Published on 04/14/05

Drain pipes offer alternative to hanging baskets

By Gary L. Wade
University of Georgia

You don't have to use the same old hanging baskets. Creative planters made from PVC drain pipe can add a new dimension to your hanging gardens.

These durable planters can be used for years. Their sleek, cylindrical shape adds a contemporary feel to the landscape. And if you already have the required tools, you can make four of them for less than $20.

To build yours, start with the rigid, 4-inch, white PVC drain pipe used for indoor plumbing. It comes in 10-foot lengths in most home improvement and hardware stores.

You'll need PVC cement and an end cap for each planter, along with a hacksaw, sandpaper, 8-gauge wire, an electric drill, 1/8-inch and 1/2-inch drill bits and a 1 3/4-inch hole-saw bit.

Here's how

With the hack saw, cut the 10-foot pipe into four equal sections 2 1/2 feet long. Then with the hole-saw bit, bore three holes about 8 inches apart along one side, beginning about 4 inches from the bottom.

Leave enough space for the end cap at the bottom and at least 6 inches of head space at the top. If the top hole is too close the top, water will gush out of it each time you water and will wash away the top plants. I learned this through trial and error.

Once the first row of holes is bored, turn the pipe over and drill a second row on the opposite side, directly across from the first holes.

Keep going

Then rotate the pipe one-quarter turn and drill another line of holes midway between the first two sets of holes, so the holes alternate up the planter. When all is done, each planter should have 12 holes. Sand off the plastic shards left around each hole.

Next, drill a 1/2-inch drain hole in the center of the end cap. Then glue the cap with PVC cement on the bottom of the planter.

Finally, drill two 1/8-inch holes about 1 inch from the top of the planter. Insert the ends of a 12-inch length of the 8-gauge wire into each hole from the outside in, bringing each end up and over the top of the container. Secure it around itself with several twists.

What to plant and how

Plants grown in six-plant cell packs work best for the drain-pipe planter. Their roots are small enough to insert easily into the holes. Don't use 4-inch plants. Their roots will be too large.

Plant from the bottom up by adding soil mix to the first set of holes. Carefully insert the roots of the first two plants into the bottom holes. Add more soil mix to the second set of holes, then plant the next two plants.

Continue filling the pipe and planting. Leave 4 to 6 inches of soil above the topmost hole and another 4 to 6 inches of space between the soil mix and the top of the planter. The top space will serve as a reservoir when you water.

Last steps

When all plants are in place, gently tamp the planter on a hard surface to settle the soil around the roots. You may need to add a little more soil after it settles.

Finally, hang the planter. Use a liquid fertilizer to water in the plants and settle the soil. Add it slowly until you see it draining from the bottom.

Many plants adapt well to the drain-pipe planter. I use pansies and violas in winter and vinca, begonias and sedums in summer. Impatiens are excellent for shady areas. Avoid trailing plants like petunias. They tend to dry out quickly.

In late winter, I plant my drain pipes with lettuce and parsley for spring salads. That makes the planters both attractive and functional.

(Gary Wade is a professor and extension horticulturist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

Gary Wade is a Cooperative Extension horticulturist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.