Succulents, Cactus, and Air Plants are totally on trend the last few years and as a designer and craftswoman, the modern look of a concrete planter has always drawn me in.
Between starting my Etsy shop, designing and honing in on my products, and now having a baby, time for new projects like this seems simple, but tends to be that thing that gets pushed off the list.
As I slowly get back into my post baby maker life, taking on the concrete planter project was a great one for me. I could find many of the materials in my studio already, and it's something that I can complete start to finish in a few hours.
Before embarking, I was sure to do plenty of research via the web, Pinterest and Etsy for inspiration, ideas and instructions. I did find a lot of content, but I felt like there were some key elements to the project that were missing, or that I didn't feel 100% confident about. I decided to bite the bullet and just give it a go.
The main question I had was probably the most important - What kind of concrete to use. There are a lot of options out there, and concrete typically comes in big heavy bags and are meant for large projects. I wanted to find something that was manageable in size/weight, and something that wouldn't be a mess and would be easy to store the leftovers.
I ended up using a quick setting cement patcher which comes in a handy resealable bucket. Even better, the powdered cement is in it's own bag inside the bucket, so it was super convenient and clean. It came in a manageable 10lb quantity and was about $10.
So, on to the process... First, here are the supplies you will need:
Coconut Oil (or spray oil, more on that later)
Mixing container (for mixing the cement)
Various sizes of plastic containers
First you'll want to set up a workspace. I set up indoors in a mudroom that has proper ventilation, and a place where I don't prepare food. I put a plastic tablecloth down and started by sorting my plastic containers and deciding which ones to pair for the interior and exterior of each planter. My goal this time was to try a variety, and hopefully land on a few shapes/sizes that I can recreate in bulk later for my shop.
After you have your containers all sorted, put on those rubber gloves and oil up the interior of the main mold, and the exterior of the mold for the insert. Rubber gloves were a must for me. It protected my precious manicure and made for easy clean up.
For my oil, I used coconut oil that would be dedicated to crafts and not used for food anymore. I also heated it to get it to liquid state. I read that you can use cooking spray as well for this step. I didn't have any on hand, so I may try it next time, but the coconut oil (applied liberally) worked perfectly. It did leave a few streaks on a few of the pieces, but it gave a unique handmade detail and wasn't that noticeable.
Once the containers are oiled up, it's time to mix the cement. The instructions called for a 4:1 ratio. 4 parts cement to 1 part water. I used a small paper cup to make measuring easy and started with 4 scoops of cement. I'd start with less than you think you need because you can always make more.
Now that the cement was ready to pour, I poured it into the various containers and eye-balled what level to stop at, knowing i'd displace it with the container to create the void. I had to do a couple batches of mixing, so my advice would be to do a few pieces at a time since this is a quick setting cement.
The next step was a little tough, and I got a little too involved with the moment to really document it well. Adding the container to make the interior space for the plant was a little tough. It has a tendency to want to float, so you have to push it down to where you want it, and then secure it.
My interior containers were kind of tippy too, so it wasn't as easy as just adding a rock. I ended up using tape to get it to stay. I fought quite a bit with each one though, so it wasn't as efficient and clean as I'd like. The tape kept sticking to my gloves too, so you might de-glove for this step. You could also try using small gravel or other types of weight inside the cup to make it stay. I may try a few different ways other than the tape next time.
Here is what they looked like once I had them all secure:
Now you just have to wait for the cement to set. I waited 24 hours with this batch to be sure everything was totally hardened. The next time I did it, I waited maybe 14-15 hours and it was fine.
Since I oiled up the containers so well, the planters popped out of the plastic containers really easily and will allow me to reuse the containers for many other batches (all except the paper cups I used on some of them).
After the cement is cured and you've taken each one out of the mold, you could honestly be done, but the edges can be a little rough/sharp so I do suggest a little sandpaper session to smooth out the edges. I used 220 grit because that's what I had on hand. It worked fine, but you could look for masonry sandpaper or a variety of grits if you have more rough edges to sand. I'd do this process outside and wear a mask and gloves.
Once sanded and wiped off (you can even rinse them under water if you want) they are ready to go!
Overall, I found this process pretty easy, and not too crazy to clean up after. The results were just what I expected. In the future, I'd try to find a better way to weigh down the interior containers, and maybe try using a straw to make a drainage hole that would be great for succulents and cactus.
I hope this little tutorial inspires you to do your own concrete project! Enjoy!