Make your own concrete built-in planter with built in support for a climbing vine.
Concrete is a durable medium and easy to work with. Concrete’s contemporary look is often associated with modern design and architecture, but I feel that it lends itself to almost any style. This concrete planter is a good example. Its simple bowl shape makes it an ideal project for getting started with concrete. The shape is formed using an oversize bowl as a mold, and a dowel is built in for the vine to climb up. You can use any metal, plastic, or glass container for the outer mold, which will form the shape of the pot, but I recommend using a plastic container for the smaller inner mold, which forms the opening for the plant.
I used a philodendron called satin pothos, which has beautiful white spots and silver-green foliage. Philodendrons are a great choice for the small opening in this planter because they do not mind their roots being a little tight. A mattress vine would also work well.
The concrete is easiest to work with when the temperature is between 50°F and 90°F. In general, if the temperature is not pleasant for you, it’s not going to work for the concrete. It is also good to work outdoors if possible for ventilation, for optimal safety wear safety glasses and dust mask. Use a cork plant mat or felt pads under the planter once the project is completed to prevent scratching if you are placing the planter on wood, glass, or another scratchable surface.
- Approximately 30 lbs. of premixed dry concrete mix (I used Sakrete) (A)
- Cooking oil or spray-on oil (B)
- 36-inch dowel with a 3/8-inch diameter (C)
- Approximately 1 cup of small gravel (I used dark pea gravel) (D)
- 4-inch potted satin pothos (or another vine) (E)
- Safety glasses
- Dust mask
- Gloves (F)
- 3- to 5-gallon bucket (G)
- Paintbrush (H)
- Wide metal or plastic bowl with a 12-inch diameter (I)
- Garden trowel (J)
- 1-quart plastic container (K)
- Half a wine cork (L)
- 2 or 3 clean rags
Wearing safety glasses, gloves, and a dust mask, and following the manufacturer’s directions, mix the dry concrete in a bucket with water until a wet mudlike consistency is formed. Add the water a little at a time, so that you don’t add too much and end up with a mixture that’s too watery.
Using a paintbrush and cooking oil or a spray such as Pam, oil the inner part of the large bowl and the exterior of the plastic container.
Scoop the concrete into the bowl to within an inch of the top of the bowl. You might have some concrete left over; discard it in the garbage (don’t pour it down a drain or sewer—it will harden and clog the pipes). Shake and knock the bowl gently to eliminate the surface bubbles; this will also help level the surface of the concrete. If the surface isn’t level after you’ve shaken the bowl, use a trowel to level it.
Determine where you’d like to position the hole for planting the vine and place the cork in the center of that spot. (I set my vine off center.) The cork will create the drainage hole for the planter. Use the plastic container to press the cork down into the concrete until the cork hits the bottom of the bowl.
Weigh down the plastic container with the small stones. (Later, the stones will be used for the planting.)
Insert the dowel into the concrete an inch or two away from the inner container. Set the bowl on a level surface and let the concrete dry for 24 to 48 hours. I always let it dry for longer than 24 hours. A good way to tell that the concrete is dry is when the color has changed from dark to light and it feels dry to the touch.
Once the concrete is completely dry, remove the inner mold by gently rocking it out of place. Rotate the large bowl onto its side and gently pull the concrete pot out, using the empty planter space for leverage. If the planter has rough edges and you wish to smooth them, use a metal file or stone to gently rub them off. Even though the concrete is dry, be careful with it because it will still be susceptible to chipping for a few days. If there is any debris in the drainage hole remove it gently with a chisel. Clean the surface of the concrete, wiping it first with a wet rag and then with a dry rag.
Plant the vine in the hole and top dress with the gravel you used to weight down the inner mold.
Place the planter in a sink or tub to water the vine. Put it back in place once all of the water has drained through. Water thoroughly and allow to just dry between waterings. Cut down on watering in winter. Satin pothos prefers a humid environment, so supplement watering with misting, or place it on a tray of gravel, near a humidifier, or in a humid location.
Place in bright indirect light, but not in direct sun.
Satin pothos prefers temperatures of 65°F to 85°F.
Feed satin pothos as little as once and as often as twice a month spring through fall with a 20-10-10 liquid fertilizer diluted by half.
Take 4-inch tip cuttings of the satin pothos in spring or early summer and insert them into moist peat moss–based potting mix.
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