Okay y’all. This planter was a rollercoaster for my emotions, and caused me to question every single step I took, but the end result is AMAZING! I really love the look of tall, cement planter you can buy from various stores, but I refused to spend upwards of $100 to get one. So I decided to make one myself out of two 5 gallon buckets and only spent $12 (not including tools)!
You can find saved videos and other DIY projects on my Instagram: @theroostingplace
- Two 5 gallon buckets
- Extra bucket to mix concrete in
- 2 80lb bags of Mason Mix Type S Mortar by Quickcrete (you will have cement left over)
- Approx 3 ft. Chicken Wire or Hardware Cloth Wire (the chicken wire was easier to manuever into a rounded shape, so it depends on the look you want)
- 1/4″ screws
- Rubber Gloves
- Concrete Trowel
- Concrete Sanding Block
- Tarp to lay on work surface
Lay a tarp on the ground (I used a contractor trash bag, it doesn’t matter what you use as long as your work surface is covered-it will get messy!). Remove the wire handles from your buckets and cut off the bottom of one of the buckets. Then stack the two on top of each other with the original openings touching. (The newly cut hole is at the top now.)
Next, attach the wire to the sides of the buckets using screws. (I experimented with two different types of wire, mainly because it is what I had on hand). Chicken wire is more flexible and will allow a more “curved” pot, while the hardware cloth will result in a straighter pot. Either is fine to use, but if this step is skipped entirely, you will find yourself running to the hardware store anyways-CONCRETE WILL NOT STICK DIRECTLY TO THE BUCKET. Yes, I tried it and it failed miserably. Trim the top of the wire to be even with the top of the bucket.
After putting on gloves (and a mask if you don’t like breathing in tiny concrete particles—maybe one day I’ll learn to put my mask on more often…) begin to mix the concrete. By mixing small amounts at a time, this gives more time to work with the concrete before it dries out. Add in small amounts of water at a time and use your trowel to mix until the concrete is somewhere between a thick pudding and cooked oatmeal consistency. If the mixture get too watery, slowly add a little more dry concrete until the right consistency is acheived. (You will learn as you go what the best consistency is, so if its not perfect the first time don’t worry.)
Begin to “smoosh” the concrete through the wire with a gloved hand. On the bottom half, the concrete will fall to the bottom and hit the ground-this is okay, just keep building it up. Once the wire has been filled in, plus a little more, STOP adding concrete. This takes several coats and if more is added it will keep sloughing off. Take the trowel and begin to smooth over the wired surface, then leave it to dry for several hours, seeing a noticable lightening in color indicates the coat is dry. (It looks ugly at this point-I promise it will get better!)
Once the first coat (or brown coat) is dry, it’s time for coat number two. I found applying with my gloved hand and smoothing over with the trowel was the easiest way too apply coat number two as well. Fill in any low or uneven spaces, smooth, then leave it alone to dry!
Once this second coat has dried, it is time for the final coat! For this coat, place a small pile at the base of the planter, then use the trowel to slide the cement up the side for a smooth finish. Use a gloved hand to add cement to any uneven spaces, the smooth again with the trowel, beginning at the bottom and working upwards. I also found that just smearing on the top coat with a gloved hand (no smoothing) gives a unique texture as well, so play around and see what you like best! Because the trowel is straight, it can be difficult to get a perfectly round, smooth finish, so keep this in mind and be playful with the look!
When final coat is throughly dry, use the concrete sanding block to smooth out rough edges. Smooth in a vertical direction to go with the lines created by the trowel.
Dust off excess concrete (I used a broom), and drill holes in the base if you forgot to at the the beginning (@me).
Now it is ready to be moved to it’s new home! NOTE: the planter will be heavy- it is advised to move it using an extra set of (strong) hands! For me, this is right next to our front door. For now, I placed the pot my fern came in directly into the cement planter, but aim to fill the pot halfway with mulch and the remaining space with potting soil.
As a disclaimer, I only spent $12 (not including the tools) because we get our 5 gallon buckets for free with a contractor account through Sherwin Williams, and we already had the wire on hand. So I decided to give an honest breakdown of what this project realistically cost!
- Chicken Wire ($8.98) or Hardware Cloth ($6.86)
- 5-gallon buckets ($3.48 each)
- 80lb Mason Mix Type S Mortar ($5.68 each)
- Trowel ($6.98)
- Cement Sanding Block ($11.65)
- Rubber gloves ($4.18)
For a grand total of $50! ($30 if you don’t include the trowel and sanding block which can be reused for other cement projects!)
I love how this turned out though I will say, if you are looking for a smooth finished surface this is not the method for you! This will not create a “perfect” finish, and I suggest trying to make a cement mold instead of using a coating. But if you are looking for a more natural cement planter, without spending $$$, give this a try and let me know how it works for you!