Save your money and help the environment at the same time with these DIY log planters. They are rustic and easy to make and look natural in any garden setting.
You don’t have to spend a fortune on planters at the nursery store. Like so much else in gardening, start by looking in your own yard to see what type of material that you might find to repurpose into some eco friendly planters.
Log planters can be very large and take up quite a bit of space, or you can use smaller ones and bring them inside for a rustic indoor plant container.
Read on to find out how to make a log planter and get some inspiration for log planter ideas for your home and garden.
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Some of the links below are affiliate links. I earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you, if you purchase through one of those links.Don't discard all the trees from storm damage! Put them to use as log planters. They are rustic and decorative and look great in any garden center. See how to make them on The Gardening Cook.🌴🏝🌦🌪 Click To Tweet
How to make log planters
Here in NC, the hurricane season is about to start. Damage from these natural storms often means that the next day will provide lots of pieces of trees that can be recycled into useful hollowed out log planters.
As soon as these logs fall to the garden floor, insects, mammals and mosses will start to take over, making a wonderful little natural habitat.
Fortunately, supplies for log planters are easy to come by and inexpensive, since the main part of the planter – a log – is free!
If you don’t have any storm damage but know someone who is having a tree cut down or pruned, be sure to ask if you can make use of some of their logs!
Sometimes, you will be lucky and find a piece of wood that has a hollow in it and just lends itself to being planted. Tada! – an instant log planter.
Other times, you will need to hollow out an area in the log, either to make a pot or an elongated planter.
What size log do I need for a log planter?
All plants have a root system. Some plants, such as succulents have quite small root systems and others, such as bedding plants will have substantial root systems.
Keep this in mind when you select your log to make a planter. Choose the size that will correspond to what you would like to plant in it.
Choose a log with some character. If it has some pretty bark on it or some moss or discoloration, this only adds to the rustic appeal of the planter.
Next, there are a variety of methods to choose from in order to hollow out the wood log. You can use a chainsaw to carve out the middle or a Forstner bit (or hole saw) to make holes and then finish chipping out the edges out with a chisel.
You can also just use a chisel and hammer and chip out the hollow. Some use of power tools does help, though, for sure.
Note: Power tools, electricity, and other items used for this project can be dangerous unless used properly and with adequate precautions, including safety protection. Please use extreme caution when using power tools and electricity. Always wear protective equipment, and learn to use your tools before you start any project.
Do you want a log pot or a planter?
Another decision to make is how much room you will have to display the log planter when it is done. Upright planters will look like a plant pot and can give you more depth for roots.
Trough planters will allow you the ability to put in more plants but may limit the root systems unless you choose very large logs. They also take up much more room.
A third option, for outdoor planters, is to simply hollow out the top of a remaining tree stump for a stationary stump planter. The choice is yours and the logs are endless!
Hollowing out the log to make a planter
There are lots of tools that can be used to hollow out a planting space inside your log. The choice of tools depend on your budget, the equipment you have on hand and how comfortable you are with using power tools.
Some items that can be used:
- A chainsaw (useful to cut the logs along the length for trough planters and to carve out the middle of long planters.)
- Hammer drill
- Forstner drill bit (useful for making holes in upright planters and along the center in trough planters that can then be chiseled away.)
- Hole saw (cuts out a solid hole of material rather than chipping it away little by little.)
- Hammer and chisel
- Safety googles and other protective gear that should be worn for safety.
Mark the area on the log that you would like to hollow out for a planting space.
One effective way to hollow out the log is to use a Forstner drill bit to chew out the center hollow which can then be smoothed out with a hammer and chisel to finish the hollowed area.
Be sure to find a stable position for your log before you start to hollow it out. It is helpful to attach a board to the log with screws to make it very stable, particularly if you are using power tools.
Continue working with your tools until you your space is made and then finish up with a hammer and chisel to smooth out the sides. They do not have to be perfect – this is designed to be a rustic planter.
It is a good idea to start by hollowing out the space with your choice of tool in small sections, rather than trying to do this all at once.
Also, be sure to leave a good amount of space in the planter (about 4 inches in the bottom of the planter and about 2 inches around the sides.)
Drainage holes should be drilled in the bottom of your planter so water will run out and not rot the wood.
After you have your planter finished, all that is left to do is to add potting mix and plant the log planter with your desired plants. I love the look of these spider plants against the rustic look of this log planter.
TIP: Start with a small planter to get the feel of how to hollow out the log and proceed on with a larger project. As with most things, trial and error works best.
How to use log planters in the home and garden
Log planters can be useful in so many ways. Depending on their size and whether you want a vertical or horizontal planter, there are loads of was to use them in the home and garden.
Some of these planters use short logs, some use long logs. Others use the tree stump and there is even one idea which uses most of a dead tree!
Whichever way you choose to use log planters, there is a style for all tastes!
Log planters as window boxes
Cut them to size and mount them for window boxes, This look is particularly nice against brick or stone house, and is the perfect addition to a log cabin house.
