Greenhouse Plastic: Choosing the Best Plastic for Your Greenhouse

Hey there, green thumbs and aspiring gardeners! If you’re reading this, chances are you’re in the market for a greenhouse, or maybe you already have one and you’re looking to upgrade. Either way, you’ve probably realized that not all greenhouses are created equal—especially when it comes to the greenhouse plastic you choose.

So, why is greenhouse plastic such a big deal? Well, think of it as the skin of your greenhouse. Just like our skin protects us from external elements, greenhouse plastic serves as a barrier between your precious plants and the outside world. Choose the wrong one, and you could end up with wilted plants, poor temperature control, and a hole in your wallet from all the energy costs.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about greenhouse plastic. We’ll discuss why it’s crucial, the different types available, and the factors you should consider when making your choice. We’ll even touch on installation, maintenance, and some eco-friendly options.

Why Greenhouse Plastic Matters

So you’ve got your seeds, your soil, and maybe even a watering system all set up. But if your greenhouse plastic isn’t up to snuff, all that preparation might be for naught. You see, it’s is more than just a cover; it’s the guardian of your greenhouse’s microclimate. It controls everything from temperature and humidity to light levels, ensuring that your plants have the ideal conditions to thrive.

Ever tried growing tomatoes in the dead of winter? Or orchids in a dry climate? If you have, you know it’s like trying to bake a cake in a sauna—nearly impossible. But with the right greenhouse plastic, you can create a controlled environment that makes growing almost any plant a breeze. It’s like giving your plants their own personal VIP room, complete with climate control and mood lighting.

The Impact on Plant Health

So, what happens if you choose the wrong greenhouse plastic? Well, imagine wearing a heavy winter coat on a hot summer day. You’d be sweating bullets, right? Similarly, the wrong plastic can cause your plants to “sweat” too, leading to issues like mold, rot, and poor growth. On the flip side, the right plastic can do wonders for your plants.

Here are some ways good greenhouse plastic positively impacts plant health:

  • Temperature Control: Maintains a consistent temperature, making it easier for plants to grow.
  • Humidity Levels: Helps to keep the humidity at an optimal level, which is crucial for plant growth.
  • Light Diffusion: Spreads light evenly across the plants, ensuring that even those at the back get their fair share of sunshine.

Energy Efficiency and Cost

Now, let’s talk money. We all know that running a greenhouse isn’t exactly cheap. There’s the cost of water, electricity, and don’t even get me started on those heating bills in the winter. But did you know that the right greenhouse plastic can actually save you money in the long run?

Choosing a plastic with good insulating properties can significantly cut down on heating costs. Some high-quality plastics can even diffuse light in a way that maximizes photosynthesis while minimizing heat buildup. It’s like getting the best of both worlds: happy plants and a happy wallet.

So, is it worth splurging a bit on high-quality greenhouse plastic? Absolutely. Think of it as an investment, not just in your greenhouse, but in the health of your plants and the thickness of your wallet. After all, why penny-pinch now if it’s going to cost you more down the line?

Types of Greenhouse Plastic

There are several types of greenhouse plastic out there, each with its own set of pros and cons. Knowing what’s what can help you make an informed decision, so let’s break it down.

Polyethylene Greenhouse Plastic

First up is Polyethylene, the most commonly used greenhouse plastic. It’s like the “blue jeans” of the greenhouse world—versatile, affordable, and gets the job done.


  • Lightweight
  • Flexible
  • UV-resistant options available


  • Easy to install
  • Generally cheaper than other types
  • Comes in various thicknesses for different needs


  • Not as durable; may need to be replaced every few years
  • Can degrade faster if not UV-resistant

So, if you’re just starting out or working on a budget, polyethylene might be your go-to. Just keep in mind that you might be trading off some durability for that lower price tag.

plants under greenhouse plastic

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) Greenhouse Plastic

Next, we have PVC, the “leather jacket” of greenhouse plastics—tough and durable but comes with some caveats.


  • Heavier than polyethylene
  • Highly durable
  • Can be rigid or flexible


  • Long-lasting; can endure for several years
  • Good for structures that need a sturdier cover


  • Can be more expensive
  • Some types can release toxic fumes, so make sure it’s suitable for plant growth

If you’re looking for something that’ll stand the test of time (and weather), PVC might be your best bet. Just make sure you’re getting the plant-safe variety.

Polycarbonate Greenhouse Plastic

Last but not least, let’s talk about Polycarbonate, the “tailored suit” of greenhouse plastics—high-quality, efficient, but can be a bit on the pricey side.


