Our mission is to share the wonders of the natural world by publishing books from experts in the fields of gardening, horticulture, and natural history. Grow with us.

Thinking outside the pot: 3 quick tips for planting in unusual containers

by Timber Press on March 19, 2012

in Craft, Gardening

Today’s guest post comes from Kerry Michaels, who writes regularly at About.com for the Container Gardening section. In her post below, she offers three important tips for using unusual containers for your plants. 

Almost anything can be used to make a container garden—from a thimble to a bathtub, from old buckets to patent leather stilettos. All it takes is some imagination and a few simple tools to transform everyday objects into beautiful gardens.

Photograph © Kerry Michaels


Size Matters: First thing to think about when choosing a container is size. In this case, bigger is better and easier. The bigger your container, the easier it is to keep your soil moist and your plants alive. Small containers hold less soil so they dry out faster. And on a hot, windy day, the moisture can be sucked out of your container shockingly fast. Most plants, with the exception of succulents, don’t like to dry out, so when choosing a container, think big.

Drainage Rules: Most plants like moist soil –not too wet and not too dry. To make sure your plants don’t get too much water, your container has to have a way for excess water to get out. Lots of unusual containers have drainage built-in—baskets, Clementine orange boxes, Crocs–all have holes. If your container doesn’t, you can usually create enough drainage by drilling or using a hammer and a large nail to punch holes—as many as you can.

Photograph © Kerry Michaels

Make a Lining: If your container has too many holes or the holes are too large (think wire basket or wooden trug), or you want to protect the inside of your container from water and soil, simply make a liner out of a plastic bag. Cut holes into the bottom of the bag to add drainage. If you just want to keep your soil from falling out, you can also use plastic window screening which is cheap and easy to cut. If your liner is going to be visible, you can easily create a pretty one by packing damp moss around the inside of your container.

Photograph © Kerry Michaels

Once you start using unusual containers, you may never go back to regular pots. Besides, half the fun of unusual containers is hunting for them.

Photograph © Kerry Michaels

Thanks so much, Kerry! Visit Kerry at About.com, where she writes regularly about container gardening.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jennie March 19, 2012 at 3:16 pm

thank you. and i thought i was the queen of odd containers. i love your clementine box. my most unusual container is an old galvanized metal mop bucket, complete with wooden rollers (which are now falling apart).

2 Emmon March 20, 2012 at 7:45 am

I just love this post: 3 great tips, 4 inspiring photos! Thanks so much for having Kerry as a guest!

3 Mary Lou April 11, 2012 at 9:17 am

Love it. I’ve planted in an old camping coffee pot, shoes, and other found objects. In fact, I go to garage sales asking myself, “What are they selling that I can plant something in?”

4 Spence April 18, 2012 at 1:57 pm

I have some shoes that probably looked similar to the ones in your picture, only I didn’t do it on purpose.

5 Gita Schonfeld April 25, 2012 at 5:12 am

At Biltmore Estate Gardens in Asheville I saw a old suitcases (the hard sided ones) used as planters.
Pretty fabulous.

6 Gita Schonfeld April 25, 2012 at 5:12 am

At Biltmore Estate Gardens in Asheville I saw old suitcases (the hard sided ones) used as planters.
Pretty fabulous.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: