Dressing Your Planters for Less!

Spring is here, so you’ll be getting my “low-down” on how to dress your planters up for less!
Luckily, I have the prefect candidate!  Wow! That’s bad!

There will be two parts to this post.
1.) Beautifying your pot or planters
2.) How to pay less when filling them!
So, let’s tackle #1.  I decided to go with an antiqued gold for my two front planters. I’ve always wanted to paint them, but never have gotten around to it. 
I picked these planters up a couple years back for $7 each at a yard sale. They are very textured, which will make the antiquing part fun!
Metallic gold spray paint for around $5.50.

Ya, they looked a little crazy at first. Don’t worry, they’ll get better. See my short cut, I didn’t want to unload all the dirt. I was wondering how it would work painting them with the plants still in, and it worked just fine. 

To antique the planter. I wanted to use an oil-based paint. I’m sure a water-based one would be fine, but I was (probably overly) worried about it and went for the oil-based. This varnish and paint I had around my house. I used mostly the varnish, with a little black mixed in.

My classy mixing surface….just keepin’ it real. 

I wish I would have taken a better picture of this process, but basically I painted and wiped off the mixture in sections. I used mostly wet wipes to wipe off the varnish/paint mixture immediately after I applied it. 

Now on to #2: Filling the planter.
They say to think… 
* Fill
* Spill
* and Thrill

when planting planters.
Meaning, at least one plant should be used as a filler, one should eventually spill over the side and one should be colorful the visually be the “thriller”.
This grass I use on both sides of the Arbavida that sits in the middle of the planter (boxwood would look better than Arbavida, but I’m cheap, so Arbavida it is.)
* Do you know you can cut most grasses. I cut these in 1/2. I have two planters, so this usually saves me around $8-$10, since I’ll need 4 grassy “poofs” by the end of planting. 

* For the spiller, I steal from my yard. I find the root of the Ivy (it doesn’t have to be a very big root) and cut it off from the root down. A shoot of Ivy (I’m pretty sure they are called shoots, correct me if I’m wrong), will have a root about two feet up. Just follow the end of the shoot up to find it. 

You can see the root by the blade of the knife below. By using this, I will have mature looking ivy already spilling out of my planter, and it will be FREE 🙂  I use this in all of my planters and window boxes. It saves me a lot of money! If you don’t have Ivy, or a vine, maybe you have a friend that does, or a park that needs trimming!
* If you do try using Ivy, water it really well for a few days, after you plant it. It will look wilt for a few days until the root takes hold. 

The Ivy is usually much longer than I need. I sometime plant it in the back and send both of  it’s shoots around each side of the planter. The arrow farthest to the right is where I planted the root. The other two arrows show where the ivy strands are coming around the planter and spilling over the side. I usually plant 2-3 ivy plants per planter. Of course, it may be easier to manage them, if you just trim them. Notice I have a rock holding one of the shoots away from my Alyssum. 

* Filler is also available in many yards. If you have a plant that reseeds itself (like the Alyssum below), or even a perineal that you like, these are the perfect plants to divide and plant in a planter. 

* “Thriller” plants are probably best if you use an annual. These will last almost all season, possibly even into the fall, and will look bright if you have them in the right amount of sunlight. You can usually find these on sale this time of year. 
I found these Geraniums for $1.29 per plant.  (you can also see a close up below of the painted planter). 
In this picture you can see the Alyssum and the grass (the fillers), and the Geraniums (the thriller). 

…and here you can see the Ivy (the spiller).

So let’s see the $ run down:
Paint: $5.50
Home made glaze from paint I had: Free
3 Geraniums: (with tax) about $4.
Alyssum: Free
Abavida: $10. (Free if I wouldn’t have killed this one. Probably just need to water it earlier in the spring.)
Ivy: Free
Total:  under $10 per planter (on the side where I didn’t kill the Arbavida). $20 on the side where I did have to replace it. You can buy cute little Arbavidas for $5. They work too. 
Not too bad since I started with this…
…and went to this!

This project has been featured at:

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Wednesday morning


  1. Oh I like that, she got a really nice facelift

  2. Beautiful!!!!! Looks amazing Katie! Love the ivy!

  3. Fabulous tutorial, Katie. I have a ton of ivy and NEVER thought to use them for fillers. Probably would have gone out and bought a bunch of vinca or sweet potatoe vine. Not anymore. I’m sharing this on FB so all my thrifty friends will use the same ideas.

