Creative Planting Containers

If you’d like to plant a reusable or recycled container or you simply have a flair for the whimsical, container gardening leaves acres of room for creativity. Be on the lookout for containers that have adequate drainage. Baskets are a natural fit as planters, but there are ways to get the most out of them. First of all, the weave is usually loose enough that when you’re watering plants, you’ll lose more soil than you’d like. Prevent this by lining the basket with any plastic you can find before you add your soil and plants.

You’ll want to use plastic that’s thicker than the average sandwich wrap; the thicker, freezer baggies work extremely well. Many times you won’t be able to see the plastic lining, but if it’s visible, just line the inside of the basket with sphagnum moss and then add the plastic liner, soil, and plants.

There’s no end to the reusable container possibilities:

  • Old dressers
  • Old watering cans
  • Old colanders
  • Wheelbarrows
  • Boots
  • Easter baskets
  • Buckets
  • Painted tin cans
  • Iron bathtubs
  • Canoes
  • Small wooden boats
  • Cinder blocks
  • Tires
  • Hollow tree stumps
  • Bicycle baskets
  • Watering cans
  • Shoe bags
  • Five-gallon buckets
  • Wagons
  • Truck beds
  • Wastebaskets
  • Laundry baskets
  • And, literally, the kitchen sink

Tubs and Half-Barrels

Big tubs and half-barrels allow you to create a “scene” all within one container. They also offer plenty of root room for plants that need it, such as dwarf fruit trees, camellias, roses, Japanese maples, and flowering perennials. Compact shrubs and flowering perennial plants can be kept in oversized containers year-round. Big containers are also the right thing to use for growing tomatoes.

Big tubs are usually made of wood, copper, or Terra-Cotta. The half-barrels are always made of wood, so they look best in a natural or otherwise informal setting. Needless to say, after they’re filled with soil, planted, and watered, they become very heavy. To make the containers lighter, many gardeners will fill the tub about a third of the way with packing peanuts or other recyclables before adding soil.

This is useful in some situations, but I tend to plant things in big tubs that need as much soil as they can get (for roots and nutrition), so I usually find a semi-permanent place in my garden for these containers. That way I’m not struggling to move them around. If you come across an old horse water trough — snag it up! These make wonderful planters, especially for plants that like the heat (they’re usually made of metal).

Green Thumb Thursday
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Photo of horse trough planter by Kckellner

Photo of dresser drawer by Casey Fox

Photo of bathtub by Mikecogh

Photo of planted bucket by Justin and Elise

About Chris

Chris McLaughlin has written 35 posts in this blog.

Chris is a freelance garden writer, blogger, and author of six books including her latest project A Garden to Dye For (St. Lynn's Press, March 2014). She balances family, writing, and all things modern homesteading from their hobby farm in the Northern California foothills. Chris' pet project is the Mother Lode Seed Library that will launch in January, 2014. She's blessed with four fabulous kids and four darling sugar babies. Follow Chris on Twitter: @Suburban_Farmer and her website:



  1. says

    Thank you for the awesome ideas. I love that photo of the old bath tub. I love the look of the planters shown and the idea of all the different other containers that could be used. Now I think I need to begin my hunt. Shhh– just don’t tell my husband. He might not be as enthusiastic!

    I found this site through the blogger comment club- thanks for letting me visit.

  2. says

    I have re-purposed several old livestock tanks into wicking bed gardens that look similar to the one in your photo. Great ideas here that I can use on our farm to add interest and recycle items that we have lying around. Thanks!

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