  • Twin-wall options for better insulation
  • High light diffusion capabilities
  • Extremely durable


  • Excellent insulation properties
  • High light diffusion for optimal plant growth
  • Can last up to 10 years or more


  • More expensive upfront
  • Can be harder to install due to rigidity

If you’re in it for the long haul and willing to invest a bit more upfront, polycarbonate is a fantastic option. It’s like the VIP treatment for your plants, offering top-notch insulation and light diffusion.

So there you have it, a quick rundown of the main types. Each has its own set of pros and cons, so the best one for you will depend on your specific needs, budget, and how hands-on you want to be with maintenance.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Greenhouse Plastic

So, you’ve got a basic idea of the types of greenhouse plastic out there. But how do you decide which one is the best fit for you? It’s not just about picking the cheapest option or the one that looks the sturdiest. There are several factors you should consider to ensure you’re making the best choice for your specific needs.

Durability and Lifespan

First things first, let’s talk about durability and lifespan. Durability is crucial because it directly affects how often you’ll need to replace the plastic. And let’s be honest, replacing greenhouse plastic isn’t exactly a walk in the park.

Key Points to Consider:

  • Material strength: Is it tear-resistant?
  • Weather resistance: Can it withstand wind, rain, and snow?
  • Lifespan: How many seasons can you expect it to last?

Remember, a more durable greenhouse plastic might cost you more upfront, but it could save you money and effort in the long run.

UV Resistance

Next up is UV resistance. Now, you might be thinking, “Plants need sunlight to grow, so why block UV rays?” Well, while plants do need sunlight, excessive UV exposure can degrade your plastic over time. It’s like how too much sun can give you a sunburn; too much UV can weaken your plastic.

What to Look For:

  • UV-resistant label: Make sure it’s explicitly stated.
  • Warranty: Some UV-resistant options come with a warranty against degradation.

Investing in UV-resistant plastic can extend its lifespan and keep it looking and performing like new for longer.

Light Transmission and Diffusion

Last but definitely not least, let’s talk about light transmission and diffusion. Poor light diffusion can leave some of your plants “in the dark,” leading to uneven growth.

Factors to Consider:

  • Light Transmission: The percentage of light that passes through the plastic.
  • Light Diffusion: How well the plastic scatters light, ensuring it reaches all plants evenly.

Some high-end plastics even come with “smart” light diffusion features that maximize photosynthesis while minimizing heat. It’s like having a built-in light show for your plants!

beatiful greenhouse plastic

How to Install Greenhouse Plastic Properly

Alright, you’ve picked your perfect greenhouse plastic, and you’re all set to get it up and running. But wait, don’t just start draping it over the frame without any planning. Installing greenhouse plastic is a bit like hanging wallpaper; do it wrong, and you’ll end up with bubbles, tears, and a whole lot of frustration. So, let’s go through the steps and precautions to make sure your plastic not only looks good but also performs at its best.

Preparing the Greenhouse Frame

Before you even think about unrolling that greenhouse plastic, you’ve got to prep your frame. It’s like laying the foundation for a house; if it’s not solid, the whole thing could come crashing down.

Steps to Prepare the Frame:

  1. Clean the Frame: Remove any dirt, rust, or peeling paint. A clean frame ensures better adhesion.
  2. Check for Sharp Edges: Run your hand along the frame to find any sharp points that could tear the plastic. Sand them down if necessary.
  3. Measure Twice: Make sure you’ve got the dimensions right. The last thing you want is to find out your greenhouse plastic is too small.
  4. Install Wiggle Wire Channels: These will hold your plastic in place, so make sure they’re securely attached.

Once your frame is prepped and primed, you’re ready to move on to the next step.

Securing the Greenhouse Plastic

Now comes the moment of truth: actually installing it. This is where you’ll need an extra pair of hands or even two. Trust me, trying to do this solo is like trying to fold a map back into its original form—frustrating and nearly impossible.

Tips for Securing the Plastic:

  • Start at One End: Anchor one end of the plastic first, then work your way to the other end.
  • Pull Taut, But Not Too Taut: You want it to be snug but not so tight that it risks tearing.
  • Use Wiggle Wires: Insert the plastic into the wiggle wire channels and secure it in place. This ensures it won’t flap around in the wind.
  • Double Check the Edges: Make sure the plastic is securely fastened along all edges and corners. Any loose spots could become tear risks later on.
  • Cut Off Excess: Once everything is secure, trim off any excess plastic.

