Top 10 Recycled Plant Containers

Old, weathered boot with a purple-flowered plant growing out of it. The boot is hanging on a wooden wall.
There's no need to buy something new when you can use recycled items to create an interesting planter on your own.
iStockphoto/Jena Wagner

We know -- working in a garden filled with the same old standard clay or plastic planters can get really boring. If you're dreaming of breathing a little more life into your greens, just look to the materials you already have in your home. Many household objects can be converted from useless clutter or trash into unique and creative planters. As long as it can support soil and allow for drainage, you can use almost anything. In fact, creating your own planters not only provides an opportunity for an enjoyable, hands-on project; it also helps the environment by recycling objects that might otherwise wind up in a landfill.

Flush your garden monotony away with the idea on the next page!


10: Old Bathroom Fixtures

Adding a sink will undoubtedly make your garden more unique, but it's important to still keep your plant growth in check.
Adding a sink will undoubtedly make your garden more unique, but it's still important to keep your plant growth in check.

If you want the most unique garden in the neighborhood, toss in an old commode amongst your greens. One of the coolest and most conversation-starting planters are those made out of old sinks, sink basins, bathtubs and, yes, even toilets.

To turn your old bathroom fixtures into planters, begin by setting up the piece you've selected for drainage. All these items should already have drains, so unlike most of the selections on this list, you don't need to worry about drilling any holes. However, the drains on bathroom fixtures are usually a bit too large for gardening needs, so to prevent water from rushing out too quickly, place a layer of rocks above the hole and along the bottom of your piece. If the planter will be inside, you'll need to place a mat or small bucket beneath the opening to catch any leaks.


Once the fixture's draining system is set up, you're ready to get dirty. Just pack in your potting soil and choose the plants you'd like to use.

9: Old Footwear

Old work boots make ideal outdoor planters.
Old work boots make ideal outdoor planters.

Rather than tossing your old kicks in the trash, consider turning them into an exceptionally amusing home for a plant. In particular, old work boots or rain boots work really well, not only because they're large in size, but also because they're sturdier than your average stiletto.

To begin, first gather your footwear, two plants, potting soil, small rocks and a drill (or a hammer and nails). The most important part of preparing the footwear -- and many of the other planters we'll discuss -- is drilling holes to allow for drainage. Carefully use your drill to create small holes along the bottom of the shoe, a few inches apart. Place a few rocks along the bottom to help water drain and keep the holes from clogging. Next, pack in a layer of potting soil and start planting!


8: Old Buckets and Plastic Tubs

We all have old buckets and plastic tubs lying around, so instead of letting them sit in some dusty corner, why not do something productive with them? Just wash out each container thoroughly; then cut holes in the bottom for drainage. Large buckets and tubs make great homes for plants because they can hold so much soil. Therefore, you can plant multiple smaller plants or single larger specimens that need a bit more room, like dwarf citrus trees. However, even if you have multiple drainage holes (and you should in a container this size), it can still be difficult for all the water to escape when the tub or bucket is lying flat on the ground. To prevent oversaturation and root rot, use wooden planks to elevate the container a few inches off the ground.


7: Old Furniture

It's easy to convert an old garden bench into an actual part of your garden.
It's easy to convert an old garden bench into an actual part of your garden.
Abigal Rex/Garden Picture Library/Getty Images

Many pieces of furniture can be converted into interesting and functional planters. In particular, chairs featuring wicker seats are ideal. However, anything with a seat that's relatively easy to cut a hole through will do. First, decorate the chair however you'd like. Then make a hole in the seat so that a standard a potted plant will slide into it without falling through.

If you're converting a small dresser or similar item, first weatherproof it with a sealant. Next, cut holes to allow air flow to the drawers below. Then, drill a few holes in the bottom of each drawer for drainage and fill them with soil. Be sure to stagger the drawers to display your plants to their fullest potential. If the dresser is too heavy or feels like it might tip forward, secure it to an exterior wall or stake it to a tree or the ground.


6: Old Wooden Crates, Kegs and Barrels

This idea works exceptionally well for gardens with an antique or rustic feel. Just drill a few holes for drainage at the bottom of each container -- elevated a few inches off the ground if need be -- then add soil and compost. That's it -- your plants are ready to grow!

