How to Make a Pumpkin Planter

container gardening picture of fall decorations - pumpkin planter with million bells
Kerry Michaels

Pumpkin planters make great fall decorations. It’s a quick and easy project that is fun and satisfying. Pumpkin planters look great in groups or by themselves, indoors or out. Rather than filling the pumpkin with soil (which would quickly rot the rind), the hollowed pumpkin simply serves as a decorative shell that holds a potted plant.

Pumpkin container gardens also make great Halloween decorations. Paint or draw a face on your pumpkin with a Sharpie pen. Plant grass, sage, or even a succulent to give your pumpkin planter personality and wild and crazy “hair.”

You can use any size plant or pumpkin, just make sure that the diameter and height of the nursery pot isn’t larger than your pumpkin. Feel free to experiment with different varieties of pumpkins to create a stunning display.

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Project Metrics

 Working Time  15 minutes
 Material Cost  $10 to $25 (depending on plant selected)

What You'll Need

Equipment/ Tools

  • Large, sharp knife
  • Scooping tool
  • Medium-sized bowl

Materials

  • Large pumpkin
  • Potted nursery plant
  • Newspaper

Instructions

  1. Choose a Plant and a Pumpkin

    The choice of plants available at nurseries may be somewhat limited during the season when jack o' lantern pumpkins are sold. The plants available ta this time are often traditional fall specimens, such as mums, sunflowers, daisies, dianthus, and pansies.

    You can achieve lots of different looks with plant choice—from elegant to hilarious. Use an orange million bells, such as Superbells 'Dreamsicle' or 'Tequila Sunrise', to get a cheery look. Try a dark, almost black heuchera, such as 'Dolce Blackcurrant'' for dramatic contrast.

    It's also possible to use almost any potted plant you're already growing, provided it is able to survive the chilly weather that occurs in fall.

    container gardening picture of pumpkin planter with heuchera
    Kerry Michaels

    Also, consider using plants that will drape over the top of the pumpkin, so you don't have to worry if your pumpkin carving skills aren't perfect.

    As far as the pumpkin goes, try to pick one that is not yet over-ripe. Once opened up and carved, an overly ripe pumpkins will begin to soften within a couple of weeks, at which point they will become extremely attractive to squirrels and rabbits who love to munch on them.

    container gardening picture of what you'll need for pumpkin planter fall decoration
    Kerry Michaels
  2. Open the Pumpkin

    Cover your work area with newspaper. Using a sharp carving knife, cut a hole in the top of your pumpkin that is almost big enough to fit your plant in, container and all. You can eyeball the size, and cut the hole smaller than you need. Once you get the initial hole done, hold the pot over it and get a better sense of how much you'll need to enlarge it.

    cutting pumpkin for a planter
    Kerry Michaels

    You can also break or cut off the pumpkin stem (though this isn't easy) and use the bottom of the pot to draw a circle, marking the area to cut. Pulling off the top of your pumpkin can be a little tough. You may have to make some more cuts before the top will come fully off. If your pumpkin stem breaks off while you are pulling on it, just slip your knife under the top of the pumpkin and carefully pry it out.

    pulling pumpkin top off
    Kerry Michaels
  3. Scoop Out the Pumpkin

    Use a large spoon or an ice cream scoop to scoop out all of the seeds and pumpkin flesh. This material makes a good addition to a compost bin.

    scooping pumpkin seeds
    Kerry Michaels

    Tip

    If you like, put the seeds in a bowl and save them to make roasted pumpkin seeds. Depending on the variety of pumpkin, you may be able to use the flesh in pies or other recipes.

  4. Pare Down the Inner Rind

    Use the scoop or a knife whittle down out the flesh of the pumpkin under the edge of the opening. This will makes it easier to put the plant, still in its plastic pot, in the hole. Also, at this point, you can hold the bottom of the pot up to the hole and see if you need to wider the hole for the pot to fit in.

    picture of pumpkin carving
    Kerry Michaels
  5. Cut a Drainage Hole

    Turn your pumpkin over and cut a drainage hole in the bottom. This will prevent water from sitting in the bottom of the pumpkin planter, which will speed up the rate at which the pumpkin will rot, and may also cause your plant to drown.

    pumpkin with drainage hole
    Kerry Michaels
  6. Insert the Plant

    Try to slide the plant container into the hole you've made in the pumpkin. At this point, you may have to do a little more carving to help the pot to slip easily into the pumpkin’s hole.

    If the pumpkin is too tall for the plant container, you can place folded newspaper or wood scraps in the bottom to elevate the plant so the lip of the container is nearly flush with the top of the pumpkin.

    putting plant in pumpkin
    Kerry Michaels
  7. Care for the Planter

    Follow watering and feeding directions for your particular plant and make sure it is getting the required amount of sunlight, though your pumpkin will last longer if it isn't in the hot sun.

    Group your pumpkin planter with other fall container gardens, gourds, and pumpkins, or just place it on a doorstep. If you use your pumpkin planter for a table decoration, make sure to put something under it to protect the surface.