22 DIY alternative planter ideas: easy designs to dress up your porch or patio

We guarantee you won't see these DIY alternative planter ideas in your local home improvement store

An assortment of planters on garden bench with throws and outdoor cushions
(Image credit: Future)

If you have a small backyard or patio area, DIY alternative planter ideas are essential. Because filling your space with samey-looking pots can leave your garden looking a bit blah, so why not zhuzh up your external scheme with a homemade jardiniere in the form of upcycled household items?

Even the best outdoor plant pots can be a little... well, unoriginal. So give your planters a bit of personality by making them yourself. No, it doesn't have to be as romantic as that scene from Ghost, and these designs won't cost much either.

Teacups, bread bins, watering cans; if you can fill them with soil – it's good to go. So if you don't want your yard to become a sea of terracotta pots, check out these DIY alternative planter ideas at home.

1. Give it some welly with a DIY boot planter

Colourful rubber wellington rain boots with bouquets of flowers in them stand in a row

(Image credit: Getty / Ekaterina Kiseliva (1248395086))

Wellington boots are perfect for strolling about in a forest or a muddy backyard. But, if your kids have grown out of their designer boots, or you're one of your rubber boots has gone on the run, why not use this as a DIY alternative planter idea.

This footwear looks super cute as part of a quirky container gardening design and can add a real personal stamp (or should that be stomp) on your external space.

If you don't have any wellies on hand, shop for some cheap ones at your next boot sale, or go online on eBay or Facebook Marketplace. You can play with all sorts of sizes, heights, and patterns to add interest to your backyard.

2. Let your foliage stand tall with a high heel planter

A set of blue high-heeled court shoes filled with soil and plants in backyard

(Image credit: Getty/Solomiia Kratsylo (1285230118))

While we're on the subject of shoes, if you've got a cupboard full of closed-toe court shoes, you could either send them to the thrift store or make unique planters that add a pop of color and personality to your backyard.

3. Use a shoe organizer

A planter made from calico textile hanging shoe organizer

(Image credit: Drinking with Chickens)

Yep... still talking footwear. But this time, we're scooting away from different types of shoes and using a shoe storage idea to sort your plants. Use a nail to hang it off a brick wall in the garden, use it in your greenhouse, or hang it on the front of your shed door.

Amazon sells a 24-pocket linen shoe organizer, but get your sneakers on because they're going super cheap.

4. Make use of leftover Mason jars

A trio of painted Mason jars with gypsophilia flowers and brown twine

(Image credit: Getty/La Bicicleta Vermella (1205697628))

If you have a glut of fruit or veg, you'll know that Mason jars (aka canning jars), can be used to make all sorts of jellies, chutneys, and our fave: pickles! But outside of food, they can also be repurposed into the best candle gifts and planters.

This Mason jar DIY idea is so simple to do, and you can even get the kids involved in this small backyard project. Because the containers are made from glass, they'll be able to see all of the roots and shoots that form from this transparent vessel. Why not get them to make their own labels or use wooden popsicle sticks like these on Amazon so that they can identify their new plant pet.

Or take things inside, and give your jars a glow-up with a bit of chalk paint. You can go super clean with Rust-Oleum Linen White paint on Amazon, or there are some awesome pastel hues from Frenchic and Annie Sloan too!

'We all tend to gather sauce jars in the back of the cupboard for a rainy day - well now is the exact rainy day to make use of your old jars and put some plants in them! As always, lay stones in the bottom to protect the precious roots.' says Yvonne Watzdorf, managing director of the Flower Council of Holland .

5. Cook up a tasteful idea with a set of saucepans

A set of metal saucepans filled with an assortment of succulent plants including cacti

(Image credit: Getty / Westend61 (681906327))

Experienced cook or not, it only takes a few seconds to burn the base of your best saucepans. So if you've ruined the lining off of your new set, or you're about to chuck out a pan that has served you well across the years – turn it into a DIY alternative planter idea.

Fill your pot with the best indoor plants (succulents look great), or learn how to grow an indoor herb garden to finish your food with super-fresh garnishes like cilantro or basil.