Although a single crate, keg or barrel looks great on its own, adding multiple wooden containers to your garden makes a great theme. Try mixing and matching items of different sizes, or unify your garden with several large, strategically placed barrels.


5: Old Overalls or Blue Jeans

Give your old jeans new legs as a hanging planter.
Give your old jeans new legs as a hanging planter.
Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images

To create a hanging planter using blue jeans or overalls, you'll need two plants inside plastic containers, scissors, wire and some old denim clothing. Start by putting the plants in each pant leg. Poke small holes a few inches apart all the way around the jeans, penetrating through the plastic container of the plant as well. Weave the wire through the holes you've just cut. When you've gone all the way around, twist the ends of the wire together to secure the hold.

To build the hanging apparatus, cut three equal pieces of wire. Hold all three pieces and twist them together at the top until you've got about 4 inches. Take this twisted section and curve it into a hook, like the top of a clothes hanger. Then spread the three wires like the legs of a tripod. At each end, stick the wire inside the planter and twist it around the existing wire structure many times over. To further strengthen your denim planter, simply add a layer of super glue to the top of the hanging apparatus and at the end of each of the wires.


4: Disposable Goods

Looking for the ultimate way to recycle? Use disposable goods as plant containers! Milk jugs and 2-liter bottles, for example, make excellent homes for your plants. All you need to do is cut off the bottom portion of the container; wash it thoroughly with soap and water; make several small holes for drainage; fill it with soil and plant your seeds. As any environmentalist will tell you, even though these containers are made to be used once and thrown away, they're not biodegradable and can be reused multiple times in your garden.


3: Old Kitchen Containers

Yes, that old iron skillet would look great in your garden, but cast iron rusts easily, so it won't make a good home for your plants.
Cast iron rusts easily, so anything made from the material won't make a good home for your plants.
Jonathan Kantor/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Dishes, pots, cookie tins and baskets all have excellent planter potential. Of course, drainage will have to be achieved with the appropriate drill bit and a certain amount of care in the case of glass or ceramic items. As with the other recycled planters, simply fill with soil and plant away once your drainage holes have been established.

Besides being a great use for old or cracked dishes, you can also convert used pots and pans into planters. Use a metal drill bit to create holes, then paint your pots and pans, remove the handles or make other aesthetic alterations to suit your personal vision! Not all materials are ideal, however. Cast iron could rust, and it's possible for some other metals to have reactions with minerals in the soil. Be sure you know what a container is made from before you use it as a planter, and inspect it thoroughly before you start your project.


2: Old Wheelbarrows

What says gardening more than an old wheelbarrow? It's easy to turn this trusty tool into a permanent part of your nursery. And it doesn't even matter what material the bed of your wheelbarrow is made from. Metal, wood or plastic are all fine, though you'll have to drill drainage holes in anything but wood. All you need to do is find a spot in your garden, plant the wheelbarrow firmly in the soil and fill the bed with dirt, maybe some compost and whatever plants you'd like to grow.


1: Old Wooden Boats

We're not suggesting you transform your yacht (or even working fishing boat) into a home for your plants, but if you have an old wooden rowboat that's never going to cruise the pond again, it'll make a very cool and unique addition to your garden. Best of all, it doesn't matter what condition the boat is in. Regardless if it has holes and peeling paint or you just finished applying a new coat of varnish, it's sure to be a conversation-starter.

There's no wrong way to do this project. We're not talking about plastic tubs or old sneakers here -- it's a boat. You can put it anywhere and it'll stand out. You can simply tip it on its side, fill it with soil and have it be the centerpiece of your garden, or bury all but the prow in the earth so it looks like an ancient shipwreck that's sprouted an abundance of plant life. Virtually any plants you'd consider adding to your garden will work here, from flowers to dwarf trees.

For more gardening tips, check out the links on the next page.

Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • Dictionary. "Cooper." 2012. (Jan. 23, 2012)
  • Gabriel, Elizabeth. "Potting plants can be worth the money: Just about anything can thrive in a pot." Sierra Star. June 6, 2008. (April 20, 2009)
  • Oracle Thinkquest. "Wheelbarow." (Jan. 23, 2012)
  • PBS. "Levi Strauss: Who Made America?" April 21, 2009. (Jan. 6, 2012)
  • Relf, Diane. "Houseplant Safety." Virginia Cooperative Extension. April 1997. (April 20, 2009)