Unusual Container Gardens

There are lots of reasons to create unusual container gardens. For me, part of the reason is to save money. These container gardens are often much less expensive than buying large fancy pots. While the budget is a big incentive, I also find that making unusual pots pushes my creativity and presents a challenge that I love. I'm always on the lookout for cool things to plant. I go to yard sales, second-hand stores and hardware stores to get ideas. I also browse magazines and plant catalogs for inspiration. The following are some of my favorites.

  • 01 of 10

    Re-Usable Grocery Bags

    A reusable grocery bag container garden
    Reusable Grocery Bag Garden. Photograph © Kerry Michaels

    Reusable grocery bags rock as container gardens. Plants LOVE them, they are cheap--often under a dollar--and they come in many sizes and a huge array of colors and patterns. They couldn't be easier to plant. Make sure you get the kind of bag that is plastic on the outside. Many of them have a fiber lining, and that's fine.

    For drainage, I cut several holes in the bottoms of the bags with scissors. I then cover the holes with plastic window screening. You can also use the paper towel or coffee filters. I also cut a few slits about an inch up the sides of the bag, in case the holes in the bottom get clogged.

    The only downside of the bags is that they only last a season and if they sit in the hot sun, some can fade by the end of the summer. Also, the handles can weaken in the sun, so may break if you try to pick the bag up by the handles.

  • 02 of 10

    Colander Container Garden

    Picture of a colander made into a container garden
    Million Bells Colander Container Garden. Photograph © Kerry Michaels

    I love colanders. Even shiny new ones aren't too expensive, and you often can find great, old colanders at yard sales and second-hand stores. They come in all sizes. If you want a big colander, a good place to look is a restaurant supply store.

    One of the best things about planting in colanders is that the drainage is built in--holes galore. I line mine with plastic mesh window screening, but you can also use moss or even a plastic bag that you've cut holes in the bottom of.

    If your colander is metal, my one caution is that sitting in the sun; the metal can get hot and burn your plants' roots. I either try to put my metal containers in shady or partly shady spots or line them with moss or bubble wrap that has had holes cut in it.

  • 03 of 10


    A container garden made from baby crocs
    Baby Crocs Container Garden. Photograph © Kerry Michaels

    My favorite Crocs to plant are the baby Crocs. They are very cute and beg for imaginative planting. You can set them on a step, or attach a string or fishing line to the back strap of the Croc and hang them from walls or fences. You can often find them in second-hand stores, and they last for several seasons.

    To plant Crocs, I stuff as much potting mix into the toe part of the shoe and then use the heel strap to contain the potting soil in the back part of the shoe.

    I have stuffed the holes in the front of the shoe with succulents and sedum, both of which are great because they don't mind drying out, which can happen easily because there isn't too much room for soil. You don't need to add drainage holes because water has plenty of ways to escape.

  • 04 of 10

    Kiddie Pool Container Garden

    A kiddie pool converted into a container garden
    Kiddie Pool Container Garden. Photograph © Kerry Michaels

    Making a plastic kiddie pool into a container garden is a cheap and easy way to get the advantages of raised bed gardening. They are lightweight (before you pot soil in them), and allow you to garden anywhere.

    To cut holes in the bottom for drainage, I used a utility knife and a drill. I then covered them with plastic mesh screening. Make sure to put some drainage holes up the sides, particularly if the pool is sitting on a surface that isn't porous.

    Kiddie pools aren't very deep, so they are great for herb gardens, edible flowers or short rooted vegetables such as lettuce, or salad greens or radishes.

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    Clamshell Mini Gardens

    Photograph of clamshell miniature container gardens
    Hens and Chicks in Sea Shell Containers. Photo © Kerry Michaels

    I live in Maine, so I can find clamshells on almost any beach. For those who live in a clam-less area, it's easy to find all different kinds of shells at craft stores or big box stores like Target. Look for shells that aren't too brittle, as they can crack or shatter when you try to drill a hole in them.

    I've found that placing the shell with the convex side on a soft, but firm surface--like a lawn or a piece of wood, when drilling, gives me the best results--though there is often breakage. Also, shells can be pretty hard and heat up from drilling, so let them cool off every once in awhile if you are drilling for a long time.

  • 06 of 10

    Garden in a Tea Cup

    A teacup container garden
    Garden in a Teacup. Photograph © Kerry Michaels

    I have a thing about teacups. I love all kinds, and I never could figure out what to do with them. I had an ah-ha moment when I bought a great drill and discovered ceramic bits. I now buy teacups at second-hand stores, drill holes in the bottoms and plant them. I usually use succulents, because teacups don't hold much soil which makes keeping the soil moist much more of a challenge, especially if they are in the sun and or wind.

  • 07 of 10

    Shoe Container Gardens

    A container garden picture of pink stilettos
    Hens and Chicks Strut their Stuff. Photograph © Kerry Michaels

    I have seen all kinds of shoes planted. Old work boots are particularly popular, but almost any shoes will work, especially if they are made for rain-- rain boots will weather well. For these patent leather stilettos, I drilled holes in the soles and then lined them with a plastic bag. I did baby them, trying to keep them out of the rain and being careful when I watered them. They lasted for a summer season, and though they are a little bit sun bleached now, they will still last for another summer.

    I have found that you can have a lot of fun placing pairs of shoes and how you do that, speaks volumes. For example, if you put shoes toes in, heels out, it gives you an "aw shucks," kind of vibe. If you put them at a jaunty angle to each other, it looks funny and confident. Fool around with placement, and you'll see what I mean.

  • 08 of 10

    Clementine Orange Box Garden

    A clementine box container garden
    Clementine Box Container Garden. Photograph © Kerry Michaels

    I use Clementine orange boxes to store lots of garden stuff. I have one for gloves, one for pot pads and another for clippers. I stack them and love the way they look. Fortunately, my family loves the fruit, so I get the boxes after we've eaten them.

    Some Clementine boxes have paper labels stapled onto them, and some of them have the labels painted right on the sides. I prefer these because I think the labels can add a nice design element, and the paper labels won't weather, so you have to remove them.

    I particularly like filling my Clementine boxes with pansies and violas. The boxes last a season, more or less, but look kind of crummy after a few months.

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Metal Lunch Boxes

    A succulent lunch box container garden
    Succulent Lunch Box Container Garden. Photograph © Kerry Michaels

    I found this Disney Princess lunch box at a yard sale. It was lined with paper when I bought it, which I pulled out. I then took a hammer and large nail and put lots of drainage holes in the bottom. The outside of the holes was kind of sharp and ragged, so turned the box over and tapped the rough parts of the hole with a hammer until they were flattened.

    I have now had the box for several years, and it is still great looking. I live in a cold climate, so I bring it inside for the winter, set it on a tray and give it as much sun as possible. I let it get really dry between waterings in the winter.

  • 10 of 10

    Eggshell Gardens

    A picture of garden in an eggshell
    Garden in an Eggshell. Photograph © Kerry Michaels

    Someone once took a look at these eggshell gardens and said, "oh, that's very Martha Stewart-y. I couldn't possibly do that." That is hardly the case.

    You can either go for an elegant look, using small flowers, like violas. Or, try putting a face on the eggshell planting grass and going for a "chia pet," humorous approach.

    The hardest part of planting an eggshell, is if you are using seedlings, is stuffing them into the eggshells. Poking holes in the bottom isn't that hard, and there are ways to make it easier.