Planting Ephemeral Containers

Short Lived Beauty

Ephemeral containers are those that don't last very long, due to rotting away or just breaking down.  They would be planters made from cloth, twigs, wicker, or other short lived material.

Planting Ephemeral Containers

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There are a couple of ways to make them last longer, but even with care, most baskets and cloth containers will only survive a year or two. 

Lining the container with plastic, or burlap and plastic helps too.  Drain holes in the plastic are essential, as well as the right choice of soil.

Taking the plants and soil out of them in the fall, to dry out over the winter will help. 

Cedar Shake BoxCedar Shake Box

This box was constructed with cedar split off a log - just like making shakes for a roof. In time, it will weather to a soft silvery grey.

Thin Plastic BagsThin Plastic Bags

The plastic has to be something very thin and easy to cut with a razor knife, so it can be tucked in to all the corners and the excess sliced away neatly, holds moisture inside the container while protecting it from getting too wet. 

As you'll have to have drain holes, this means that the bottom of the container will get wet, but the sides won't.

Center the plastic bag and push into the cornersCenter the plastic bag and push into the corners

The thin black plastic bag was cut in half to make it a single layer.  Then it's pushed into the corners.

Slice a drain hole in the plasticSlice a drain hole in the plastic

A drain hole is cut into a place where it's going to drain freely, not pool in the bottom of the bag.

Fill the box with soil before cutting the plasticFill the box with soil before cutting the plastic

Here's the important part; fill the bag with soil, making any adjustments.

Fill it almost to the top, then use your razor knife to cut it off just below the top of the box. 

Add a bit more soil to fill, then plant with your choice of hardy succulents.


The soil I use for these is Sunshine Mix #4 which has extra drainage, as well as a water holding polymer, making it easier to re-wet, with the addition of steer manure. 

The ratio is about 6:1 (six parts by volume of the Sunshine Mix and one part steer manure) - mix well.


Planted and mulchedPlanted and mulched

Mulch to hold in moisture and stop the soil from eroding.  Water, and put on ignore for a week or two to let the plants get established before displaying.


Twig Handled Painted BoxTwig Handled Painted Box

Thin plywood sides painted with leaf shapes, and a twiggy handle wired on make this rustic beauty.

Twig Handled Painted Box - detail of wired handleTwig Handled Painted Box - detail of wired handle

The wire is twisted into a pigtail to prevent it from catching on everything.


Wooden boxes with twisty root handles are some of my favorite containers.  Sometimes they're made of barnboard, driftwood or just made to look like the aged and weathered result of years of abuse. 

Old tool boxes, caddies, or window boxes can be dressed up with a twig handle for an accent, planted with various hardy succulents and give you a lot of pleasure in their short life span.


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