DIYdiy projectskate pruitt

diy project: recycled upside down planters

by Grace Bonney

well it’s the middle of april, and i must have springtime on the brain, because all i want to do is look at plants all day. i have had my eye on the sky planters by boskke since christmas time; something about upside down plants really strikes me as beautiful and intriguing. but i am low on funds, so i decided to try making my own with leftover containers from the various food items that make their way through my kitchen. surprisingly, there are a lot of container options for these nifty planters! the best are tins cans with plastic lids (items that usually come in these include coffee, instant cocoa mix, fiber drink mix, basically anything powdered or loose…yum!) or good old plastic bottles- the very symbol of consumer vs. environment. i researched tirelessly on the internet for some tips of upside down planters and saw many methods, but in the end i decided to combine some things and experiment with a few other ideas to come up with my own way which has worked out quite nicely. these are cheap, easy to make, and have had good results so far. i feel for you urban gardeners out there with no outdoor space, and i hope these can bring some green into your rooms for spring. have fun!! – kate

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

1. tin cans w/ plastic resealable lid or plastic liter soda bottles
2. a wire hanger (like from the dry cleaners)
3. fabric scraps
4. scissors and an exacto knife
5. hair dryer (if using plastic water bottles)
6. can opener (if using tin cans)
7. plants (herbs work well for these, also tomatoes and some flowers)
8. duct tape
9. spray adhesive (optional)
10. drill (or a hammer and a nail will work – this is for making small holes)
11. potting soil
12. coffee filters or landscape fabric scraps
13. wire cutters and pliers

soil/plants: $10
duct tape: $5
containers: free, on hand

2-3 hours


for can planter:

1. peel labels off the can, then wash and dry the can thoroughly.

2. use a can opener to remove the bottom of the can.

3. make holes in the disc that was the bottom of the can. you can use a drill with a tiny bit, or a hammer and nail. use the hammer to flatten any loose bits of metal that pop up from the holes, for safety. also make two holes in the sides of the can 1/4″ from the bottom, equidistant from each other, and on opposite sides of the can. these are for hanging the planter.

4. put your hand up through the tin can and hold the bottom inside it, and inch down from where it was originally attached. use duct tape to tape the bottom firmly in this position. when you are done taping, you will have a can with the bottom recessed an inch into the can and with little holes in it.

5. flip the can over and put some soil in. place your plant in next and fill the can with soil around your plant. pack firmly so the soil is pretty tight, filling up to the top of the can.

6. trace the bottom of the can on a coffee filter or landscape fabric and cut out the circle. fold the circle in half, and cut a small hole in the center of the circle. this hole should be the diameter of your plants main stem. cut one slit in the circle from the outside to the hole in the center.

7. slide this circle around the plant stem and rest it on top of the can. this will prevent soil from spilling out when the planter is flipped over.

8. trace a circular object with an approximately 2″ diameter in the center of the plastic lid of the can. cut this circle out with an exacto knife.

9. gently maneuver your plant through this hole, sliding the plastic lid towards the rim of the can, pulling leaves gently through the hole. close the can tightly with the plastic lid. put a ring of duct tape around the top rim of the can, sealing the connection between the lid and the can.

10. cut a piece of fabric to wrap around the circumference of the can with 1/4″ overlap. make this piece of fabric 1/2 inch longer than the height of the can.

11. spray the inside of the fabric with spray adhesive and wrap it neatly around the planter, starting flush with the bottom of the planter (where the plant comes out), hiding all the duct tape. fold the extra 1/4″ of fabric over the top lip of the planter (which used to be the bottom) into the recessed portion, adding extra adhesive to keep it stuck down if necessary.

12. find the two hanger holes with your fingers and use a needle or a nail to poke through the fabric to reopen the holes. cut a 5″ piece of wire from the wire hanger and bend the two ends into small u-hooks. bend the wire into a “c” shape and hook the ends through the two hanger holes, creating a handle for hanging the planter.

for the bottle planter:

1. clean, wash, and dry the bottle.

2. use your exacto knife to cut the mouth of the bottle, leaving a hole with a 2-3″ diameter at the top of the bottle neck. also cut the bottom of the bottle off where the bottom of the label line would be. keep the bottom and throw out the bottle mouth and cap.

3. use your hairdryer to soften the plastic at the top of the bottle neck. with your hairdryer on high, wave it near the top of the bottle for a few seconds, until you see the plastic warping. then use your fingers (the plastic will be hot but not burning) to push the top of the bottle inward, inverting the conical part into the body of the bottle. the bottle should fold inward so that by pushing in the curved neck, you have created an even cylinder on the outside.

