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Plants that are in pots, sitting on paved ground outside,

  • Can one pull weeds from the pots? Trim dead branches?

  • Are there different answers if the plants are hanging? Or under an awning? Or indoors?

  • Is there any condition in which it is permissible to replant a nursery purchased plant?

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  • Welcome to MiYodeya Jive and thanks for this first question. Great to have you learn with us!
    – mbloch
    Apr 20, 2022 at 9:40

2 Answers 2

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First of all, I assume you are asking regarding Eretz Israel.

Plants sitting outside have the law of trees. As such you can maintain the plants (e.g., pulling weeds or trimming dead branches) if the goal is to avoid future damage - but not if it is done to strengthen the plants.

The same ruling applies to plants under an awning or hanging if they are drawing their sustenance from the ground and to indoor plants in perforated pots (according to many). In closed pots (or if the pot is placed on a base on plastic) some allow treating them more freely.

Planting is a no-no during Shmita.

See here, here and there for references.

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Rabbi Kaganoff has a piece that serves as a good introduction to this question here.

A good starting point is as follows:

The Mishnah (Shabbos 95a) teaches that someone who plants in a flowerpot that has a hole in its bottom, called an atzitz nakuv, violates Shabbos as if he planted in the earth itself. However, planting in a flowerpot that is fully closed underneath, called an atzitz she’aino nakuv, is forbidden only because of rabbinic injunction and does not involve a Torah-prohibited violation of Shabbos. The same categories usually apply to agricultural mitzvos: plants in a pot with a hole in the bottom are equivalent to being in the ground itself; those whose bottom is completely sealed are included in agricultural mitzvos by rabbinic injunction.

So we see the type of container has bearings on the plants halachic status. When the pot is perforated and placed on the ground the nutrients and water etc. can pass freely to and from the plant and thus should therefore be avoided.

Rabbi Eliezer Simcha Weiss has a useful document here which provides a full overview. He give a full distinction over the status of potted plants that are perforated or not and whether indoors or outdoors on p.18.

He notes as follows:

enter image description here *which will not allow root emergence.

As far as defining indoor vs outdoor: Indoor - any building which has a permanent roof of any structural material but not a tent

Outdoor - any open area incl. a field, garden, unenclosed verandas roof and any walled structure without a roof.

As a result:

enter image description here

Therefore:

Outdoors:

No sowing or planting in pots is permitted whether the pot is a perforated container - Atzitz Nakuv or a non-perforated container - Atzitz She'eno Nakuv

Sowing or planting in an Atzitz She'eno Nakuv is also. forbidden, in -II circumstances whatever the material of the container, even If the container 1s made of a material such as glass or metal which definitely will not allow root emergence and even where a partition divider exists between the plant pot and the soil.

All other gardening activities which may be done in the Seventh Year in the garden may also be done with regard to potted plants in the garden.

Indoors:

(other than the floor or the ground floor balcony - roof gardens), Planting is allowed in a non-perforated container Atzitz She'eno Nakuv in a house, Annuals may be planted in any non-perforated container whether made from wood, plastic, asbestos or metal.

Perennials or bush-like plants should only be planted in containers made from material which will not allow root emergence in any circumstances, e.g. metal, hard plastic, glass, asbestos, etc, and not wood or any soft plastic.

Greenhouse roofs may not be removed to enhance plant growth although household awnings may be removed above balconies or alcoves for such purposes as building a Succa but not for the purpose of promoting plant growth,

Moving during the Seventh Year -If one moves to a new home or apartment, potted household plants may also be moved, although generally indoor plants may not be moved outdoors.

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