How to Create Barrel Planters

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Things You'll Need

  • Wooden half-barrel

  • Small shovel

  • 2-3 bags of topsoil, depending on barrel size

  • Flower fertilizer

  • Weed-free mesh or plastic (optional)

  • Blooming plants or flower seeds


  • Vary the planting in the barrel so the flowers have some room to grow, yet are placed tightly enough to avoid having to weed often. You may also wish to lay weed-free mesh or plastic under the topsoil and flowers.
Barrel planters can be used upright, but are popular when planted on their sides.

Half-barrels have become a decorating staple in yards and flowerbeds across America, regardless of how or what they display. Here is one suggestion of how to make an attractive addition to your yard with a half-barrel.

Step 1

Once the snow shovels are placed a little farther from the door and spring is in gear, barrels can be found in a few retail places. Those include hardware stores, some grocery stores, the occasional garden center, and sometimes where plants or hanging flowers and pots are sold. If you make a trek in the meantime to the more rural areas, keep your eyes peeled there as well—and you just might find a greater assortment of barrels—and that they cost less, too. If the authentic wooden, metal-banded barrels elude you, however, take heart. Some craft stores sell very realistic plastic versions, which are not only cheaper than the real deal, but also hardier overall. They won’t rust out, and the slats won’t collapse, especially if you live in a four-season climate.

Step 2

Anchor to a LocationDecide on a spot to anchor the barrel in the garden. Since barrels are especially popular when placed on their sides, here are some instructions for doing just that. Dig a space equal to the earth-side of the barrel, anchoring a portion of it into the ground. Slide it in at about a 45-degree angle, arranging the dirt solidly around the base. If you want the planter to appear as if flowers or plants are “pouring out” of it, tip it with the opening either deeper into the dirt, or create a small dirt hill at the opposite end with the dirt packed around it.

Step 3

Filling and CareAdd topsoil inside and around the barrel; angle the inside soil with a deeper amount farther inside, and shallower toward the opening. The entire barrel does not, however, need to be filled with dirt. Now sprinkle a good fertilizer within the barrel’s dirt before filling with plants. Flowers of assorted colors and heights create an interesting look, or you may choose to go with one type. You can plant either flowering plants or seeds that will sprout later, and choose between annuals or perennials—going with either tried-and-true domestic varieties or wildflowers. Extend some flowers so they appear at the opening to the barrel as well as in a small portion of the soil just outside of it. Arrange your display so the flowers will seek the sunlight at the mouth of the barrel.

Step 4

Extend the ThemeDepending on where you decide to place the planter, you may want to couple it with matching flowers on a rustic door wreath, planter box, wall accents, or furniture in coordinating colors or style. Or, you can add similar rustic touches to set off the barrel, such as antique pieces in wood or metal banding, or a complementary water fountain.

Wendy Clem

Based in Detroit, Wendy Clem has been writing since 1984. Her work has been published in print and online, including "Woman's Day," "Detroit Monthly" and "Signature" magazines. Her expertise in autos and business, how-to pieces and breaking news has resulted in positions from freelancer to senior managing editor. Clem holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in journalism from Wayne State University.