6. Repurpose a bottle of plonk

A trio of green glass wine bottles repurposed as planters

(Image credit: Etsy)

Whether you drink red, white, rose, or orange, we think you'll agree that the wine bottles stacked in your wine fridge would make for lovely-looking places to pot plants. There are so many different ways to execute this DIY alternative planter idea.

You can carefully slice the glass vertically to create two long halves, lop the top half off and turn the neck upside-down, or cut the bottom end of the bottle to create a stubby but stylish vase.

If you're not confident with taking on this fragile project yourself, you can buy a readymade wine bottle planter on Etsy instead.

7. Bring disco vibes to your garden with a mirrorball

A disco mirrorball cut in half and used as hanging planter

(Image credit: A Beautiful Mess)

How groovy is this DIY alternative planter idea? If you're looking to introduce some seventies-inspired decor into your backyard – this glitterball is the way to go.

Amazon is full of retro decor and this Alytimes mirror disco ball is an affordable piece to pot your plants. The small pieces of the mirror will create the most gorgeous and glam of silhouettes in your garden or inside the house as a hanging planter.

8. Keep your plants in a cute birdcage

A black birdcage being used as a planter to house an assortment of houseplants

(Image credit: Getty/Edruba (524287995))

Instantly add a romantic and feminine feel to your space with a birdcage planter. Whether you've recently said bye-bye to birdy (RIP), or have spotted a cute cage at a yard sale, this is the perfect way to up the Regencycore vibes in your front room or bedroom.

You can either buy a birdcage like this beautiful ornate design from PET Store on Amazon, or upcycle a second-hand one using a can of metallic spray paint from Rust-Oleum.

9. Upcycle your tin cans

A trio of tin food cans containing flowers

(Image credit: Getty/Wut'hi Phngs' Wngkh Smuthr EyeEm (1224775702))

Tinned food is a great way to eat on the cheap. But once you're done with your soup, baked bean, or chopped tomato tins, give them a life outside of your recycling center. These small DIY planters are super cheap and require no decorating at all. Simply remove the sticky labels, give them a rinse (either hand wash using your best washing-up liquid, or stick them in the dishwasher), and you're good to go.

Alternatively, decoupage your canisters with your best peel-and-stick wallpaper scraps.

10. Reuse your paint pots

A set of four metal paint tins used as planters with drip-effect paint design

(Image credit: Beth Sy / Sawdust and Embryos)

When you're done redecorating with your best furniture paint – don't throw the bucket or metal canister away. Learn how to dispose of paint properly (or keep some back to style your pot), give it a good rinse, and you're ready to take on your upcycling project.

You can either go for an intricate design or go for something simple and effective. We like the drip-effect that Beth and Nick Sy, co-founders of Reality Day Dream blog have given theirs.

11. Add some kerb appeal with a bike planter

A bicycle being used as a planter displayed at front of house with pink external paint decor

(Image credit: Getty/Cheryl Lee-White (1195240637))

Give your front yard some flower power and create a welcoming entrance with a bike planter. If you don't really use your bicycle anymore or the kids have grown out of this pastime, use your pushbike to create this playful design.

Adding a wicker basket at the front and back will give you space to pot your favorite flowers, and will make your property stand out in the neighborhood – for all the right reasons. Choose a single type of bloom or go wild with mixed florals and foliage.

12. Add an touch of industrial-chic with tyres

Rubber automobile tyres used as planters to house a variety of outdoor flowers and plants

(Image credit: Getty/iv-serg (1175262919))

If you drive a car, you'll know how important it is to check the tread on your tyres to ensure your car has the grip it needs on the road. Every so often you'll need to trade in your wearing wheels for a new set. But rather than give your part-worn wheels to the garage (where they might sell them on), use them in your backyard to plant shrubs.

Whether you choose to stack your rubber tyres or paint them (with a bold hue or metallic spray paint), you can be sure your neighbors will be racing to the store to copy your idea.