Upright log pot planters
There are lots of ways to use them, turned upright for pot-like planters. This works particularly well for succulents, since you don’t have to spend much time on hollowing the hole out.
The log doesn’t have to be big to make a planter like this.
Succulent and cacti have small root systems and their rustic look is ideally suited to a log planter. You can use small upright log planters for a single plant or larger ones for mini gardens.
Sometimes, when sourcing the logs to make your planters, you will come across a large piece of bark which has stripped away from the log giving you a ready made planter ideal for the shallow root systems of succulents.
In this case, most of the work of making the planter will be done for you. Just tidy it up and add some soil and you have a pretty garden!
One of the beauties of using succulents in log planters is that they don’t need watering very often. This not only makes your job easier as a gardener, but extends the life of the planter.
Check out this post for more ideas on creative succulent planters.
Horizontal trough shaped log planters
For larger plantings, you can make use of longer logs to make trough shaped planters that are ideal for mass groupings of plants. You can even mount the planter on smaller log pieces for a more finished look.
Use log planters by placing them on their sides in the garden as horizontal log planters for similarly styled plants. You can hollow out an entire log or a long piece of one and then plant with an array of flowering plants.
In this photo, a shorter log has been hollowed out and the shape almost looks like a boat!
Driftwood log planters
Drift wood and other odd shaped logs make wonderful plants. The rustic look of both the plants and the planter coordinate well.
By its very nature, driftwood is cleaned by the element of water. As the piece of wood rolls around in the surf, it becomes polished and natural crevices, ideal for planting, are formed.
In many cases, you won’t need to do any work in hollowing out the driftwood. Nature does a lot of this work for you!
Even just a piece of driftwood will work as a log planter if you use air plants with it. These plants have basically no root system and survive by attaching themselves to trees and pieces of wood.
This makes them ideal candidates for driftwood log planters. Click here for more creative air plant holders.
Birchbark log planters
For me, one of the prettiest log planters are those made from a birch tree. The white paper bark is such a lovely contrast to any plant and it seems less rustic and more decorative.
These also appeal to me since this type of tree was so common in Maine where I grew up.
This photo shows how the log planters can be useful for more than just planting actual plants in the opening. Here, it is used more as a vase for Christmas greenery.
If you have had a tree removed recently, and have a tree stump in your garden, this can be made into a planter, too.
You will use the same technique as you would to make an upright planter, but make your cuts right into the tree stump. Once you have a cleaned out area, you can plant in it.
There is no need for drainage holes in this type of planter.
Framed tree planters
While not exactly a log planter, the next idea does make use of the tree trunk so I wanted to include it because it is so darned cute!
A picture frame is lined with some wire mesh and then attached to a tree trunk. Stuff the center opening with sphagnum moss to give the succulents something to live in.
Plant the middle with succulents and enjoy your outdoor art! Watering is a breeze. Just give it a good soaking with a garden hose!
Tree trunk planters
The final idea is another permanent planter, but if landscaped well, it can be a focal point in your garden.
Instead of using just the stump of a tree trunk, you can use a dead tree that still has lots of branch tips. Cut them off with a chainsaw for a more compact look and plant with pretty plants.
This photo shows the idea in the Glacier Gardens in Juneau, Alaska – a rain forest botanical garden. The tree trunk serves as planters for a wide variety of flowers.
The underplanting with ferns and perennials compliments the look beautifully.
I hope these log planter ideas have given you some inspiration. Go grab that log, hollow out part of it and add some potting soil to enjoy this eco friendly planter in your garden!
Have you ever planted anything in a log planter? I’d love to see some of your creations in the comments below.
Pin these tips for making log planters for later
Would you like a reminder of these ideas for rustic eco friendly planters? Just pin this image to one of your gardening boards on Pinterest so that you can easily find it later.
Admin note: This post first appeared on the blog in April of 2013. I have updated the post to add all new images, a project tutorial for making log planters, a printable project card and a video for you to enjoy.
- Wooden log, cut to your desired length
- Potting soil
- Scrap piece of wood to stablize the planter as you cut.
- 2 x 1 1 4 inch screws to secure the log
- Forstner drill bit or hole saw
- Drill press
- Attach the log to your scrap wood with long screws to stabilize it.
- Mark the area of the hollowed out opening that you want on your planter.
- Secure the log with your drill press.
- Use the Forstner drill bit (or hole saw) to start making holes in the log. Leave at least two inches at the sides of the planter and 3-4 inches at the bottom.
- Make overlapping holes until the surface area of the hollow is as long as you would like it to be.
- You may need to make a second pass with your drill bit to get the desired depth.
- Use the chisel and hammer to smooth out the hollow.
- Finish by drilling some drainage holes in the bottom of the planter.
- Add potting soil to the hole in the log planter.
- Place your selected plants in the soil and enjoy.
The cost of this project depends on whether you need to purchase power tools. If you have them on hand, the only cost will be your soil and plants.
The directions are for a trough planter. If you want to make an upright planter, use a large hole saw, overlapping the cuts to eventually make one large round opening.