Planter box ideas: 9 inspiring ways to show off your plants

From cheap DIY solutions to on-trend buys, our favorite planter box ideas are the easy update your backyard needs

An upcycled set of drawers turned into planter box ideas
(Image credit: Pelargoniums for Europe)

One of the best things about planter box ideas is that there are so many opportunities for using upcycled materials. Anything from apple crates, wine boxes or an unwanted drawer can be easily transformed into a planter box without breaking the bank.

Often these reclaimed boxes will be made of wood and will therefore need some form of treatment before they can be used outside. This could be a varnish or outdoor paint. You should also line wooden boxes with plastic to prevent rot.

Many have clean lines and geometric forms, which make them ideal for contemporary container gardening ideas with a unique twist. You could use large rectangular boxes as a container kitchen garden or raised options could be used to line a path or edge a patio.

Elevate your plot with stylish planter box ideas

Planter boxes are available in a range sizes and materials, from contemporary concrete options to traditional wood. And if you can't find one that's quite right for your space then DIY garden planter ideas are so easy to make too. 

1. Use chair legs as a planter box stand

Set of draws on chair legs used as a planter box

This upcycled planter box by Pelargoniums for Europe is easy to make

(Image credit: Pelargoniums for Europe)

Sometimes a little imagination is all that's needed to transform something seemingly useless into a fantastic planter box idea. We often walk past garage sales, or discarded furniture in skips, which may not be fit for its original purpose, but could find new life in the garden.

This upcycled box planter is made from an old wooden box which has been attached to the legs of an old chair. If planting directly into the wooden box it will be necessary to first add a few drainage holes using an electric drill.

Next, it's important to line the wooden box to prevent it from rotting when your plants are watered. Use plastic sheeting to cover the base and the sides which will be in contact with compost. 

Make slits in the plastic too so there is drainage for the soil. Fill with some of the best plants for window boxes, such as pelargoniums as pictured, in colors which will complement the chair legs.

2. Combine a planter box with a bee house

Small concrete planter with built in bee house

(Image credit: Green & Blue)

According the the team at Green&Blue, solitary bees are in decline. Some of this can be put down to a lack of habitats for them to nest in, so this clever planter box has a safe nesting area for passing bees as well as an area for planting.

If you really want to ensure your planter box will give bees a warm welcome then opt for some of the best plants for pollinators to include in your display. This way your bees will get a bed and breakfast when they stop by! 

Lavender in particular will work beautifully against the contemporary cream concrete. Not to mention it's almost unbeatable for summer scent.

3. Choose a sturdy wooden planter box

Sturdy wooden planter trough with gray legs

(Image credit: Funky Chunky Furniture)

If you go for larger planter box ideas, the increased planting area means you can almost treat them as a decent sized raised garden bed

You could arrange several together on your patio as an easy way to grow vegetables in pots. A good idea is to separate your vegetables into legumes, brassicas and potatoes so that you can easily apply crop rotation to your veg planter boxes each year.

Alternatively, create a statement display with ornamental grasses which are combined with bulbs in spring and annuals in summer. Or go with the best of both with pretty herb container plants like chives and lavender. 

4. Top your planter box with a cold frame

Raised grow bed planter

(Image credit: Dobbies)

This raised planter meets best mini greenhouse is a practical way to raise seedlings and plug plants during cold spells. The frame is covered with a polystyrene mesh that is ideal for insulating your tender plants whilst allowing plenty of sunlight through for their development.

The cover can be zipped up to warm up your soil in preparation for direct sowing seeds after winter. And the fact the planter box is raised on legs means it's easy to use without kneeling down too. 

5. Use unwanted drawers as planter boxes

A set of drawers upcycled into a planter box with pelargoniums

(Image credit: Pelargoniums for Europe)

If you're searching for free garden ideas, this is the one for you. Chests of drawers can be picked up for next to no money in flea markets, and if someone is giving away a set for nothing then you can create some stylish planter box ideas without having to spend anything. What's more, if you follow our tips on how to get free plants too, this may well be the cheapest and easiest upcycling project yet. 