13. Use an old bathtub

A white freestanding rolltop bathtub filled with soil and flowers, used as planter

(Image credit: Paul Mansfield Photography (1350589071))

Let your plants bathe in sunlight with this boujie planter idea. The best freestanding baths work well for this stylish setup, so if you want to dip your toes in executive this elaborate design, find a pre-owned rolltop tub to fill with soil and beautiful blooms.

14. Use a colander to create a planter

A colander used as a planter for grape hyacinths

(Image credit: Getty/ Westend61 (970170674))

You're probably used to using this perforated bowl to drain your pasta or wash veggies, but did you know you can use a colander to house your plants. Instead of using this kitchen utensil to strain off liquid from food, let it perform a role outside of your cooking space.

15. Use a seashell for your air plants

Air plant in sea shell

(Image credit: Getty/Adrienne Bresnahan (929338734))

If you're looking for nautical ideas for DIY alternative planters, then look no further than this coastal cutie. Use shells to house unusual houseplants like Tillandsias or flora that don't require soil. They'll look great alongside other seaside trinkets like glass bottles with cork stoppers and boat-related paraphernalia.

16. Use tea cups as alternative planters for herbs 

Cottage garden with teacups used as alternative planters

Hoard your broken cups? Turn them into planters...

(Image credit: Jody Stewart)

Broken one of your favorite tea cups? Don't just put it in a box and pretend that one day you are going to transform it into a mosaic mirror frame or something, put it to use in the garden by planting it up with some herbs. 

\You will have to drill some drainage holes into the bottom of your beloved cup, then cover the bottom with some gravel or small stones, then pile up the compost to turn it into a mini alternative planter. Give it some Japandi-inspired love, by sealing the cracks with gold paint. There are lots of Kintsugi kits available on Amazon that'll quickly transform damaged crockery.

'Perfect for collections of small succulents and cacti, smaller plants or plants that do well when pot-bound,' says Watzdorf.

'You can go kitsch with a selection of your old mugs in fun designs, or more sophisticated by buying a set or perhaps a color theme. We also love clear glass mugs for a cool twist to see the roots too. Place small stones and rocks in the bottom to avoid water-swamped roots.

17. Put your vintage finds to good use as alternative planters

Succulents planted in vintage tins for quirky alternative planters

Bring some vintage charm to your garden with some quirky alternative planters

(Image credit: Leigh Clapp)

Honestly, they don't even have to be vintage – any pretty canisters or containers you have can be used as alternative planters. Keep an eye out in antique shops and charity shops for quirky finds; we love how these retro tins have been given a contemporary twist by being used to plant stylish succulents. 

Given we live in cooler climes, if you do choose to plant succulents, they may appreciate living inside for most of the year, so make sure you have a read through our guide to common house plants for advice.

Succulents planted in a vintage tin as an alternative planter

Even an old seed tin can be put to good use

(Image credit: Leigh Clapp)

18. Make DIY alternative planters from old kitchenware 

Selection of plants in makeshift DIY alternative planters

Who knew the kitchen could prove such a useful source for alternative planters?

(Image credit: Leigh Clapp)

Teacups aren't the only kitchen item that can be reused as an alternative planter, check out how this old bread bin has been repurposed to hold a myriad of greenery. Recreate this eclectic, seemingly effortless look by grouping your alternative planters with pots of different textures – stone, terracotta, tin. Layering up different materials will add depth and interest to your arrangement. 

Top tip: Want new terracotta pots to quickly get that aged, mossy, I've been in this garden for centuries look? Lightly brush over your pots with some plain yogurt and like nature do its thing. Sounds gross but works a treat.

19. Salvage old roof tiles for DIY alternative planters

Succulents planted by a pond in a roof tile planter

Nifty alternative to a terracotta pot...

(Image credit: Leigh Clapp)

Even the most humble of leftover items can be used as an alternative planter. We love this idea of using reclaimed terracotta roof tiles as shallow planters. If you don't conveniently have some nice-looking roof tiles hanging around your garden, you can actually buy reclaimed tiles from eBay relatively cheaply. Fun fact, tiles also make for great border edges. 