4. use a drill or a hammer and nail to poke small holes in the bottom piece of the bottle, which you had just removed.

5. trace the bottom of the bottle on a coffee filter or landscape fabric and cut out the circle. cut a small hole in the center of the circle, the diameter of your plant stem, and cut a slit from outside to the center hole.

6. remove most of the surrounding soil from your plant, leaving only roots. place the filter around the stem of your plant (like your plan is wearing a bib). feed your plant gently from the opening in the bottom of the bottle through the hole in the top of the bottle.

7. now fill the planter through the bottom with soil, packing it tightly against the roots of the plant. fill it almost to the top, then tuck the bottom of the bottle back inside the planter, packing the soil in. put a ring of duct tape around the lip of the bottom and the bottle, so now the bottom is recessed into the planter. the inset lip of the top of the bottle allows water to drip down the sides, and not spill out the hole.

8. poke two small holes across from each other down 1/4″ from the top rim (by the top i mean the old bottom, because now the planter is upside down).

9. follow steps 10-12 from the can planter to cover your bottle planter with fabric and attach the hanger handle.

10. hang your planters somewhere with good light. the great thing is that they are easy to relocate if they are getting too much/too little sun.


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  • I’ve been wanting to get one of these for a while, now I don’t have to. I have the perfect container to use. Thanks!

  • Such a timely post, I was just talking to my husband the other day about why do upside down planters have to be so ugly and there you have it a cute alternative. Thank you for posting

  • That is too funny! Yesterday I was thinking about hanging my flowers upside down. And look at what you post today! Hilarious! Thanks for reading my mind, guys. I’ll definitely try that.

    • ossy

      just let me know what part is confusing for you and i’ll see if i can have kate clarify things a bit more :)


  • Awesome project… Let me just say I love your DIYs ideas, they are so simple yet beautiful.. can’t wait for next wednesday!

  • I would love to try this, but… Watering instructions would be helpful, as well as a more extensive list of plants that adapt well to growing this way. What are “some flowers”?

  • Interesting design concept, but orchids in tin cans/plastic bottles = dead orchids. eep. Read up on culture before you lose your plants, folks!

  • I’m really intruiged, but I agree with Ossy. I think having the pictures for each set of directions separated (as opposed to having both the can and bottle pictures inside the can directions) and a few more visuals, such as how to attach the hooks and how to fold the plastic bottle over into a cylinder. I would also love to see how to get the fabric nice and neat. I’m a big believer in pictures! I really think this project sounds really fun, and I am so glad Kate wrote it.

    • Totally agree. Can’t visualize how this works! More pics would have helped!!

  • woah, this is cool. i would never have thought plants could survive like this. i would also be interested in hearing what kinds of flowers can survive like this!

  • hey megan –
    the reservoir at the top of each planter allows the water to trickle down into the soil gradually, so you don’t need to worry about leaking. it’s better to underwater than to overwater, so i would recommend filling the reservoir once every couple of days. i looked online for resources on good upside down plants and found that ivies, begonias, and nasturtiums do well this way. herbs are good candidates for upside down planting and also tomatoes.

  • I’m guessing these plants haven’t been upside down for very long. With my students, we conduct studies on gravitropism – which is a plant’s response to gravity. They eventually will curl upward. What keeps plants like tomatoes hanging straight down is the weight of the growing tomatoes. Those orchids are a poor choice. Anything that is vine-like a nasturtium or mint would do well.

  • hi breanne,
    thank you for your feedback. i did do some research on this, because i was also concerned about the survival of these plants. yes, plants like tomatoes and other vine plants will curl upward towards the sun. but from what i’ve read (and i also asked around my local nurseries to confirm this) you do not need to restrict upside down planting to plants that will grow that way. this is an experiment of sorts, it’s true, but i promise that i went to a lot of trouble to ask for advice from garden experts and show them my plans. but this is an idea for inspiration, so if anyone feels more comfortable planting ivy or nasturtiums, rather than herbs or an orchid, i agree that they should go for that option. thanks again, and i promise to keep you posted on their progress!

  • Thanks so much for your wonderful instructions!

    One bit of advice that may be helpful, if you slice your plastic coffee lid from edge to the center hole you’ll have an easier time getting it around your plant. That way you don’t risk taking off some of the leaves in the process of shimmying it on.

