Transforming An Evening Bag into a Planter

  • 01 of 09

    Container Garden Transformation

    Finished succulent container garden in a purse
    Elegant Container Garden. Photograph © Kerry Michaels

    I love planting in unusual containers. I love hunting for them, I love that they are usually cheap and I love figuring out how best to plant them. I spied this evening bag in a thrift store for three dollars and simply couldn’t resist it.

    Because it isn’t waterproof, I realize that it probably won’t last for more than a season or two, but in turning it into a planter, I want to maximize how long it will last, but I’m even more concerned that it will look good for at least a whole season.

    To this end, I realized I would have to protect the inside of the purse and figure out a way for the water to get out of the bag, while minimizing how wet the bag would get. I also didn’t want to see the drainage hole.

    I also knew I wanted to plant this purse with succulents. I adore succulents and thought their strange and beautiful textures and colors would contrast well with the smooth, shiny surface of the bag. Succulents are also shallow-rooted so I didn’t have to worry about the small size of the bag, and the fact that they don’t need all that much water, will also help the bag last.

    I used a similar technique for planting pink patent leather stilettos and it can be adapted to change many other thrift store finds into containers.

    For more info about succulents check out Debra Lee Baldwin's website and my review of her book,

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  • 02 of 09

    What You Need

    what you need to plant your purse or unusual container
    What You'll Need. Photograph © Kerry Michaels

    What You Need

    • A heavy duty plastic bag
    • Succulent and Cactus potting mix
    • A small purse or container
    • A mix of succulents and or sedum
    • Sharp scissors


    • I used a heavy duty zip lock bag, but you can use any clear plastic bag.
    • You can find succulent/cactus potting mix in nurseries, garden centers and in the garden departments of big box stores.
    • When choosing a container, consider how you will hang or display it and what kinds of plants would look good in it. The technique I used for this purse can be used for shoes, bags, gloves...and many other things I haven't yet considered.
    • I have used a combination of succulents and sedums because they are drought tolerant. If you want to use your container for an event, or don't care how long it lasts, you can use almost any plant that you can squeeze into the container.
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  • 03 of 09

    Adding Drainage

    Drainage hole
    Drainage Hole. Photograph © Kerry Michaels

    I chose to cut the hole in the bag in the back so that it wouldn’t be seen, even if I hung the bag a little above eye level. To cut it, I took sharp scissors, pierced the bag and then cut a hole about an inch in diameter. It doesn’t have to be tidy because no one will see it, but it does have to be fairly large so water can get out. Also, it needs to be close enough to the bottom of the bag so that water doesn't pool where the roots will sit and rot.

    Don't Drown Your Plants

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  • 04 of 09

    Creating Drainage Tube

    Purse with plastic bag
    Succulent Purse with Plastic Bag. Photograph © Kerry Michaels
    Next I put my finger in the inside of the purse and poked a fairly long piece of the plastic bag through the hole.
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  • 05 of 09

    Cutting the Plastic Bag

    cutting plastic bag
    Cutting the Bag. Photograph © Kerry Michaels
    Cut the end of the bag so water has a way to escape.
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  • 06 of 09

    Filling Bag with Soil Mix

    succulent purse ready to plant
    Bag Ready to Plant. Photograph © Kerry Michaels

    Before you fill your bag with soil, lightly dampen the potting mix, adding just enough water to make the mix slightly damp, but not too wet. I then filled the plastic bag with my succulent potting mix to just below the top, tamping it down lightly with my hand.

    If you are just using hens and chicks, they are very forgiving and will survive just about anything, so you could use regular potting soil, if that’s all you have. It is preferable to have special succulent/cactus potting mix if you are combining different kinds of succulents, because it is very fast draining and lightweight.

    I mixed a very small amount kelp meal into the soil. You could also add in a small amount of slow release fertilizer.

    Trim the plastic bag so it is just above the soil line.

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  • 07 of 09

    Planting Your Purse

    separating hens and chicks
    Preparing Hens and Chicks. Photograph © Kerry Michaels

    Hens and chicks (and most succulents) couldn’t be easier to plant. Just grab a hen (one of the large rosettes), or chick (a smaller rosette, shooting off the hen on a ropey shoot called a stolen) and tear it off. Sounds dramatic, but it’s really not. I take off any chunks of soil clinging to the. I also break off the stolen, so there is about a quarter to a half inch left.

    If you are using sedums just make sure they have a little big of root attached, though sometimes they will root if you take a piece, remove the leaves that would be under the soil, and stick the stem into the potting mix.

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  • 08 of 09

    Planting Hens and Chicks, Succulents and Sedums

    Hen ready to plant
    Hen Ready to Plant. Photograph © Kerry Michaels

    Hens and chicks and many succulents can simply be pressed on onto the surface of the soil, making sure the base has contact with the soil. Sometimes to get contact, you might have to remove some of the bottom leaves, by simply breaking them off. Either that or make a little mound of soil so the base sits on the soil. You can pack succulents in, so no soil is showing, or alternately, use a topdressing of small stones, glass beads or gravel.

    I like to use some of the hens with chicks or flowers at the edges of a container so they will drape over the sides.

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  • 09 of 09

    Caring for Your Succulent Container

    picture of an unsual succulent hanging garden
    Finished Succulent Purse. Photograph © Kerry Michaels

    To preserve my purse for as long as possible, I have hung it outside in partial sun, under an overhang, so it doesn’t get rained on and is protected from the wind.

    I water it carefully, and lightly after the soil dries out a bit, though not completely.