DIYdiy projectskate pruitt

diy project: garden pot pick-me-up

by Grace Bonney

planting season!! so exciting. i want to admit right here and now that i am NOT a green thumb, by any means. i have the desire to improve though, so i guess that counts for something. i know there are lots of fancy new garden pots on the market, but if you’re anything like me you probably have a few plain pots lying around, or maybe you’ve been lucky to find some abandoned on the street- or maybe you just don’t want to spend an arm and a leg on a garden pot! well here’s good news: you don’t have to. i decided to drag out some of my boring old pots (which was kind of like sorting through empty coffins. to all the plants i have murdered, i am sorry!) and give them a pick-me-up for spring. this is super quick and easy, and is completely customizable to your personal design sensibilities. these would also make a cute gift for a friend with a pretty plant and a card tucked inside. the great part is that these cost next to nothing, and they inspire me to get it together and attend to my plants properly. i’ll keep you posted :) have fun, and happy spring! –kate

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

1. pots, jars, etc. – anything suitable for planting
2. stickers (the garage sale label dots are perfect)
3. masking or painters tape
4. scissors
5. spray paint in various colors
6. waterproof sealant spray
7. exacto blade

spray paint $5
waterproof spray: $3
pots: varies, hopefully you have some lying around

1 hour (plus drying time)

1. clean off your pots/containers and dry them completely. it’s okay if your terra cotta pots aren’t spotless, just clean them as best you can and dry them.

2. for the polka dot pots, simply place the dot label stickers on the surface of a pot in a random pattern, trying to space them equally apart. rub over the stickers firmly with your fingers to get rid of any air bubbles and to ensure the stickers are fully stuck to the surface.

3. for the triangle design, use your scissors to cut the painter’s tape into small squares. then cut the squares on half at a 45 degree angle to create identical right triangles. place these however you wish to create a geometric pattern. again, make sure you rub the tape firmly to stick it down on the surface with no lumps or wrinkles.

4. for the diagonal stripe design, take a strip of tape (i bought a thinner tape with a 1/2″ width for this one. it should be available at art stores, or you can try to cut your regular tape into thinner widths) and run it along the jar or pot at a roughly 60 degree angle. user your fingers to push down the tape around any bumps or curves on the pot and eyeball the line of the tape to make sure it stays consistent. then follow with another piece of tape, eyeballing the distance between the two pieces and keeping that distance constant. you can smooth the tape over the bottom and top of the container/pot because you will not see these surfaces once the pot has a plant in it.

5. when all of your containers have their designs taped on, take them to a well ventilated area with a large painting surface spread out (cardboard or a tarp works great). spray them with an even coat of paint from all angles, letting the pot dry before moving or turning it for further spraying to avoid any smudges. if you are using different colors, you need to have at least 3 feet of distance between pots so one color paint doesn’t travel onto another color pot while painting. let all pots dry completely.

6. once pots are dry, use the exacto blade to pull off the stickers one at a time, peeling them away gently to expose the non-painted surface.

7. once all stickers are removed, spray all pots with a coat of waterproof sealant, which will protect your designs, and allow them to dry.

8. put a pretty plant inside, give to a friend or keep for yourself, and try not to kill it by over-watering…shame on me.


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  • This is a very cute idea. I love the dots! I once did a similar thing – painting a clay pot with acrylic paint. The problem was that the clay allows water to seep through – it’s part of what makes a clay pot a happy home for a plant. But because the acrylic is not water permeable, the moisture made the paint bubble up and peel off! I think the paint will stick well to non-porous surfaces (like plastic) but I don’t think this will work well on clay.

  • green key –
    that is interesting. i have painted terra cotta pots with acrylic paint before, and have had no problems with them bubbling..maybe because the pots never got soaked in rain. i am pretty sure that these pots will stay intact, especially if they stay indoors.

  • Kate and Green Key-
    I usually paint my terra cotta pots on the inside, too (not neglecting the sides of the drainage hole) and spray with clear acrylic sealant. They will be fine for several years (outdoors).

  • For terra cotta pots–
    There’s a sealant spray you can get (found it by the isle with the pots at my local store); spray the inside as well as the outside of the pot. Then you can paint with acrylic and the paint shouldn’t bubble. Also, you can get pottery paints from the craft store (not as many colors but they really work well for outdoor pots). I LOVE painting flower pots–so fun, and so cute!

  • What a nice idea for spring! I have some large plastic pots that are rather ugly; do you know if they can be spray painted as well?

  • leanne –
    you can definitely paint the plastic. if the plastic is super glossy, you might want to start with a primer spray (which clings to surfaces better than glossy paints). test on the bottom of the pot to check. but i say go for it!

  • This is an incredibly cute (and simple) idea, but I want to point out that glass jars do not make ideal pots because there’s no hole in the bottom, nor is there any way to put one there. Without a drainage hole, water will accumulate at the bottom and cause the plant to die…

  • I am currently experimenting with painting terra cotta pots for the first time. I am making lighthouses. I can’t seem to get a good stencil. and when I do, the paint runs underneath the stencil and it messes up the whole thing. so I use stickers and clear polyurathane spray to seal it.

  • I have recently started painting terra cotta pots. I make lighthouses. I found that using a small level makes them straight. the first few were disaster. they looked like the leaning tower of piza. LOL. but my husband showed me how to use a level, now the stand straight and tall. I only wish I could draw. there are some beautiful drawings on some of the ones I have seen on the internet.