Published on 07/25/02

Make your own 'stone' planter

Merritt Melancon
University of Georgia

Gardening containers come in more sizes and shapes than they did 30 years ago. But sometimes what you really want simply isn't there. The answer: make your own containers.

It's easier than you think.

LaMont Sudduth has made his own hypertufa planters for years at the Griffin Campus of the UGA College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences.

Manmade Tufa

Hypertufa is a manmade substitute for tufa, a porous rock formed as a deposit in limestone springs or streams. Easily carved, shaped and drilled, tufa was widely used in European trough gardens in the early 20th century.

Now, though, hypertufa pots aren't carved from rock. They're poured using cardboard boxes for a mold and an ultra-light concrete mixture.

"The solid stone pots are just too expensive, too heavy and too unattainable for most gardeners," said Sudduth, a UGA CAES horticulture greenhouse supervisor.

The pots you pour yourself can be shaped any way you want them, he said. They cost less, and they're light enough to be easily moved.

Follow These Steps

Here's an easy way to make a simple hypertufa planter at home.

1. Mix equal parts of portland cement, perlite and sphagnum moss with water in a wheelbarrow until the mixture is soupy, with the texture of cottage cheese. You can give your pot personality with concrete coloring, shells or bits of colored glass before it sets.

2. Add a handful of concrete reinforcing fibers to this mixture. You can get these fibers at a home center and use them in lieu of chicken wire to add strength to your finished planter.

3. Support the walls of a cardboard box with bricks or a wooden support structure.

4. Pour 2 inches of the mix into the bottom of the box and center a smaller box in the larger one. Make sure the space between the inside and outside boxes is at least 2 inches on every side, so your walls will be thick enough to be stable. If you want, you could form the inside of the planter with Styrofoam pieces held together with nails.

5. Support the walls of your inside box with dowels and slowly pour your concrete mixture into the space between the boxes.

6. Let your planter set for 24 hours. Then pull out the inner box. Peel the outer box off the planter. The little hairs sticking out of your pot are the concrete reinforcing fibers. You can remove them with a propane torch.

7. Don't move your planter yet. But you can decorate it by using a wire brush or sharp-edged tool to carve into the surface. If you want, you can paint outside of the finished pot.

8. Let your planter set for at least two weeks before using it. Rinse it out several times to wash away any chemicals in the concrete that could affect your plants.

Merritt Melancon is a public relations manager with UGA's Terry College of Business and previously served as a public relations coordinator for the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and UGA Extension.