made with love: tin can planters


It’s around this time every January that I start hoarding new houseplants. I was able to resist rex begonias for months and months, but I caved this weekend and bought a few. Now for the real problem- I’m all out of terra cotta empties and bored of just about every other option. I’ve been picking up old tin cans at thrift stores for nick-nack storage, but with a few holes popped in the bottom, they make adorable (and affordable) planters. –amy m.

CLICK HERE for the full how-to after the jump!

What you’ll need:

– Several tin cans
– hammer and nails
– plant to be repotted
– potting soil
– saucers for underneath cans

– With a hammer and nail, punch a few holes in the bottom of each can.

– The holes allows for drainage, a necessity in preventing stagnant water from rotting your plant’s roots.

-Remove your plant and gently loosen the soil surrounding the roots. With the excess soil, fill in the bottom of your can and gingerly place your plant inside, patting down extra soil around the sides. Lightly water and place on saucer.

  1. ginnybranch stelling says:

    AAAHHH! THANK YOU! i need some tips for houseplants-thank you!!! no one better to do it than you!

  2. ginnybranch stelling says:

    also, any soil you recommend?

  3. ynoepteews says:

    Makes me giddy….can’t wait to repot a violet for my boring cubicle.

  4. Lizzy says:

    I have done this before and one important step that was left out is to shellac the can before you plant in it to keep it from rusting!

  5. Priscilla says:

    What should you shellac it with?

  6. amy m. says:

    I’ve never had a problem with rusting in the past, maybe i let my plants dry out in between waterings and they never sit in a lot of water? If you’re going to be keeping the cans outside, i would def. recommend spraying with a can of clear rustoleum.

    My sweet ginnyb- I use miracle-gro “organic choice” potting soil.

  7. amanda says:

    Lizzy, I was thinking the same thing. I had a great plant that lived in a sugar tin, and a huge fern in a huge soybean oil can from chinatown. Both would have benefited from a coat of shellac.

    Priscilla, generally one would shellac something with … shellac! You can pretty much walk into any self respecting hardware store and buy a can of shellac.

  8. Shannon says:

    Love the look, but hate the idea of rust! How long would shellac last?

  9. HANNA says:


  10. I’ve got these great 40’s coffee cans from my grandpa (he saved everything) and this would be great for that. I guess I’ll need rustoleum or shellac, huh? Will I ever need to reapply?

  11. amy m. says:

    You’d never need to reapply. Just hit the inside and outside with a few light coats.

  12. I love this! Thanks for the fantastic idea!

  13. What a great idea!! Love this!!

  14. Sarah says:

    i’ve been doing this for years (glad to know i’m not the only one who has a can fetish), what i have found is most spaghetti sauce and tomato cans need the shelac in the inside where you are planting but all other veggie cans come with a rubber coating on the inside of the can (keeps the veggies from tasting like they came from a can). i also have had good luck with oil base spray paint on the outside of the can – if your can doesn’t come with a cool label.

    and Hannah is right – i love using fancy tomato brand cans – La Valle is my fave.

  15. Buda says:

    I don’t see saucers. They look better without saucers…

  16. Ooooh so pretty! Can always count on Design Sponge for amazing DIY!

  17. I love tin cans and rust. I collect tin cans and try to find good use for them. This is a great idea!

  18. Stephanie says:

    What about taking the paper covering off, covering it with fun scrapbook paper, gift wrap or wall paper scraps like I’d do for my pens and office supplies? Would I mod podge those to get the paper adhered, and then do a coat of shellac on top? It could be the same project with twice the fun!

  19. Oh beautiful idea and detail pictures !

  20. Susie says:

    I’ve been doing the cans for planters thing for years, and I use them outside on my fence, But they always rust and I never thought of shellac… thanks for that tip/

  21. Heather T. says:

    Just wanted to thank you so much for re-enabling the full RSS feed. I never had time to come to the blog for all those articles–this is so much easier for me, and I get to read the full thing!

    1. grace says:


      we haven’t enabled the full feed, but posts with fewer than 4 photos get run in full. i can’t afford to run all the images for say, a home tour, but i can manage the hosting costs for a few images.

      grace :)

  22. Courtney says:

    I love this idea. Much more fun than terracotta pots everywhere – or even worse – the green plastic pots from the nursery.

  23. ginny branch says:


    could this work for vintage bread pans/ jello molds? i have some ones i have thought about turning into planters, but i’m a little hesitant… thoughts?

