Almost anything can be transformed from a flea market find or junk rescue into a planted pot. Look for inspiration in all the likely places: tag sales, farm auctions, thrift stores, antique shops, flea markets, and estate sales.
We’ve divided our containers into four categories: focal point planters that become a showpiece in your garden, centerpiece containers that work well on a tabletop, shelf, or cabinet, hanging pots from hooks or walls, and plantings you can move around your lawn to fill in noticeable gaps.
Whatever grabs your fancy, ensure that the improvised plant pot has room for the roots to grow and drainage to release excess moisture. Keep a weather eye on your concocted containers—they can dry out quickly, especially in hot sun and wind.
Focal Point Planters
A Wardian case made from old house parts and windows fills an empty space in a border, adding a bright Victorian touch to an otherwise dark corner.
Concrete doves balance atop a birdbath filled with mounding impatiens and trailing lysimachia. The combination creates a romantic focal point in the landscape.
Whether you use an old worn-out chair or a new one made from reclaimed wood, the seat makes a vessel that’s just right for a pretty garden planting. Using a screwdriver, remove the seat from the chair frame. If your chair has a solid wood seat, you can cut a hole in the center with a jigsaw. Staple a bowl of chicken wire inside the seat frame, line it with damp moss, and fill it with potting mix. Plant with a mix of colorful annuals and place it in a flowerbed to add height where needed.
Fence-side seating benefits from a surround of eye-catching flora. On one side, hot pink geraniums top a galvanized and fluted metal bucket, while tall, variegated miscanthus shoots up from a vintage lard tin. Overhead, magenta petunias fill an old hanging scale suspended from a shepherd’s crook plant hanger.
A vintage English milk pail bursts with sky-blue lobelia and yellow osteospermum. A thick metal vessel like this calls for a reservoir of gravel in the bottom half rather than drilled drainage holes. The added weight makes it a sturdy companion in the garden.
For the ultimate conversation piece that’s impossible to overlook, go for something out of the ordinary. This painted and planted VW Bug stopped us in our tracks on a rural Texas road.
An old enameled bucket brings vintage character to a planting combo in complementary colors of vivid red and green.
Pot up a vintage suitcase for a clever container that’s sure to spark conversation. For best results, try this on a covered porch or patio. To prolong the life of the case, place a tray inside to hold plants rather than putting potting soil directly into the interior.
Hot pink gerbera daisies dance in a vintage vintner’s trug that was once used for gathering grapes in the French countryside.
Euphorbia Diamond Frost billows from the top of an old gas can. The simple planting puts the focus squarely on its container.
A vintage metal breadbox makes a cheery planter when filled with sweet potato vine and Osteospermum.
Small annuals make a big impact when planted in a well-used commercial bread ban. This container is just the right size for a coffee or dining table centerpiece.
Plumes of pink pentas sit in a vintage kitchen colander (drainage holes conveniently built right in). A layer of lush moss hides the potting mix.
Shallow-rooted succulents thrive in the low pan of an old galvanized chicken feeder.
A vintage toy dump truck provides just enough depth for a planting of sweet succulents.
Mount a trio of joint compound pans to a fence or wall with screws. Drill holes in the bottoms of the pans, then fill with succulent and cacti potting mix. Plant with succulents in a variety of shapes and hues. Include upright growers as well as those that trail.
Once the back of a midcentury poolside motel chair, this metal remnant makes a colorful splash as an ingenious plant hanger.
An old tire, filled with potting mix, sweet potato vine, coleus, and impatiens, makes a rustic outdoor wreath that will hold up to the most extreme weather.
A well-loved and well-worn child’s chair hangs from a wall, creating a small shelf that’s just right for supporting an old teakettle planted with Osteospermum Sunny Olivia.
Create hanging pots from galvanized metal farm funnels. To make them, drill three holes equidistantly around the lip of the funnel. Attach three equal lengths of chain to the funnel with S-hooks and join the other ends of the chain with a metal key ring. Slip the ring over a hook in your ceiling or from a bracket. We grouped three funnels together, hanging at varying heights, and planted them with trailing lavender calibrachoa and frothy Euphorbia Diamond Frost.
Turned on its side, a vintage bottle carrier provides sectioned pockets that are ideal for planting herbs or succulents in a grid. A child’s sand pail filled with variegated baby sun rose tops this mini hanging garden.
On the Move
In 1957, the company famous for its little red wagons began to make garden carts, too. This Radio Cart, ready to move to any part of the yard that needs a planted pick-me-up, is filled with a blend of annuals that includes dwarf papyrus, burgundy sweet potato vine, larkspur, fan flower, red mimulus, and geraniums.
A large vintage wire laundry basket makes a lightweight container for an abundance of plants. Equally at home in a border or on a patio, move this feast of flowers to any spot that needs some visual interest at eye level.
Wire florists’ plant stands offer mobility on porch, deck, or patio. Containers filled with Bubblegum petunias, alyssum, daisies, coleus, sweet potato vine, and calibrachoa appear to float in mid-air on slender metal legs.
Show off your unique containers with these tips in mind:
To avoid the garage-sale or junk shop look, don’t cluster too many different kinds of containers together. Give each pot a chance to shine.
Groupings can be interesting, though, if you have an effective collection of like items, such as a gathering of planted watering cans or buckets. Vary the heights of your pots in the corner of a deck, on a porch stairway, or in an island bed. Use a large pair of matching containers to flank a doorway.
Place a unique container where it won’t be missed, indoors or out. Site it so that you can see it from a door or window inside, or outside in a spot that naturally draws the eye.
Enhance the whimsy of your improvised container with a connected home. An old boot filled with succulents would look cute outside a workshop, while a bucket or trough filled with edible flowers would be ideal in a kitchen garden.
Exposure to the elements will take its toll on your containers over time. To protect wood pieces, apply a preservative; to prevent continued deterioration to painted metal, coat with a metal sealant.
Poke holes in the bottom of your container if you need to create adequate drainage. If that’s not practical, or you prefer not to damage a piece, fill the bottom third to one half of the container with packing peanuts (or gravel to add weight and stability) to make a reservoir for excess water.
Check moisture levels often. Poke a finger into the soil up to your first finger joint. If it’s dry, water it. Don’t overdo it, though—more plants die from overwatering than underwatering.
We’d love to hear about how you use containers and repurposed planters in your garden. Feel free to share in our comments section or share some images on our Facebook page.
© Caruth Studio