  • cool project, will definitely try it with herbs, or hot pepper plant.

    Just a thought, how about using a plastic tub (like a sour cream tub?) at the top instead of the duct tape + pierced disc? Of course you’d have to find the right match between the size of the can and the size of the tub…

  • I am so glad you posted this! I was coveting these in the stores but money’s tight so I was just going to do without. I’ve also been saving old coffee tins for sometime now, just in case i needed them. Now my tin stash and gardening tendencies have the perfect outlet!!!

  • sophie –
    sure, you could definitely use a plastic dish. i used the material of the can/bottle to minimize the materials you need to purchase. but if that works for you, and you find the right size, i think it would work perfectly. you also don’t have to seal the top with tape if you don’t want to. you could tape it for planting, then remove the tape before adding the fabric. this would allow you to remove the dish to feel the soil. i sealed mine for sturdiness, but it might be better left un-taped. i hope someone tries it out!

  • Thanks for this! I’ve been looking for a way to make these DIY planters more attractive, and I love your fabric idea. I do have a question, though. Is there a way to secure the coffee filter liner and ensure the soil and plant won’t fall out over time?

  • sandi –
    the coffee filter is secure, because it’s packed in tightly between the lid and the plant, and only a 2″ circle of it is exposed. as long as you don’t over-water, the filter and soil will not shift or spill out ever. if you are concerned about this, use the landscape fabric, which is stronger and more durable than the coffee filter. good luck!

  • Orchids are epiphytes, which means you should definitely use bark medium when you are plating them to avoid over-packing the roots (buried aerial roots means dead roots for orchids).

    Although, growing Phalaenopsis orchids like this upside-down is actually beneificial to them because they typically (in the wild) gro on other trees, and their leaves and flowers do grow downwards. The only reason we see them pointing up in the stores is that cultivated orchid flower spikes are staked upwards.

  • Brilliant. But wouldn’t this immediately dry out? Are these to be watered after a few hanging? They’re pretty and very eco-friendly, too. Nice.

  • Wow! This is just too cute! I looked up growing tomatoes upside down last spring as they apparently do very well that way, but all the containers on the market were just hideous.

    We have a pergola in our garden and I wonder if these would last well outside, obviously with something like oil cloth rather than regular fabric?? I’m thinking of them interspersed with lanterns over the top of our garden table!

  • Wow! This is just too cute! I looked up growing tomatoes upside down last spring as they apparently do very well that way, but all the containers on the market were just hideous.

    We have a pergola in our garden and I wonder if these would last well outside, obviously with something like oil cloth rather than regular fabric?? I’m thinking of them interspersed with lanterns over the top of our garden table!

    Thank you so much for another fantastic DIY project, Kate!

  • This is BRILLIANT thank you! I posted on the upside down planters too but was saving up for them – I’m certainly going to try your version first! How do you think herbs would do? I’d love to have a row of herbs over my kitchen counter…

  • oh please tell me why plants aren’t allowed to grow like they want – right up to the sky? why do we always think we have to change something?! Are we so tired about nature, about growing, about the earth that we have to hang it upside down under the celing? sorry, i can’t see the beauty behind this project.

    • selma

      growing plants upside down often makes plants grow more vigorously. it eliminates the problem of their fruits touching the soil, which significantly decreases the chance of rotting or damage from pests. hanging upside down can be beneficial for some types of plants- it’s not just human boredom that caused us to experiment with this style of planter ;)


  • WOW now I can plant in my back yard We always have bugs and slugs eating our little veggies, fruits, and berries… not only is this saving the planet but its saving our little crops!!! I noticed I can also put a water bulb in to keep it moist. found tiny ones at dollar store

  • These are so beautiful and unique! I have a lot of plants, but no hanging ones for some reason – I now have some motivation to just do it myself!

  • Most plants will die as they need some air circulation in the roots. There is also the danger of an excess of humidity near the base of the plant that will lead into putrefaction.

    Maybe best trying with ferns or Vanda orchids if roots can be in contact with the air. But not a healthy way for the life of the plant.

  • FD-
    actually there is air circulation through the roots, as much as there is in any potted plant, because of the aeration/water holes in the top of the planter. so these plants thrive the same way that any potted plant does.

  • Thanks Kate to clarify me this.
    Probably the plants will need to be watered more carefully than other indoor plants.

    As you said before there will be plants that do better than others in this upside down style. For outdoors I was thinking strawberries.