    1. grace says:


      i know terrain is selling vintage bread pans for this purpose, so i would say yes. but i’d def. put down a layer of rocks to provide some irrigation and keep the excess moisture away from soil. i’ve been planting in old tins this way for a while and the rock layer usually gets me a few months before my black thumb eventually kills things ;)


  24. A. DeSutter says:

    ” The holes allow for drainage, a necessity in preventing stagnant water from rotting your plants’ roots … ”

    THANK YOU FOR THIS … !!! I just had a light bulb moment! I have been killing ALL of my plants for years (yes, even a cactus!) because I have not been allowing for drainage and YOU, my dear favorite blogger, have revealed to me my own solution! I am horrible at keeping anything alive!

    THANKS a billion! Maybe now my husband will let me get a puppy if I can keep my plants “draining!” ha ha ;)

  25. Sue says:

    Do be careful if you are growing food/veggies in old cans, there can be a leeching effect into the soil and into the plants. Especially if you use shellac. Also, metal containers can absorb too much heat from the sun and fry the roots of plants if the can is a dark color.

    Terracotta absorbs excess water, holds it and doesn’t interact with the soil; plants will generally do better in a terra pot than in a can.

  26. McKay Joice says:

    Beautiful. . . Makes me want to grow stuff even in the garage.

  27. Karyn says:

    A pizza place we visited in S.F. last week was using old cans to hold napkins at each table. I loved them and wondered to myself how I might use some at home. Now I know. I don’t know which I love more, the cans or the begonias.

  28. Nadine says:

    Great idea. Old jam jars look really good as well.

  29. Simone Rene says:

    Love this! I have a thing for planting geraniums in Bustello Coffee Cans (Yellow and Red) but now I know how to improve those plantings – thank you!

  30. Love the vintage flair of those planters.

  31. samia says:

    This is wat I wanted to do with my tin boxes.. but i wanted to wrap them in vintage ads or posters.. The problem is I hate crafting and am not good with it at all.. DILEMMa maybe just maybe I will be able to turn these into reality.. I love them though.. they look pretty amazing

  32. nicole says:

    i have had very mixed results with this type of container. the bottoms of my cans have all rusted, regardless of plant type and frequency of watering/location etc. so please be very very wary of this! rust stains all over my window sills.

  33. Janie says:

    I’ve done this for a while now, for my little kitchen windowsill herb garden. I’ve even bought cans, not for what’s inside but for the can/label. The Lindsay olives can is very cool looking for a kitchen. Also DeCecco pasta is sometimes available in blue tins.
    ‘ve thought about clear nail polish for the rim on the bottom but usually just repot in a new can when it gets rusty. (the herbs are pretty tired by then anyway)

    Beautiful photos in the post!!

  34. Karen says:

    I have so many tin cans I have been saving for misc project. Can’t wait to try this one out. Great post!

  35. Julie says:

    Looks really nice, more original then most things you would find in a store. I tried tins a while back, only problem is that they start rusting after a while, been thinking about how to get rid of that problem, not sure of it’s good for the plants.

  36. Steph says:

    Hurry up spring!!!

  37. Caroline says:

    Love this idea, I’ve been using this for a while. The coffee company I work for sells their whole-bean coffee in tins with interesting labels, like the ones shown. The only adjustment I’ve made was to cut off the bottom of the can with a can-opener, then take the can’s plastic lid, punch holes in it with a pen or corkscrew, then put the lid on the bottom of the tin. Works just as well!

  38. Laura says:

    Lovely idea! We use old tins to create permanent floral arrangements! We use the highest quality silk flowers available. The silk flowers have really come a long way since your Grandmothers silk flowers! We design with the same eye we use when designing with fresh! Take a look!! You will be surprised!

  39. Kriss says:

    Being in England is shellac the same as ordinary varnish and will it stick to the smooth surface of the tins, but a great idea. Recycling at it’s best. Have been trying to think of gifts which are inexpensive and personal.

  40. Notcho Mama says:

    Coating the can in shellac isn’t very eco-friendly. Try this:

    Before you toss out your plastic juice container into your recycyling bin, see if it will fit inside your tin.

    Cut the jug to just under the height of the tin. Add rocks,gravel, then soil & plant.

    No rust & no toxic fumes.

    Then if you change your mind, you can use the tin for storing pens/pencils. Plus, no holes to damage your Vintage tin!

  41. Tom says:

    You are so smart! Tom from China

  42. Rebecca says:

    I have a plant that’s needed a bigger pot for months. I
    think I’m going to make one of these right now!


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