You could mount your drawer planter box on the legs of a tray table, but easier still is to attach them to a garden wall or fence as a unique vertical garden idea.

In this project by Pelargoniums for Europe, the handles have been kept in place and painted a bright color for an extra quirky touch. As most drawers are made from wood, remember to line them with plastic sheeting before adding your plants and compost. This could also make a nice twist on a classic window box idea.

6. Add a classical twist with a quirky design

Classical sculpted head outdoor planter

(Image credit: Audenza)

What could be more modern than an Ancient Greek artefact style planter? This planter box will give a punchy personality to your planting. And if you're a history buff as well as a plantaholic then this haughty character is right up your street.

If you live in an area that experiences particularly cold winters, make sure the planter box material is hardy enough to withstand the worst of the weather. If not, it will need to be brought inside during extreme frosts. So why not try planting it up with a hardy palm or a small tree to grow in pots, which will also look great in your indoor living space over winter.

7. Go for a black painted planter box

Black wooden planter box with two tiers

(Image credit: Future)

'Contemporary shades of gray in charcoal, slate and graphite give simple wooden planters the standout factor, taking them from ordinary to extra special,' says Gardeningetc's Sarah Wilson.

In this case, the dark tones are the perfect background to contrast with colorful flowers. Opt for one of the best exterior wood paints to ensure your planter box ideas have a durable, hard-wearing finish. Use a couple of coats to ensure even, long-lasting coverage, then allow to dry fully before filling with bright plants.

8. Choose a trellis planter box for climbing plants

A painted planter box with attached trellis

(Image credit: Thorndown Paints)

Trellis ideas for gardens are ideal solutions for screening off areas in a yard or for providing support for some of the best climbing plants like climbing roses and clematis.

An all-in-one planter box and trellis combo is ideal if space is limited or if you're living in a rental property. As the whole unit can be easily transported without having to dismantle any large structures and detach a beloved climber.

Ben Thornborough, founder of Thorndown Paints, believes all timber should be properly treated with outdoor paint. 'Timber will succumb to the ravages of the weather and UV degradation,' he says. 'A good exterior wood paint will protect the timber making it last much longer – even hardwoods will degrade and can rot.'

9. Display seasonal blooms in a raised planter box

Charcoal grey trough planted with hellebores

(Image credit: Garden Trading)

Adding planter box ideas to your plot can be the perfect way to ensure there is year-round interest in your yard. Once filled with the best winter plants for pots, you'll get to enjoy seasonal blooms during the coldest months, plus you can always switch them out for summer favorites when the weather warms up. 

This garden trough planter box is filled with different types of hellebores in cream, purple and speckled pink. This will give your container interest from as early as December, depending on what variety you choose. 

Award-winning designer Rosemary Coldstream advises growing your hellebores in a raised planter so that their flowers can be seen more clearly. Penny Dawson of Twelve Nunns Nursery says that feeding plants with seaweed fertilizer in fall, February and April, when they are developing new leaves, will deliver the best displays of flowers.

How do you protect the inside of a planter box?

It's always a good idea to line wooden planter boxes, even those which have been pretreated with varnish. This is because damp soil or compost will cause it to rot and distort over time.

Cover the base and the sides with a plastic lining with a few holes cut out at the base to help with drainage. This will ensure that the inside of the planter box is protected. The same advice applies when it comes to how to plant a window box if it's also made from wood.

Teresa Conway
Deputy Editor

Teresa has worked as an Editor on a number of gardening magazines for three years now. So she is lucky enough to see and write about gardening across all sizes, budgets and abilities. She recently moved into her first home and the garden is a real project! Currently she is relishing planning her own design and planting schemes. What she is most passionate about when it comes to gardening are the positive effects it has on our mental health to grow and care for plants, as well as being great for the environment too and help provide food and shelter for wildlife.