  • Thanks so much for this tutorial! I have been wanting to do a “topsy turvy” tomato planter and I think this solves that problem! I didn’t want to spend the money on it. And now I don’t have to! I all ready have a container, a hanger, spray adhesive, and fabric. I can make one of my own! Can’t wait!

  • So, cleaver… adding this project to the children’s Earth Day craft project for the week.
    This is the best form of recycling…..cool beans.

  • This is brilliant! I’ve seen upside down planters before but they always looked a bit icky- plasticky !
    Thanks for the step-by-step instructions. My mind is buzzing with fabric ideas.
    Just one thought though … you might want to give the plant a break every so often and place the planter out of sight somewhere and let it sit back on its bottom again. Or you’ll have an upside down planter with a plant that has curved itself the right way up! (Yeah, they do work themselves the right way up no matter what unless you wire them down … contrary beasts! )

  • OMG!!! I saw this yesterday on a website and was wondering if they have a “how to” but NO they wanted people to BUY it from them!! Now, thanks to you, in their face!

  • I tried this today and it was so much fun! It’s so great to be able to use something you have lying around in the recycling bin and turn it into something beautiful, and all for next to nothing! Thank you for sharing.

    I planted oregano in one of the plastic bottle hangers, so I can keep it out of reach of pests.

    I realised that if I wrapped my plant in some greaseproof paper and taped it up before I threaded it through the hole, it was much easier to pull the paper through instead of putting pressure of the stems/stalks and they didn’t get damaged.

    Thanks again for all of the wonderful things you guys post :-)

  • These are really cute and simple to make! How do you water them without making a mess, though? It seems like they would drip. Or do you take them down to water them?

  • These are great! I did mine out of tyvek mailing pouches (have directions on my blog) and my son is decorating them with colored markers – for hanging outside – but now you have me saving some other materials to do more. I garden in a very very small footprint, and this lets me grow my tomatoes and peppers up above my other plants, plus keeps them out of the bunny range!

  • I knew those expensive upside-down tomato planters were a rip off! Thanks so much for a great detailed tutorial.

    You rock :D

  • We have come across your wonderful tutorial! We are a sharing creative website and would love to show this on our summer feature (mentioning your blog and a link obviously!) pls let us know if this is possible?

    • sharon

      you’re welcome to run an image and summary text, but i’m afraid we don’t allow for full reprints of projects as our content is created by paid staffers. unfortunately we can’t afford to have it re-posted in full, sorry :(


  • Thanks for the data… appreciated… been studying for awhile, and simply needed to let you know I continue to take pleasure in your writing.

  • This looks great but do plants like it? Not sure about other but orchids.. well at least phalaenopsis definetlely love being upside down as this is how they grow in nature ! but being in the can may not suit them unless you ensure they have a good air circulation, watering them might be tricky but when you get use to it it can be even better than ‘normally’ as there is less risk of overwatering. once in 5 days you can put the roots of phal in water for 20 mins which is enough for them as they don’t like too much water. you need to ensure they have high humidity aswell as this can help them to take water in between watering ! :)

  • We’re building a patio and these would be more attractive than the store bought ones.. Thank you for sharing….

  • Can you give an update on how the plants did or are doing? I want to try tomatoes this way as I can’t afford that topsy turvy thing and I can’t plant in the ground because of our dogs. I know tomato plants can get quite heavy. Is the hanger strong enough to hold it once it starts bearing fruit?

  • Many people have criticized the selection of orchids. However, the nature of the phalaenopsis orchid like flowers growing down.
    roots growing sideways
    leaves growing down and sideways




    if such a landing to provide aeration of the roots of problems I think not. For example as Vanda bare roots in a vase.

    an interesting idea. But we must try.

    ps: sorry for bad english

  • This is brilliant! Thanx for sharing :) I made one yesterday with a bottle, and I’m very happy with it :) Good tutorial!

  • I see no problem with the plants curling up towards the sun, if anything it could make them at least look more lush. I think this could be quite lovely. The whole trick, as with any new planting is figuring out the right amount of water and location. I did wonder though about using potting soil for orchids…

  • You are such a genius, I’m so happy I found this, can’t wait to try it out. Thanks darling.

  • Any advice on how big the plants should be before replanting into a container like this?

  • Hello, thanks for this!

    I’m curious, why do we poke holes, would it be easier to cut off the (old)bottom and use a lid on each side? that way you could re-use or access easier?

  • Thank you so so much for this! I can’t wait to try this as I need 8 and the Bosske large plant pots are so incredibly overpriced!