Creative Planter Ideas for the Garden

We have a tiny garden but to make the most of it, we’re always looking for ways to squeeze just one more plant into it. On one of our garage sale treks I found a rusty old chair and thought it would be perfect as a planter once I painted the metal and removed the seat cushion.


Cutting out the middle section of the chair so planter will ‘nest’ and look more like a cushioned seat once plants fill in

At the time, I was in my ‘succulent’ phase and couldn’t wait to introduce a lush ‘seat cushion’ full of plants tucked in beside our rock garden. Succulents can be planted sparsely within the container and will spread quickly to form that lush look in no time!

At first we planted the succulents in a ceramic dish, but it cracked after only one winter.


Ceramic planter didn’t make it through the winter 🙁

With some trial and error, we learned how to make our own hypertufa planters that fit the seat of a chair perfectly! Making a hypertufa planter is a great beginner project that anyone can do!  If you want to attempt one for your garden, just click on this link for our tutorial that you can try your hand at!

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Succulents overwinter in hypertufa container and come back like a trouper every Spring!

Here’s another metal chair that we painted and is just waiting for a hypertufa planter. I’ll be fashioning something rectangular for this one, so it will be a little more challenging finding a mold with the perfect shape and size. We’ll probably end up custom-building a form for this one!

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Hypertufa tutorial will be in the works soon for this chair!

The wonderful thing about hypertufa is that it overwinters without cracking (unlike ceramic) so in the fall, while the chair goes into the garage to be stored, the planter stays out in the dry creek bed (shown briefly in the last picture). I’ve had the best success overwintering my succulents in the same container ever since; it comes back like a trouper every Spring when we bring out the chair and put it back in its place of honour in the garden! We drop it right over our fern and it happily grows right under the chair; it loves the shade!

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Fern LOVES to be shaded under the chair!

I quickly found other areas to add succulents – such as on top of a shallow birdbath in the opposite corner of the garden.The before and after is quite striking; planters of any size and scale can add a lot of interest while the garden is waiting to mature.

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Before and after: a shallow birdbath is the ideal place to on which arrange succulents in a glass dish

When the garden was young and sparse, I kept the compositions on top of the birdbath very structured – as in the example pictured below. In subsequent years, the planter arrangements became more free form as the garden started to mature.

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Let your imagination run wild – just about anything can be a planter in the garden with the right plants

The glass dish was found for pennies at a value village; I filled in the shallow bird bath with some aquarium gravel then nestled the dish into it. The piece of petrified wood and the stone was found at the same store at which I purchase the aquarium gravel. I love the way the colour of the stone plays off the flowers of the succulent in bloom and the ornate mirror/shelf combo that I faux painted.

I found the ceramic dish pictured below at HomeSense and filled in the bird bath with river rock.

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Succulents add not only colour, but a textural quality to the composition

The ceramic dish adds height and the white pops against the background greenery of the Oak Leaf Hydrangea.

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Oak Leaf Hydrangea and clematis are a beautiful background against the white planter

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Below you can see how the arrangements evolved and got more relaxed over time.  Every once in a while we will switch up the succulents for flowers instead to bring added colour to the corner of the garden.

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Flowers in bloom add a burst of colour

However, I think I may go back to succulents in the planters moving forward, now that the clematis is taking hold on the lacy backdrop of the mirror and the oak leaf hydrangea is nicely filling out the corner behind the bird bath we turned into a planter.

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Clematis latches onto the mirrors as it climbs across the fence

Before I found just the perfect planter for the shelf under the mirror, I used to decorate that area with a yoga frog which I found at Pier One about seven or eight years ago.

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Yoga frog adds a zen quality to the garden……. oohhhhmm!

Although the frog brought a touch of zen, I much prefer the way that greenery reflects in the mirror and it wasn’t long before I replaced the frog with another plant! We’re always on the lookout for interesting and unusual containers to plant in and one of my favorite finds is this vintage porcelain pot with a wooden handle. It houses a hosta that we also overwinter in the garage. Even though the hosta is in a container, it still comes back every year!

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Vintage porcelain makes a charming planter

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Concrete can add a sculptural quality to the garden as well as add a bit of height that can block the view of ugly elements such as downspouts and utility wires and pipes. We found this planter at an out of the way garden centre that we just happened to be passing by. It’s worth the effort to stop and look; you never know what you might find!

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Using a concrete planter can be a great camouflage tactic when strategically placed in front of utilities

Not all concrete has to be used for planting though. Think about where you might want to add an accent with some statuary. My husband added the ‘cool’ sunglasses as a joke one day; gotta love his humour!


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We’re too cool for this garden!

Another way to hide things you don’t want to see is to set a planter over a platform. Here my husband built a cedar planter that we set on top of a bamboo mat to temporarily hide a drainage pipe.

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Cedar planter on top of bamboo mat hides the drainage pipe

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Coleus comes in a wide variety of colours and variegations. These multi-coloured beauties are a solid performer in any garden.

Planters can come in many unexpected forms. Here are two examples: 1) an old milk can on top of an upcycled fire pit.

2) A discarded chair upcycled with the help of a hyptertufa planter. If you ever wanted to try your hand at making hypertufa, check out our full how-to here.

Be on the lookout for moveable stands at garage sales to use for container gardening; they allow a lot of flexibility of placement in the garden.

Cedar is an ideal material to use as a planter box for its durability and weather resistance. Below is another idea for using cedar planter boxes. Here, we have set the planter box below a trellis that we built to screen our view from the front porch of our neighbour’s garbage cans. Each year we plant annuals that wind their way through the trellis. It’s a beautiful way to hide an ugly view.

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And on that note, I finally got around to blogging about DIY trellises and privacy screens for the garden (see the sneak peek below). They are so versatile for climbing plants – both to add greenery to the garden and much needed privacy to a tiny suburban lot. They are simple to design with any presentation software (such as powerpoint) and building them goes fast with an air gun and a bit of glue (and of course a handy helper – my husband, or as I like to call him; my “partner in grime”).

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Before and after view of neighbour’s garbage cans before vines take hold in cedar planter

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15 thoughts on “Creative Planter Ideas for the Garden

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  3. I like the structural elements that the mirror and statue bring to the garden. I started planting succulents in earnest last year as we’ve been in a four-year drought. We’ve recently converted our lawn into native plants and added a rain harvesting system. The garden is completely different that it was two years ago.

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