I’m pleased to introduce you to our newest DIY addiction! These DIY concrete plant pots are made with a super inexpensive cement, self-watering, and punctuated with bursting color!
I’ve been wanting some really big fancy planters for next to the front door for some time now, but have you seen the prices on large planters?! Outrageous!
That’s ok, because I have a new DIY addiction – concrete planters! So cheap, so chic, so many options. Although I love the industrial and unassuming look of molded concrete, I wanted to stretch my options by also using vibrant color. For that, these planters are painted and sealed.
But first, lets get to the creating of these DIY concrete plant pots…
Materials and Supplies
To make the DIY concrete planters:
- Concrete Mix (You can use cement mix, this high strength concrete mix, profinish or even repair mix-each has progressively less rocks in it. I can’t vouch for results from other mixes)
- Containers – You will need 2 containers, 1 for the outer and 1 for the inner mold. I used these plastic planters in various sizes, but these molds also work great and have a modern look to them.
- A trowel or hand shovel to mix the concrete
- A container to mix the concrete in.
- Concrete Mold Release Spray – Motor Oil also works well.
To Paint the Concrete Planters:
- Paint made for stucco or outdoor concrete
- Paint brushes
- Concrete Sealer – you only need this if you want to make them plain
Now this is where working with concrete is fun. You can pretty much use anything to make concrete molds. The only constraints are that it needs to be either somewhat flexible (i.e. smooth plastic) or you don’t mind if you have to break it off. I have used plastic planters, old glass jars, plastic buckets, etc. You can even create a cavity in fine sand to make a mold, although it will need some sanding to finish.
DIY Concrete Planter Instructions
Step 1: Mix the concrete
For a 20-inch-wide planter, with a 16-inch insert, I used about 1.5 bags of concrete mix. I used just over a 60lb bag for the 3 brightly painted pots.
In a separate container, mix the concrete with water until the consistency of a thick oatmeal. The more water you add, the smoother the consistency, but your project will also take longer to dry.
Step 2: Prep the Molds
Wipe the inner and outer molds with motor oil or release spray. Pay extra attention to any crevices or corners in the molds.
Place the molds on a level surface. We put our planters on the garage floor and leveled them with wood shims.
Step 3: Fill the DIY Concrete Plant Pot Molds
Fill the bottom of the outer planter to the depth of the bottom of the inner mold. Place your mold inside and fill around the sides evenly with concrete mix.
As you work up, use something to shake the container to get rid of bubbles. We used an electric sander along the sides of the container to vibrate, but you could also bang on it evenly as you work up. The more you vibrate, the less air bubbles you will have in the mix.
Use a board or heavy item to keep the inner mold in place. On smaller pots, we used a spare 2×6. On the larger pots, we clamped around the edges to make sure the inner mold stayed centered and then weighed it down.
Step 4: Remove from Mold and Cure
Once the concrete is set up – i.e. very hard but not dry, you can release from the mold. The longer you wait to dry, the harder it will be to release, but not too early because edges may stick to the mold or become brittle. We removed the inner mold as soon as the concrete was rock hard, and then gave several hours before removing the outer mold. For the largest pots, we waited about 12 hours. We removed the outer mold by turning it over and dumping the planter out upside down.
Pro Tip: If you have any bubbles or pin holes on the exterior of your concrete, you can mix up a small bit of the concrete mix, sift out any rocks and fill in the pin holes with a smooth sponge.
The mix will take about a week to fully dry, depending on humidity, thickness, and how much water you added. The one above is about 4 days after pulling out of the mold so it isn’t fully cured yet. The color will even out and lighten as it cures.
Step 5: Seal and Decorate
Concrete is very porous and sealing is required to make your pots last. Since these planters will be used outdoors, I sealed them with a clear acrylic sealer like this one, inside and out.
I used Unicorn SPiT in this project specifically because it has a dimensional quality where colors look velvety in texture and then sealed them.
Optional: Make Self-Watering Containers
For the larger planters especially, I prefer to make self-watering plants because it is so easy!
- Cut a plastic bottle in half – 2 liter soda bottles work great for large planters.
- For large planters, place an old clean t-shirt through the cap so it can reach the bottom of the planter. For smaller planters, poke a hole through the bottle cap and thread a long string through the hole. The string should be made of cotton or other wicking material. I find the easiest way to put a hole in the lid is to warm the plastic with a lighter and then punch a hole. The string should not be pinched and there should be several inches coming from the top.