20. Create a display with watering can planters

Patio area with pallet furniture and lavender planted in watering cans

Watering cans are super easy to transform into planters and make great additions to patio areas

(Image credit: Jeremy Phillips)

The classic watering can as a planter trick. Upcycle your old watering can by drilling some holes in the base for draining and then filling it up with compost. You can plant a group of different flowering blooms in a watering can, but we love how simple lavender gives this modern patio a traditional, rustic twist. Love the look of this patio? Head over to our perfect patio ideas for plenty more inspiration.

21. Upcycle old furniture as DIY alternative planters

An old aga used as an alternative planter in a country garden

Up-cycle old furniture to create a herb garden  

(Image credit: @niki_fretwell)

Or old AGAs... We love this creative idea from @niki_fretwell, who has turned her AGA (which was condemned for cooking) into a herb garden. If you don't have a spare oven to upcycle, see if there are any pieces of furniture you could put to better use in the garden. 

You know that chest of drawers you keep meaning to take to the tip? Accept you will never do it, paint it with some exterior paint, and then simply fill the drawers with pots of herbs. We recommend either keeping your newly upcycled herb drawers in a greenhouse or somewhere that's undercover, like an outroom – find out how to create an outdoor room in our guide. 

22. Create a rustic feature with a wheelbarrow planter

Wheelbarrow used as an alternative planter

But an old wheelbarrow to good use as a mini wild flower garden

(Image credit: Joe Wainwright)

Has your wheelbarrow seen better days? Don't get rid of it just yet, it might make for a lovely rustic alternative planter. As with most of these easy DIY planter alternatives, drill some holes in the base, cover it with small stones and then add compost. 

We really like the idea of using a wheelbarrow garden as a mini wildflower garden to attract insects. Find out how to create the perfect wildlife garden with our tips.

What can I use instead of a planter box?

'While bird houses are nice for housing small birds, we can’t deny they’re not adorable as plant pots, too.' says Watzdorf.

'We think they look best attached to a fence (maybe a couple in a row painted different colors) with hanging plants and flowers.'

What plants work best in alternative planters?

Want to fill your alternative planters with plants that are sure to thrive? These are the best pot plants out there...

  • Pansy: These dainty little perennials are usually grown as annuals and are handy for colour when other plants aren’t flowering. When buying them, select ones with buds rather than open flowers. 
  • Petunia: Prolific blooming makes these cheerful flowers ideal for summer pots and hanging baskets. Require full sun, regular feeding and deadheading.
  • Fuchsia: Easy to grow and will provide flowers spring to autumn in a shady spot. Need frequent watering; keep moist but not soggy and deadhead. 
  • Hydrangea: The mophead and lacecap varieties are the easiest to grow in containers. Select a container just a little larger than the pot you bought the plant in as too large a pot can rot the roots. 
  • Salvia: Shrubby perennials with intensely coloured flowers. Some are hardier than others, but all need a sunny spot. Flowers from summer to autumn. 
  • Hosta: Arrange a collection in a shady corner and enjoy the foliage and spires of lavender flowers. Water carefully so they don’t dry out. Overwinter bring the containers inside. 
  • Heuchera: Shade perennials with interesting foliage in green, orange, silver, black or pink, with ruffled or smooth edges. Ensure good drainage and mix a slow-release fertiliser into the soil. 
  • Skimmia: Long-lasting evergreen shrubs that are ideal for containers. Grown for their glossy foliage, flowers and berries, they need semi-shade, slightly acidic soils, and prefer rainwater to tap water. 
  • Aster: Brighten up the patio as other flowers start to fade. They prefer soil a little on the dry side. Add some mulch and feed monthly through the growing season. 
  • Agapanthus: Particularly effective in a repeated line of containers in a sunny position. Reduce watering from September and protect in winter. Divide every three years once they’ve filled the pot, but they prefer not to have too much space.
Hebe Hatton

Hebe joined the Real Homes team in early 2018 as Staff Writer before moving to the Livingetc team in 2021 where she took on a role as Digital Editor. She loves boho and 70's style and is a big fan of Instagram as a source of interiors inspiration. When she isn't writing about interiors, she is renovating her own spaces – be it wallpapering a hallway, painting kitchen cupboards or converting a van.