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Thinking “Outside the Pot”: Unique Planters Made from Everyday Items

When spring cleaning this year, be sure to give a last, thoughtful look-over of the stuff you’ve deemed worthy of a garage sale or donation bin– some things you might consider to be “dust collectors”, junk, or unusable because they once were part of a set but, alas, are not anymore, might make great, unique planters, to fill with a plant for yourself or give as a gift. Especially if the items are at least a couple inches deep, have sides, a base and an open top. Things like:

(for small to medium-sized planters)

  • A coffee mug
  • Tea cup
  • Tea kettle
  • Squatty, wide mouthed flower vase
  • Pencil holder/cup (a large, divided one could hold multiple plants)
  • A one-off shoe that has some depth, like a hiking boot or high-top tennis shoe (lace it up and line it with a cut, thick plastic bag or bubble wrap)
  • A hanging canvas shoe organizer (for a wall of small plants)
  • Candy dish/jar
  • Gravy boat
  • Fish bowl
  • Small pitcher
  • Old baking ware
  • Toy truck
  • Dice cup from a board game, like Yahtzee
  • Cotton ball canister/bathroom vanity jar
  • Mini metal bucket
  • Candle holder (there are so many nice and wide glass, metal or ceramic candle holders out there that we often throw in the trash when the candle is down to a stubble of wax and shriveled wick, because they certainly can’t be put in recycling with the wax inside and we don’t know what else to do with them– well, I recently learned from a local candle maker that all I need to do to clean them out is just pour in boiling water, let it cool a little, pour out the melted wax into the trash, and wipe out the insides with a paper towel!)
  • Beer/soda “can koozie” (with non-collapsible sides)
  • Bathroom drinking glass/”tumbler”, that’s part of one of those matching bath sets (they’re often ceramic)
  • A used soup/vegetable/etc. can, with or without the label (I once saw garden table settings using large Cento brand tomato cans filled with flowers as the centerpieces– the bright yellow and red of the labels helped create a great, spring, rustic farm-to-table vibe and a potted green plant inside one would do the same!) Note: if a “can planter” is going to be set outside in the sun, line it in bubble wrap or other plastic to protect the plant from the heat the metal can generate.
  • A glass jar (note: anything clear glass might also be a good candidate for a terrarium!)
  • A large wine glass
  • A garlic pot/keeper

(For large planters)

  • Watering can
  • Metal bucket
  • Old wheel barrow
  • Garden hose holder (especially the ceramic/pottery kind!)

In a perfect world, you would have the perfect drill (and the skills) to drill small drainage holes in whatever you choose to use– and if you do, that’s fantastic! But honestly, I’d be too scared that I would ruin the item if I attempted to do that, so luckily there are other ways recommended by garden experts to provide drainage in a “planter” without drainage holes. You can just put in some rocks, pebbles, pumice or busted up pottery for a drainage layer on the bottom or use horticultural charcoal (sold at plant stores or online), which can actually absorb excess water (the point is to keep the plant’s roots from getting moldy and being constantly soaked/over-watered, as can happen in a pot without holes, and a drainage layer gives some “breathing space”.) After you’ve accommodated for drainage, put in some potting soil, an herb or other plant, fill in the gaps with more soil (make sure the base of the plant sits at or close to the top of the container), give the plant a drink of water, and you’re done!


Pistils Nursery in Portland, Oregon has another good idea that’s worth considering for easy planting in a container without drainage holes (this would be good for containers that aren’t clear glass): plant the plant in a plastic pot that already has drainage holes and is slightly smaller than your unique container, so that it can hide inside of it, then simply take out the plastic pot when it’s time to water, and let it drain well before putting it back inside.


Head online to find more ideas for planters made from everyday items, such as these from The Micro Gardener. The sky’s the limit! Happy planting!


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