DIY Upcycled Toy Planter

Turn a treasured childhood toy into a whimsical container garden.

Graduation season is upon us. As our loved ones move on to the next stage of their lives – often faster than we’re comfortable with – they leave behind friends, family and...a lot of stuff. Toys, shoes, clothes and more end up in storage or in your child’s soon-to-be empty room. Why not put some of it to good use?

That old lunchbox collecting dust in the closet makes the perfect vessel for low-maintenance houseplants.

That old lunchbox collecting dust in the closet makes the perfect vessel for low-maintenance houseplants.

A handmade container garden is a great way to put a toy your child has outgrown on display and makes a sweet graduation gift. And it doesn’t have to be just for kids heading to college – teach a little one how to garden early on by turning their baby toys into planters that can grow as they grow. 

DIY Dino Planters

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Kid-Friendly Garden Project

What child wouldn't go nuts for a dinosaur planter? Follow HGTV's easy instructions to make one, but remember, this craft must be adult supervised.

Gather Your Supplies

What you will need: plastic dinosaurs (squeeze your dino to make sure it is hollow) / X-Acto knife / Sharpie / potting soil / small plant (succulents work well).

Prep Your Dinosaur for Cutting

Mark the area that will become an opening with a Sharpie. It needs to be large enough to accommodate your plant. If children are helping with this craft, they should leave the cutting stage to an adult.

Create an Opening for Your Plant

Carefully cut out an opening following your marked guidelines. Make sure to cut away from yourself and your fingers.

Your Dinosaur Is Plant Ready

Succulents, with their often compact size, work well in these small planters.

Now You Have a Prehistoric Planter!

Spoon potting soil into the opening, leaving room for your plant. Once your dino is planted, top off with more soil or small pebbles.

You can turn practically anything into a planter by keeping a few things in mind:

An oversized, souvenir coffee mug finds a home in the garden as a basil planter that can be switched out for another plant at the end of the season or taken indoors until next summer.

An oversized, souvenir coffee mug finds a home in the garden as a basil planter that can be switched out for another plant at the end of the season or taken indoors until next summer.

The size and material of the toy will play a key factor in how you create the planter. Where you might be comfortable poking holes and tossing a plant in a plastic dollhouse, you might not want to give the same treatment to a vintage, hand-me-down tea set. Plan to line your planter with landscaping fabric to create a barrier between the soil and the toy.

Choosing the right plants will ensure your container garden’s success. Check the tags at the garden center – only mix plants that require the same watering and light conditions. Try to choose slow-growing plants that won’t rapidly outgrow your container. Pay attention to the soil, too. For example, most commercial soil blends are too rich for succulents and cacti and you’ll want to pick up a specialized potting mix.

Herbs in Upcycled Containers

Herbs in Upcycled Containers

Boots, boxes, metal pails, almost anything can be repurposed as a planter.

Photo by: Anne Gibson

Anne Gibson

Boots, boxes, metal pails, almost anything can be repurposed as a planter.

Drainage is vital to your plant’s health. Not enough drainage can result in root rot; too much and your container garden is prone to drying out. If you plan to house your planter in the garden and feel comfortable doing so, drill a couple small holes directly into the bottom of your vessel. If you’re dealing with a delicate item you don’t want to drill holes in, you can line the bottom with a layer of pebbles. For larger items like our lunchbox planter, we potted the individual plants, placed plastic saucers underneath and then tucked them inside the lunchbox. Fill in any empty spaces with sphagnum moss.

Colorful Rustic Upcycled Garden Shelving.

Colorful Rustic Upcycled Garden Shelving.

A little paint and some imagination, and many upcycled items can serve to spotlight your plants and flowers.

A little paint and some imagination, and many upcycled items can serve to spotlight your plants and flowers.

More Upcycled Planters

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Take a Seat

Old wood chairs can easily be converted into holders for flowerpots; simply cut a hole in the seat and slip in the pot. Doll-sized chairs don't need any extra preparation because you can just set a small pot right on the seat. Potty chairs work the best because the hole is already there. Design by Nancy Ondra

Photo By: Nancy J. Ondra

Teacup Garden

Old teacups and saucers make great little flower pots. Simply drill a hole in the bottom of the cup, plant the flower and place on a saucer. Design by Tiffany Threadgould

Hat Trick

Give old hats new life as hanging gardens. Baseball hats make instant pot covers: Simply open the sizing tabs in back, slip the opening around the base of the plant and snap the tabs closed again. On straw, felt or fabric hats, cut a hole into the front or top and gently feed the plant stems through the hole. Design by Nancy Ondra

Photo By: Nancy J. Ondra

Desk Set

Turn an old desk or dresser into a charming garden by tucking small bushy and trailing plants into the partly opened drawers. Complete the look by popping plants into desk accessories, such as a pencil holder, an old telephone or a small desk lamp. Design by Nancy Ondra

Photo By: Nancy J. Ondra

It's In the Bag

Colorful purses and small tote bags make fun and fashionable plant holders. Lining them with plastic will keep the potting soil from staining the fabrics. Hang the handles from hooks, slip them over fence posts or dangle them from tree branches. Design by Nancy Ondra

Photo By: Nancy J. Ondra

Shoe Bootie

Leather or plastic sneakers, shoes and boots make adorable holders for individual flowering or foliage plants. Sit them on the ground, prop them up on a rack or hang them on a wall or fence. Design by Nancy Ondra

Photo By: Nancy J. Ondra

Rustic Elegance

For a little Western flair, place an arrangement or flowering plant in an old cowboy boot.

Photo By: Photo Credit: Ralph Kylloe ©2013 Gibbs Smith, Rustic Elegance, Ralph Kylloe

Pails and Buckets

Plastic, metal or wooden buckets are ideal for displaying all kinds of flowering and foliage favorites. Smaller pails are perfect for individual plants; bigger buckets are great for large single plants or colorful combinations. Design by Nancy Ondra

Photo By: Nancy J. Ondra

Let It Lure You In

Turn a tackle box into a unique container. Display some lures in the upper tray or plant those sections too. Bait buckets, cricket cages, traps and fishing baskets also work well for holding plants. Design by Nancy Ondra

Photo By: Nancy J. Ondra

Pallet Meets Shutters

This moveable, raised-bed garden was built using a wood shipping pallet, old shutters and casters. Design by Joanne Palmisano

Photo By: Susan Teare ©Susan Teare

Grocery Garden

Old or reproduction food tins make terrific pots for annual flowers or houseplants. Group them by a theme, such as candy, coffee or veggies, or mix them up for a quaint and colorful collection. Design by Nancy Ondra

Photo By: Nancy J. Ondra

Paint Cans

Recycle old paint cans or buy metal paint cans at hardware stores and home centers. To dress them up, drizzle craft paint around the top rim and add some drips down the sides. Cover with a coat of polyurethane to stop the cans from rusting, or leave them untreated and enjoy the rusty, rustic look that develops within a few months. Design by Nancy Ondra

Photo By: Nancy J. Ondra

More Paint Cans

Another option is to paint the whole can in different colors. Fill the bottom of the can with old wine corks for drainage then add soil and your favorite herbs. Paint stirrer sticks are used as plant markers. Design by Tiffany Threadgould

For the Birds

Old birdcages, birdhouses and feeders make fun and fanciful containers for displaying pretty plants. Abandoned nests, bird figurines, feathers and other avian accessories help to complete the theme. Design by Nancy Ondra

Photo By: Nancy J. Ondra

Clementine Box

Repurpose a fruit crate by turning it into a countertop herb garden. Design by Joanne Palmisano

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