DIY Plant Pot Out of Empty Paint Cans

5 Materials
2 Days
I have a closet full of empty paint cans that I don’t know what to do with – you know the ones that have a tiny bit of paint left that you think you should keep just in case, but then you keep them too long and the paint goes all hard with a film on top and you aren’t realistically going to use it anyway? – ya tons of them. Instead of just disposing of them, I plan on experimenting with a few upcycling ideas. The first is to make a couple of paint can planters for my outside patio.
The first step is cleaning the paint can. Even if you used up the whole can for your painting project there will still be paint dried up along the sides and bottom of your paint can, it’s just inevitable.
If your paint can is really old this step can be very easy as old dried paint often peels off in large pieces. I used a scouring pad for the dried on bits.
Get as much of the paint out as you can to avoid adding chemicals to your plant’s soil, but also don’t stress if you can’t get it all. Obviously, if you are going to grow something you consume in your paint can, like a vegetable, you will want to make sure it is very clean, but if you are going to grow flowers or a leafy plant for decoration it isn’t as crucial to get it 100% spotless, a little bit of residual paint shouldn’t kill your plant.
After you have tried the peeling and scouring method, if there is still paint leftover, try some hot water just off the boil to loosen it all up and scrub out the remaining paint remnants.
Any planter needs some drainage. To accomplish this in my paint can I drilled 4 small holes around the bottom. I don’t have any science as to whether it should be 2 holes or 6 holes, I just put a few in different places around the bottom to ensure water wasn’t going to pool up in one spot and not drain out. I just used my everyday drill and a medium sized drill bit.
Once your empty paint can is truly empty (and clean), you can move on to the next step, which is to paint the can.
Lay down a drop cloth so you don’t make a mess and paint your can the colour of your choice, but don’t paint the inside.
I had some left over matte black spray paint that I used so I could get rid of that from my cupboard as well. Using spray paint is definitely the easiest option for this but you could use chalk paint or another type of paint you have to hand that needs used up as well.
This next step is the fun bit. You can pick whatever you like as decoration for your paint can planter and use mod podge to affix it to your paint can.
I decided to keep it botanical so I used leaves and clovers from my garden. You could also use petals from flowers. I just picked a leaf and put it on with mod podge using my fingers.
You could really use lots of things for the decoration but I liked the idea of the botanical decoration.
The image above is a picture of my paint can as the mod podge was drying. Because I picked the leaves and put them on right away they are green here but they will brown over time, the mod podge won’t magically retain the colour unfortunately.
With the round shape of the can I found it easier to work on one side and let it dry then work on the other side. I was working on this project in the late fall and learned that mod podge doesn’t dry well when left over night outside in cold temperatures!!
The mod podge dries white in the cold (who knew?). I was able to salvage my project by pouring hot water over the affected area which mostly cleared up the white bits, you can see some remanence of it on the pot with the clover leaves below. You can avoid this issue if you have a well ventilated spot indoors that your mod podge can dry out before you move on to the next step.
The last step is to apply a finishing varnish or gloss to seal and cover your work. The pot will inevitable get wet when being watered so you want to make sure your decoration is protected. And yes, mod podge is a sealant, but for something that is going to live outside all year round you really need some added protection.
Because paint cans are metal, they can rust, so don’t leave your paint can planter outside in an uncovered spot. I have mine outside under an awning. The water used to water your plant will be minimal and applied mostly to the soil so it shouldn’t cause much rust. I recommend adding the finishing varnish or gloss to the ridges around the top of the paint can to prevent rust on that spot.
And these are the finished products, two DIY paint can planters – saved from the landfill and growing new life!
For lots more DIY Planters & Garden Upcycling ideas visit the Garden category on my blog here or check out this popular post about Summer Upcycling Ideas from uses for old beach balls to gorgeous DIY wind chimes and Chair Planters!

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Kristen Hubert
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3 of 19 comments
  • AnnMarie Vernese AnnMarie Vernese on Jan 27, 2021

    My concern is the absorption of toxic compounds...which can be unhealthy for plants.

    Paint cans utilized for this project should contain low or no VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds).

    Just a safety suggestion!

    Nice project! Very creative!

  • Bobbi Perreault Bobbi Perreault on Jan 28, 2021

    Protect your plants from VOC? Ok.....

    I will tell you of my use. About 4 years ago we bought a home with a 1/4 gallon can of roofing tar in it. I did not know what to do with it!

    Can't toss it.

    Ugly as sin.

    So, what to do. Plant a succulent!

    I put the succulent in, hung it on a fence, and would you know this is my happiest outdoor plant I've ever had.