Repurpose for a Personal Touch in Your Garden

Sometimes, you just run out of containers, as many plant addicts do. Or maybe you see an object while shopping or cleaning that you know would make the perfect planter or vase. It’s also fun to add a touch of your personality to your garden and houseplant designs. Whatever the reason, planting in unique and found containers is just plain fun. Here are some favorites from our garden and recent garden tours.

flat rock with holes and plant growing in it.
Who can resist a rock with holes?

Found Objects

rusted irrigation pipe
This old irrigation pipe was left on our property. My husband had to use it for a planter.

Sometimes a new container or garden object finds you. A friend is about to throw out anything round with a bottom, and you know you can make it work as a container. When reusing objects as planters and outdoor containers for most plants, be sure to provide drainage either by drilling a hole or two in the bottom of the container or by placing gravel in the bottom and setting the plant inside in a smaller plastic container. Some succulent containers need no drainage, as long as you water appropriately.

Agave in rusted irrigation pipe in meadow
Here’s how it looks now, complete with rocks and a screen for drainage.
old washing machine with vines planted inside
This is one of our favorite containers, found in a homestead’s junk pile.

Thrift Store Finds

Browsing yard sales and thrift or antique stores can be dangerous for draining your dollars and a hoarding effect on your potting bench. But the right object can just appear out of nowhere. At least the price is right. Air plants are fun to place just about anywhere, inside or along with found objects. Sometimes I add organic objects such as rocks, old wood or part of an antler found nearby. Or add inexpensive glass beads and stones. As for succulents — well, the list goes on and on.

air plant in an old wine glass
With a little imagination, you can turn thrift store or yard sale finds into vases and containers.
pottery repurposed as succulent containers
This green piece of pottery from a local thrift store likely was for flower arrangements. My husband made it and the crock on the left into succulent containers.


Heavy Metal

Rust in old metal buckets or containers shouldn’t harm your plants or make edibles unsafe to eat. Your biggest concern when re-using metal objects for plants is knowing what the container used to hold or whether it’s made of inexpensive metal materials that could be toxic. We’ve had good luck with old metal and galvanized steel containers.

white metal pail with fan aloe inside
Here’s another old, discarded piece — a metal pail turned into a fan aloe container.
metal tub holding several trailing succulents
An Austin gardener made a small metal tub into a succulent centerpiece.

New Uses for Old Items

Gifts, sentimental objects and cool rustic junk can liven up your garden. I love seeing old watering pails used as containers or just artistic elements in a garden. Old doors make great dividers or trellises.

metal pail with geranium inside
This watering pail has sentimental value. When it began to leak, we made it into a container for annuals.
portulaca in opening of clay chiminea
A mini-chiminea we received as a gift, largely because my sister-in-law knew we would plant in it.
fence post as succulent container
This succulent container is a portion of an old fence post, cut and drilled with a large hole to hold some soil.

Reuse Pottery

When a favorite container or dish breaks, do you really need to throw it out? You can add small pieces of broken pottery around the top of a houseplant or have a fun stepping stone project with the kids. Sometimes, an object no longer works as intended, but can be reused with a little ingenuity.

broken pottery set into outdoor stepping stone
Broken pottery or dishes? Make a stepping stone, table top, or other object from the pieces.
white vase with trailing succulent
A lovely white vase holds a succulent on the fence of an Austin garden.


solar lights in terracotta pot at night
These solar lights had broken or missing stakes, but still worked. Enter unused terracotta pot…
floral plate in garden
I saw decorative plates in several Austin gardens. This one gives a pop of color among a sea of foliage.

Do you love adding a creative touch to your plantings? We would love to see our readers share some of their favorite repurpose and reuse projects for the garden and indoor plants. Post ideas in our comments or photos on social media and tag us.

Teresa Odle, Southwest Gardening contributorTeresa Odle is the author of a blog on low-water gardening in the Southwest, and, because you can grow flowers inside no matter the climate, she is the editor of African Violet Magazine. Teresa trained as a Master Gardener in Albuquerque, N.M. Today, she and her husband attempt to manage four acres of land in zone 6B of southeastern New Mexico bordering the Rio Ruidoso in the Sacramento Mountains. Teresa’s blog, Gardening in a Drought, won a 2016 national award for best writing in digital media from the Association for Garden Communicators. She has been a writer and editor for 20 years. Connect with Teresa on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook.

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