    And I love the urns – great job.

    • Thanks Heather! Give them lots of water for a few days to get the roots going. They will look a little wilt for a couple days, but then they seem to recover and do well 🙂


  4. 100% better. Love the way it turned out and love how you had many of the plants on hand. 🙂
    Tami @ Curb Alert!

  5. Very pretty! I need to re-do my planters this weekend.

  6. This looks like a professional landscape artist did it – good job!

  7. What a transformation! Your planters look fabulous!

    Fantastic tips, Katie! I just made some planters for the porch and they are missing the “spill” element from your formula. I will definitely remember this when I switch over to my summer arrangements once it warms up for good.

  8. Katie- That looks just great. I bought some Frasier firs last year and a couple more this year for the filler part. They are cheap too, and I just love the way they look.

    You did a WONDERFUL job on your pot and putting the whole planting together. xo Diana

  9. LOVE the pots with gold and the black varnish. They turned out so good! I also like the idea of using things you have in your garden when you can. I was so surprised at the costs of plants this season! Oh well, I only plant a few containers, so it wasn’t too bad. Anyway, love the update! It looks great!!

    Vicky @ sleeping in an unmade bed

  10. Hey there! I just added myself to your followers for support and wanted to invite you to come enter a fabulous MODCLOTH giveaway I’m having right now!!

    Hope to see you there! Thanks so much!


  11. Beautiful!! Thanks for the tips. I tend to rob vinca vine form my flower bed, so glad to see you dividing grasses too. Will try that. Heather sent me here (New House New Home) Gorgeous!!

  12. Love the planters! I really need to give this a try! Just stopping by from Today’s Creative! Congratulations on being featured!

  13. Great makeover of your pot, Katie! I love the way it turned out. Love the plants you put in around the base, too. I always split my plants. I just got an 6 inch pot of petunias but it was really 3-4 plants in one pot, so they came apart quite easily. So that saved me some money there. I also will always look at the clearance plants that are on clearance because they are root bound. I get them out of the pots and slice into them to free up those roots. They always turn out fine.

  14. yay a great makeover and i learned a lot toO!

  15. Great makeover! Love the bronze color!

  16. Just painting the pot made a world of difference – thanks for the tips!

  17. Looks like you and I spent the week doing the same thing – repotting and transplanting. Love the antiqued finish and the fill, spill, thrill mantra. I followed you over from The Shabby Nest. You might be interested in my gardening post. Come over to Distressed Donna Down Home – “First You Love It…” post. I have one plant for you to try – stonecrop!


  18. That’s awesome! Great tips:0)

  19. Looks awesome! Wish I had seen this before I put mine together

  20. Great transformation! You’d pay a fortune for those urns. Thanks for sharing at this week’s link party!

  21. Great makeover! I love the antiqueing! Saw you at Serendipity and Spice!

  22. Hi Katie, I found you through Serendipity and Spice’s Manic Monday party. Thank you for this great idea and the work you went to in order to give all the instructions. What a great finished product. You certainly made something beautiful out of the ordinary. Bravo! Hope you’ll stop by and visit at Quirky Vistas sometime! I’m now following you. Hope you’ll come by and do the same! Thanks!


  23. Wow, what a difference! great job!

  24. Gorgeous! I’m embarrassed to say that my planter is still sitting vacant in front of our house. You’ve inspired me to get my butt in motion. Thanks so much for sharing at Whimsy Wednesdays.

  25. YOu know, I bought 2 small pots of ivy today , to use as trailers, and then remembered that there is TONS of ivy growing between our house and the next door neighbor. Oh well, they were only $1.98 each. Thanks for the tips. XO, Pinky

  26. That’s a lot better!!! I was working at my front yard this past weekend and thinking about changing the terracota planters I have by the front door! I’m now thinking if maybe, just maybe painting them black would work?!

  27. Looks great! Thanks for all the tips!

  28. Katie, I loved your tutorial and how lovely your containers and plants turned out. Please follow me on Linky…I’m your newest follower there. I also love outdoor container plants and decorating my home. Thanks for the fun visit, Helen

  29. Great tutorial. I love that you did this on a budget….plants can be budget killers.

    Sharon @ mrs. hines class

  30. Wow, great work girl – as always. That end result is just gorgeous!

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