HOME & GARDEN: Upcycled Painted Plant Pots

This is a lovely quick project to add pretty summer colour to your garden and recycle some household rubbish at the same time. You can use the finished plant pots outside in the garden - or you could keep them inside for your windowsill herbs. They'll look gorgeous and cheery wherever you put them.

Upcycled painted plant pots

You will need:

  • empty tinned food cans
  • paint - acrylic craft paint (easily obtainable from DIY stores or craft stores) or partially used cans of household eggshell oil paint if you have them lying around from decorating jobs...  You can also use spray paint - although this is more expensive
  • steel wool / sandpaper suitable for use on metal
  • small paintbrush
  • a bradawl and a small hammer
  • drainage material (pebbles, broken crocks, grit)
  • compost
  • water retaining gel/crystals (optional)
  • plants - you'll need the smallest plants you can find to fit into the cans - mine are all lovely alpines that cost £1 or so each
  1. Soak the cans in hot soapy water to clean of any remnants of baked bean, remove the paper label and also the incredibly sticky glue that manufacturers so like to use.
  2. Dry the cans, then use the steel wool or sandpaper to rub off any rust or sharp bits on the cans - this also provides a better surface for the paint.
  3. Now rinse again and dry the cans very thoroughly - otherwise you can get into a real mess when you're painting - water and acrylic paints don't work well together!
  4. Use the bradawl (or some other sharp pointed object) and a hammer to make 6 - 8 small holes in the base of the can for drainage. Please mind your hands!
  5. Paint the cans - making sure you're working in a well ventilated place. You'll need 2 or 3 coats to get a really good finish.
  6. When the paint is completely dry it's time to get planting.
  7. Soak your plants very thoroughly with water, to prepare them for re-potting.
  8. Put a couple of centimetres of drainage material in the bottom of your tin can pot.
  9. Part-fill the can with compost (mixing in the water retaining gel/crystals if you want to use them - this just cuts down on the watering you'll have to do), leaving enough room to put your plant on top.
  10. Squeeze your plant into the pot and press down, gently, but firmly. If you can squeeze a bit of extra compost round the sides, then go for it - every little helps!
  11. Stand the filled pots in a tray of water to soak for a 20 minutes or so - this will make sure that your compost gets nice and moist, and the roots will get moving into their new home.
  12. Now it's time to put your pots in their final position - then stand back and admire your handiwork! 

Purple flower in upcycled plant pot

If you really get into painting tin cans and have more than you need, then you might like to check out this idea for making tin can lanterns. Just keep on eating the beans!