- Place it cut side down in the bottom of the planter. The top of the bottle should not be higher than half the depth.
- Drill a small overflow hole into the side of the pot. The hole should be at least 1-2 inches below the top of the lid.
- Place some gravel around the soda bottle. Lay the potting mix over top of that and plant as desired.
Instead of paying at least $50 each, the 20-inch planter pots cost about $18 per planter for 2 giant planters.
And they look great to boot!
Important tip: A proper fitting mold that doesn’t leave an extra thick bottom is best! I cut rapid foam to place below the inner mold to reduce the weight. Even with this, the largest planters are approximately 60lbs before potting mix or plants. (The wind will not be knocking these babies over.)
More Outdoor DIY Ideas
- How To Refresh Your Front Porch
- How To Spray Paint Outdoor Furniture
- DIY Outdoor Hoop Wreath
- How To Hang Outdoor String Lights
The preferred mix for planters or other molded concrete projects is one without a lot of gravel and large pebbles, but high strength. A fine finish concrete such as Rapid Set Non-shrinking.
To make concrete molds, you can build the molds with plywood, use flexible plastic containers, and even make cavity molds out of sand.
If the mold doesn’t fit very well, particularly on the bottom, the concrete planters can be VERY heavy. If you want to reduce some of the weight, you can cut foam blocks to shape and attach to the inner mold. You will have to chip out the foam after curing.
Have you done any molds with concrete? I would love to hear about your experiences.
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DIY Concrete Plant Pots
- 2 Containers to Use as Molds- 1 for the outer and 1 for the inner mold.
- Container to Mix Concrete In
- Paint Brushes
- Something to vibrate the mold (We use a disc sander)
- 55 lbs Concrete Mix you can use cement mix, this high strength concrete mix, profinish or even repair mix
- 1 Concrete Mold Release Spray
- 1 Concrete Sealer Or paint with a sealing paint.
- Mix the concrete. In a separate container, mix the concrete with water until the consistency of a thick oatmeal. The more water you add, the smoother the consistency, but your project will also take longer to dry.
- Prep the Molds. Wipe the inner and outer molds with motor oil or release spray. Make sure to get crevices or corners well. Place the molds on a level surface.
- Fill the mold. Fill the bottom of the outer planter to the depth of the bottom of the inner mold. Place your mold inside and fill around the sides evenly with concrete mix. As you work up, shake the container to get rid of bubbles. Use a board or heavy item to keep the inner mold in place.
- Remove the Mold. Once the concrete is set up – i.e. very hard but not dry, you can release from the mold. The longer you wait to dry, the harder it will be to release, but not too early because edges may stick to the mold or become brittle. For the largest pots, we waited about 12 hours. Allow to fully cure and dry.
- Seal and decorate. Concrete is very porous and sealing is required to make your pots last. Since these planters will be used outdoors, I sealed them with a clear acrylic sealer like this one, inside and out.
Thanks for this Rachel, looking forward to trying it. It seems that the inside configuration of the outside pot is a very important thing to examine as the reverse on that will be the “design” of the pot. The look of your finished pots is great, just not sure how easy it is to find a pot to be a mold that will create that.
Also, to keep the functionality of drainage on the finished pots. I assume you can carefully drill them using concrete bits or do you recommend adding some appropriately sized pvc in the mold
Yes, I added a drainage hole with a concrete bit. I got my molds from Lowes because they have those plastic pots in multiple sizes. Of course, the thicker the sides, the heavier the pot will be. My largest pot is about 60lbs, but its at my mailbox so I never have to worry about it being stolen, haha. 🙂 Another option is concrete tubes in multiple sizes. Those are pretty inexpensive and give a modern looking plant pot.
Yes, this is great, thank you. For some reason I’m having trouble visualizing the self watering piece. Maybe a pic like the other great shots shown would give me that ‘ah ha’ moment.
I actually have shot a video for the self-watering build, including the same pot. However, editing takes a lot of time and other responsibilities have kept me from getting it finished. The best tutorial I know currently would be this one. However, I changed mine slightly to use dirt as a wick rather than t-shirts.
Love this! Waiting for spring to try this. Wish you would show more pics. Like all your supplies and the molds you used before. Love it@
Sue in Vt says
I adore this idea! I was dreading purchasing the large blue pots required for my landscaping plan, but this will make it much easier on the pocketbook! Thank you.