And voila! Everything should now be securely in place, ready to provide a cozy home for your plants. But remember, installation is just the first step. To keep your greenhouse in tip-top shape, you’ll also need to know how to maintain and repair your plastic, which we’ll get into next.

Maintenance and Repair of Greenhouse Plastic

Okay, so you’ve got your greenhouse plastic installed, and your plants are living the good life. But don’t kick back and relax just yet. It needs regular maintenance to keep it in peak condition. Let’s cover how to keep it in tip-top shape for the long haul.

Regular Checks and Cleaning

First off, let’s discuss the importance of regular checks and cleaning. You wouldn’t ignore a weird noise coming from your car engine, so don’t ignore signs of wear and tear on your greenhouse plastic.

Why Regular Checks are Important:

  • Early Detection: Spotting small issues early can prevent bigger problems down the line.
  • Optimal Performance: Clean plastic allows for better light transmission and insulation.

Cleaning Tips:

  • Use Mild Soap: Harsh chemicals can degrade the plastic.
  • Soft Cloth or Sponge: Avoid abrasive materials that could scratch or tear the plastic.
  • Rinse Thoroughly: Leftover soap can create a film that blocks light.

So, make it a habit to inspect your greenhouse plastic at least once a month. Look for any signs of wear, tear, or dirt buildup and address them promptly.

Repairing Damaged Greenhouse Plastic

Now, what if you find a tear or hole during one of your inspections? Don’t panic; it’s not the end of the world. With a little know-how, you can repair minor damages and extend the lifespan of your greenhouse plastic.

Repair Tips:

  • Use Greenhouse Repair Tape: This is specifically designed for repairing greenhouse plastic and is UV-resistant.
  • Clean the Area: Before applying any tape or adhesive, make sure the area around the damage is clean and dry.
  • Overlap the Edges: When applying tape, make sure to overlap the edges of the tear for a secure hold.
  • Double Up: For larger tears, consider applying tape to both sides of the plastic for added strength.

Remember, a stitch in time saves nine. Addressing minor damages as soon as you spot them can prevent them from turning into major issues that require replacing the entire sheet of greenhouse plastic.

greenhouse plastic on small greenhouse

Eco-Friendly Options for Greenhouse Plastic

So, you’re all about stewarding resources well, not just in your garden but also in your lifestyle choices. That’s awesome! But did you know that you can extend that to your choice of greenhouse plastic as well? Let’s explore some options that will help you do just that.

Biodegradable Greenhouse Plastic

First up, let’s talk about biodegradable greenhouse plastic. This is the “organic produce” of the greenhouse world—natural, sustainable, and guilt-free.


  • Made from plant-based materials
  • Breaks down naturally over time
  • Usually free from harmful chemicals


  • Reduced Environmental Impact: Since it breaks down naturally, it won’t contribute to landfill waste.
  • Chemical-Free: Often made without harmful chemicals, making it safer for you and your plants.
  • Lower Carbon Footprint: Typically requires less energy to produce compared to traditional plastics.

If you’re the type who reads every food label and avoids anything you can’t pronounce, biodegradable greenhouse plastic might be right up your alley.

Recycled Greenhouse Plastic

Next, let’s consider recycled greenhouse plastic. Think of this as the “vintage clothing” of greenhouse materials—pre-loved but still full of life.


  • Made from recycled plastic materials
  • Can be recycled again after use
  • Often just as durable as new plastic


  • Waste Reduction: Using recycled materials means less new plastic is produced.
  • Energy Savings: The recycling process usually consumes less energy than making new plastic.
  • Cost-Effective: Often cheaper than new plastic without compromising on quality.

So, if you’re the kind of person who loves finding treasures in thrift stores, recycled greenhouse plastic could be your match.

Future Trends in Greenhouse Plastic

Alright, we’ve covered the basics, the how-tos, and even options for being a good steward of the earth God created. But what about the future? Just like smartphones have come a long way from the bulky cell phones of the ’90s, greenhouse plastic is also changing. Let’s take a peek into what the future holds for this essential gardening tool.

Smart Greenhouse Plastic

First on the horizon is smart greenhouse plastic. Imagine a plastic that can adjust its properties based on the weather or the needs of your plants. Sounds futuristic, right? But it’s not as far off as you might think.

Innovative Features:

  • Adaptive Light Filtering: Imagine greenhouse plastic that can darken or lighten based on the amount of sunlight, optimizing light levels for your plants.
  • Temperature Regulation: Some smart plastics are in development that can adjust their insulating properties based on external temperatures.
  • Remote Control: Yep, you could control these features right from your smartphone.

