Easy project: Wall-hung planters

Occasionally we stroll through one of Portland’s upscale grocery chains, on the lookout for a funky gift or an unusual snack. This time it was just before Mother’s Day, and my wife spotted some beautiful wall-hung boxes for succulent plants. “$35 a pop?!” I said (so romantic). “I can make three of those for that!” She has heard this tune before, but she has learned to trust me (mostly!).

I love these challenges. The boxes were just rough cedar boards with a few pieces of galvanized metal inside the front face to hold in the soil and let the plants peek out. So off to the home center I went, with only a few days before the big day. I found the perfect roughsawn cedar boards for the job (sold as fence slats), but couldn’t spot any sheet metal I liked for the front. So I decided to use wire mesh instead, backed by sphagnum moss, hoping it would hold in the soil and look cool. Lucky for me, it worked amazingly.

As for the boxes themselves, they couldn’t be simpler. My only trick was making them 11×11 so two 5-1/2-in.-wide cedar boards would cover the back. A tablesaw or bandsaw would be the best tool for cutting the wide cedar boards into the narrower pieces you’ll need for the sides of the box and the strips on top, but you could also do it with a jigsaw, or a handsaw and elbow grease. For those tools, mark a pencil line to guide you, and clamp down the workpiece on the edge of a table or workbench (vs. trying to hold it by hand).

As for chopping everything to length, I used my miter saw, but a jigsaw or handsaw would work there too. Here’s a low-priced handsaw that is really amazing, available at most home centers. It is a pullsaw, meaning it cuts on the pull stroke, so take the weight off it when you push it forward.

You’ll also notice that I used an air-powered nail gun to assemble the boxes, but a normal hammer and finish nails would work fine. You might want to predrill the top pieces to avoid splitting the wood.

The boxes were done by Mother’s Day, as promised, but not quite ready to hang on the wall. The last important tip is to leave your boxes lying flat for a couple weeks after you build them, to allow the succulents to root before hanging them up sideways. I was nervous when I hung the three planters, but it has been two weeks now and no plants have plummeted to earth!

Oh yeah, you’ll also need a mist bottle. Your boxes will need an occasional spray to keep the plants thriving.

Roughsawn cedar
One roughsawn cedar fence board is enough for each planter.
Nail boxes
After cutting the box pieces to width, I assembled them in minutes with my trusty brad nailer. A hammer and finish nails would also work fine.
Nail first bottom piece
The boxes are 11×11 in., so two full boards should fit nicely across the back (they are 5-1/2 in. wide).
Nail second bottom piece
I oriented the boards so they help hold the box joints together.
Add soil
Potting soil has lots of good fertilizer for happy plants.
Add moss
The next step was a flat layer of sphagnum moss along both sides, leaving an open strip where the plants will go.
Add plants
It was fun arranging the nine little succulent plants in the three boxes I made.
Cut the wire
I used wire mesh with a 1/4-in. grid, cutting it to size with my good snips. A wire cutter would also work.
Nail first strip
The mesh gets tucked under the leaves of the plants and should reach almost to the edges of the box. Then the strips get nailed down to hold it in place. The nails actually go through the mesh.

Nail second stripNail last strip

Attach hanger wire
To hang the boxes, I screwed little eyelets into the sides (drilling tiny pilot holes first), and then attached picture wire as shown: through the eyelets then wrapped and snipped.
Wall-hung plant boxes3
After leaving the planters face-up for a couple weeks outdoors to let the plants root in the new soil, I found a stud in the wall, drove screws, crossed my fingers and hung the boxes. So far, so good!

 

 

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