Design Ideas for Deck Planter Boxes

Make your deck come alive with planter boxes for decorative shrubs, flowers and ornamentals.
By: John Riha


Dress up your windows or deck railing with planter pots placed into planks of pressure-treated pine.

Photo by: Brian Patrick Flynn

Brian Patrick Flynn

Deck planters give your deck lots of character and color. You can build built-ins that match your deck materials, or add freestanding planters that you can move and change out as the mood strikes. If you have any overhead structure, such as a pergola, add hanging baskets for flowers and trailing vines.

Built-In Planters

Built-in deck planter boxes often are made with the same material as the decking. With a little planning, you can locate built-in planters so they help define various areas of your deck, such as separating sitting areas from dining and cooking areas. Placed at the perimeter of your deck and planted with tall ornamental grasses or with added trellises for climbing vines, they become living privacy screens. Or, plant herbs to make an easy-to-reach kitchen garden.

To keep soil and water from leaking out of wood planters, they should be lined with galvanized metal or built to fit plastic planter boxes inside. That helps prevent damage to wood from being in constant contact with moist soil. However, any liner also needs drainage. One method is to add drainage holes in the bottom of your liner and attach a drainage hose that channels water to below your deck and out wherever is convenient.

You’ll find plastic self-watering planter boxes at home improvement and garden centers. Self-watering planters have a reservoir which holds water and allows it to percolate up through the soil as the soil dries out. You won’t need to water as often, but the reservoirs still need periodic fill-ups, and you’ll need a drainage system for excess water from rainstorms.

City Garden with Vegetable Beds and Pergola

City Garden with Vegetable Beds and Pergola

Built-in planter boxes made of redwood give a young family easy access to vegetable and herbs in their backyard, surrounded by two- and three-story apartment buildings in San Francisco. The project by St John Landscapes won a 2015 award from the Association of Professional Landscape Designers.

Photo by: APLD


Once you’ve figured out how to get water out of your planter boxes, you’ll need a way to add water. The simplest method is to include an outside spigot and hose on or near your deck, but that means traipsing around with a hose on a regular basis. With a little planning, you can include a drip irrigation system for your built-in planter boxes. Hide the irrigation lines under the decking, then up and directly into each planter box. Home improvement and garden centers have all the parts and can help you design a system that includes an automatic timer.

Waterproofing a Planter Box 01:24

Jason builds a huge planter box and waterproofs it with roofing tar.

Other Types of Deck Planters

If built-ins aren’t your style (or are too challenging), try decorative containers and pots, available at home centers from $15 to $150. They’re made from ceramic or plastic, and come in many styles, sizes, and colors — they can be a great way to liven up your deck décor.

Rail planters are designed like saddles to slip over railings — soil pockets on either side keep a rail planter stable even in high winds.

Remember that containers and pots left in one spot too long can stain your decking. Move them around a bit to prevent staining. Some planters include wheels for easy shifting around. For big containers, you might want to invest in an inexpensive appliance truck that makes moving heavy, bulky planters easy.

Multilevel Deck and Patio

Multilevel Deck and Patio with Fireplace

This backyard oasis features a multilevel deck with contemporary decor and a raised planter box. An adjacent patio is shaded by a pergola and has a fireplace for cool nights.

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