Why It’s a Game-Changer:

  • Optimal Growing Conditions: Your plants get exactly what they need, when they need it.
  • Energy Savings: Adaptive features could significantly reduce the need for additional heating or cooling.

So, if you’re a tech geek who loves gardening, smart greenhouse plastic could be your new favorite toy.

Sustainable Greenhouse Plastic

We’ve already touched on eco-friendly options, but sustainability is a trend that’s only going to grow.

Upcoming Trends:

  • Solar-Powered Plastics: Imagine greenhouse plastic that can also generate solar energy. Two birds, one stone!
  • Fully Compostable Options: Beyond biodegradable, these would break down into nutrients that could benefit the soil.
  • Local Sourcing: Plastics made from locally sourced materials to reduce transportation emissions.

Why This Matters:

  • Reduced Carbon Footprint: Every little bit helps in the fight against climate change.
  • Consumer Demand: As more people seek sustainable options, the market will respond with even more innovations.

So, if you’re all about that sustainable life, the future of greenhouse plastic is looking pretty bright for you.

In a nutshell, the world of greenhouse plastic is far from static. With advancements in technology and a growing focus on sustainability, who knows what incredible innovations we’ll see in the next few years? So whether you’re a gardening newbie or a seasoned pro, keeping an eye on these trends could give you a serious edge in your gardening game.

Wrapping Up

Wow, we’ve covered a lot of ground, haven’t we? From understanding why the choice of greenhouse plastic is crucial to exploring the types available, we’ve navigated through the maze of options. We’ve also dived into the nitty-gritty of installation and maintenance, and even peeked into the future with smart and sustainable options. It’s been quite the journey!

Key Takeaways:

  • Importance of Choice: The right greenhouse plastic can make or break your gardening experience. It affects plant health, energy efficiency, and your wallet.
  • Types to Consider: From Polyethylene and PVC to Polycarbonate, each type has its pros and cons. Know what you need before you make a choice.
  • Installation and Maintenance: A well-installed and maintained greenhouse plastic can last longer and perform better. Don’t skimp on these steps.
  • Eco-Friendly and Future Trends: Sustainability is not just a buzzword; it’s the future. From biodegradable to smart plastics, the options are expanding.

So, what’s next? Well, the ball’s in your court. Armed with this knowledge, you’re now ready to make an informed decision that best suits your needs and values. And remember, the best greenhouse plastic for you is the one that meets your specific needs—be it durability, eco-friendliness, or cutting-edge technology.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is the best type of greenhouse plastic?

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. The best type of greenhouse plastic for you will depend on various factors like your climate, the types of plants you’re growing, and your budget. Each type, be it Polyethylene, PVC, or Polycarbonate, has its own set of pros and cons.

How often should I replace my greenhouse plastic?

The lifespan of your greenhouse plastic will depend on its quality, type, and how well it’s maintained. Some types of plastic may last just a season, while others can last several years. Always check the manufacturer’s guidelines for specific information.

Can I repair damaged greenhouse plastic?

Yes, minor damages like small tears or holes can often be repaired using greenhouse repair tape or similar products designed for this purpose. However, extensive damage may require a full replacement.

Are there eco-friendly options for greenhouse plastic?

Absolutely! There are biodegradable and recycled greenhouse plastics available that are kinder to the environment. These options are becoming more popular as sustainability becomes a growing concern.

What are smart greenhouse plastics?

Smart greenhouse plastics are an emerging technology that can adapt to environmental conditions. For example, some can adjust their light transmission based on the amount of sunlight, while others can regulate temperature. These are still in the developmental stage but hold great promise for the future.

pinterest image of greenhouse plastic
grant yost greenhouse innovator

Grant Yost

Grant Yost is co-owner of Beulah Land Farms, a small business that is part of and trying to push forward the local food movement. Although I grew up on a farm in the middle of Kansas, we took the wheat and other grain to the elevator, and then went to the grocery store to buy all our food. Maybe it's a generational thing, but we should be growing our own food as much as possible! My wife was diagnosed with Graves disease, which is an auto-immune disease affecting the thyroid, and while it wasn't debilitating (we are grateful for that) we have to wonder if it had to do with processed food and our mass-produced food supply. Auto-immune epidemic anyone? Also, maybe a generational thing... we live in the city in Kansas City, but our kids want to move to the farm!

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