Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
Calming, energizing, whimsical—there’s a plant container for every vibe.
Teacups, sugar bowls, and mugs
Chives and chervil do well in small containers (assuming 3 inches of depth). “Chervil, especially, likes to be crowded,” says Shirey. Bonus if the cup is cracked, which allows for drainage. To avoid overwatering, let the plant sit with water in the saucer for 1 hour, then pour off the excess. “Overwatering kills more plants than underwatering,” says Shirey.
Teakettles, old-fashioned kitchen tins, paint cans, and large tomato cans
Succulents, chives, chervil, lettuce, and thyme are all contenders here—these compact plants need little room for roots. For drainage, Shirey recommends filling the tin with water, freezing it, then using a drill or ice pick to open 3 to 4 holes that are ¼- to ½-inch in diameter on the bottom. You can paint your cans, use chalkboard paint to label your plants, or even wrap them in wallpaper.
Baskets and colanders
These come with built-in drainage. Depending on how tight the weave is, you may need to line them with moss or vinyl window screening (some metal screening may rust) or a coconut-fiber lining to keep soil intact and bugs out. If your basket is deep enough, you can fill it with parsley or any of the plants that thrive in tins and teakettles.
Cloth bags and purses
These work best as holders for potted plants (and their saucers) that you can remove to water and then replace once the water has drained. The firmer the fabric, the better its shape retention. Add a plastic liner to prevent water stains.
Wagons and wooden dresser drawers
Lettuce thrives in these low, flat containers thanks to its shallow root system. As long as there is at least 6 inches of depth, thyme, oregano, and tarragon are also candidates, along with plants that flourish in smaller containers. Drill drain holes in the base, then line the base with vinyl window screening to keep bugs out.