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How to Build Patio Planters

Updated: Jun. 14, 2019

Give your potted plants a simple, stylish home—outdoors or in.


This planter is designed to make your patio or deck gardening much easier. Instead of filling it with dirt and planting each flower or plant individually, you simply set prepotted plants right into the planter. You can conveniently switch plants as the season changes or unload the planter and move it to a new location.

We designed this project to fit any pot with an 11-in. diameter or less and a maximum height of 10-1/2 in. To create the illusion of a fully planted box, you just fill in around the pots with wood chips, bark or other mulch covering. The base or bottom of the planter has 7/8-in. holes drilled every 6 in. to drain away any excess water. The side boards have a 1/4-in. space between them to ventilate the mulch and keep it from getting soggy.

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A full day

Before You Get Started

We’re showing you two planters of different lengths, but you can adapt them to fit your unique space. You can even change the width by nailing a treated 2×2 to the side of the 2×12 base piece to accommodatea slightly wider pot.

Buying the right lumber

You’ll notice the legs are treated pine and not cedar like the sides and top apron. Treated pine is less likely to split along the grain (a nasty problem with cedar). Pick treated 2×12 material for the legs with as few large knots as possible. You’ll be able to cut around knots on a single board, so bring a tape measure when you select the lumber. Choose straight cedar for the sides and remember that some knots here can add to the overall beauty.

Feel free to use other species of wood such as redwood, cypress or even a plantation-grown tropical wood like ipe (available at some lumberyards).

Step 1: Trace the planter outlines

Using a full-size template made from Fig. A, trace the outline of the planter legs onto pressure- treated 2×12 pine boards. Sand the edges with a finish or belt sander followed by 100-grit hand-sanding to gently ease the edges.

Step 2: Make straight cuts

Make straight cuts using a 12-in. Speed square held firmly against the back of the 2×6.

Step 3: Plane edges where the sideboards meet

Plane only the edges where the side boards C and D meet. This chamfered edge should be about 3/8 in. wide when completed. Clamp a board to the edge of your workbench to stop the workpiece from drifting while you stroke the edge of the board with the plane.

Step 4: Cut base to length

Cut your 2×12 base to length, then screw the lower sides (C) to the base. Align the base and sides so they’re flush on the bottom sides. Predrill for each screw using a pilot/countersink combination bit. Then screw the ends to the sides.

Step 5: Shim the base

Shim the base up 1-3/4 in. on each side using scrap pieces of wood, then clamp the legs one at a time to the sides (C). Screw the sides to the legs with 2-1/2 in. deck screws. Use three screws per leg.

Step 6: Clamp sides to legs

Clamp the upper sides flush to the tops of the legs. Be sure to align the upper and lower side ends before drilling and screwing this piece in place. Again, use three 2-1/2 in. deck screws per leg. Next, screw the upper end panels (D) to the upper sides. Make sure the chamfers face each other on each side.

Step 7: Rip deck boards to make top apron frame

Rip the 5/4 x 6 deck boards to 4-1/2 in. to make the top apron frame. Use a rip guide on your circular saw or a table saw if you have one. Plane and sand the cut edge to match the factory-machined edge of the deck board.

Step 8: Glue and nail side apron pieces

Glue and nail the side apron pieces (E) flush with parts C below. Next, nail the apron end pieces to the end panels (D). You’ll notice the inside edge of F will be about 1/4 in. out from the inside of the planter to adequately cover the tops of the legs.

Use paint, stain or a combination of both

We chose an exterior enamel paint for the legs and apron pieces to accent the deck oil stain/sealer on the base and sides. Stain is a better choice than paint for the base and sides because they’ll be exposed to more moisture than the legs and top. This photo shows the excellent results you can get by staining the entire project with an exterior oil deck stain.

Additional Information

Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

  • 12-in. Speed square (as cutting guide)
  • Circular saw
  • Clamps
  • Drill/driver
  • Hammer
  • Jigsaw
  • Tape measure