to feed and water plants after it has cooled. One used bag per cup of water is about the right amount for hydrating plants.

Use the weak tea solution to water plants as usual. It will increase nitrogen and acidity in the soil just like the tea leaves.

After steeping the tea bags for the second time all of the nutrition will be gone from the leaves but they can still be used to improve garden soil structure. Bury the bags, add them to the compost, or cut them open and sprinkle the leaves on top of the soil. Even though the nutrients have been depleted from the tea leaves they can still improve the soil texture.

Used tea bags can be used as containers for seed starting. Place used tea bags on a tray and cut open the tops. Insert one seed in each bag and keep the bags moist. When seeds germinate place the tray in a sunny location and when seedlings develop their first set of true leaves, transplant them into a container or outdoors without taking them out of the tea bag.

For more gardening tips, please check our Apartment Gardening guide.

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