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A DIY Plant Stand That's... Hiding in the Recycling Bin

Nothing some wood dowels and hot glue can’t makeover.

February  2, 2021
Photo by Caroline Mullen

Recently, I came across this photo of a lovely little Scandinavian-inspired planter. It was perfect to house the various clippings and pieces taken from my larger pothos, which had since outgrown its original pot. While I was tempted to immediately find one for purchase, I also knew I could make it with supplies I had lying around. And while I was at it: why not add legs!

Granted, I do have quite the collection of DIY materials, but the star of this show is actually something quite unexpected. While rummaging through my apartment for something to affix wood dowels to, I stopped in my tracks at the recycling bin—last night’s red sauce remnants would make the perfect little plant holder. The sides of the can are straight (perfect for gluing onto), and the bottom is easily poked to create drainage holes. Winner!

The fun thing about this DIY, too, is that it’s totally customizable to whatever size vessel you have lying around. If you happen to have a big ol’ bird of paradise that needs a home in an industrial bucket, that would work. Or if, like me, you wanted to pot some propagation babies into something more attractive, a discarded 28oz tomato can works like a charm. You can also choose to stain or paint it any color after assembling—I liked the look of natural wood.

So, before you take the recycling out this week, read on for the best way to upcycle your leftover cans into professional-looking plant stands.

What You’ll Need:

Cutting wood pieces to size with a hand saw, it's super easy, I swear! Photo by Caroline Mullen
Poking some drainage holes in the bottom of the can. Photo by Caroline Mullen

What You’ll Do:

  1. First things first: prepare your chosen can or vessel. I did this project with both a leftover tomato can and a quart paint can, both to the same effect. Remove paper, soak paint off (leave it overnight in hot soapy water), and scrub off any food residue to get your can ready for decoration.
  2. Next, drill or poke a few holes with a hammer and nail into the bottom of the can for drainage. I added some rocks to the bottom before potting soil as well, just to ensure my plant’s roots remained happy and well-drained.
  3. Cut three wooden blocks to act as the legs of the stand depending on the size of your base vessel. I used these pieces of craft wood because I had them in my stash, but a trip to your local hardware or craft store would present you with plenty of options.
  4. Hot-glue the legs to the bottom of your vessel, spacing them evenly apart. I recommend getting to eye level with the bottoms of the legs to ensure they’re nice and straight. Then run a bead of glue around the edges of the legs where they meet the can, just for added security.
  5. This next part takes a little patience: Cut enough wood dowels to cover the whole can, slightly bigger than the height of the it (to hide the bottom and rim of the can from view) with a hand saw, or a miter saw if you’ve got it!
  6. Hot glue all the wood dowels vertically around the outside of the vessel, being sure to keep them lined up evenly.
  7. Sand the edges of the dowels to ensure a nice, clean finish.
  8. Plop your plant in her new stand and give her a good watering. She’s going to be so happy here!
Hot gluing the legs onto the bottom of the can. Photo by Caroline Mullen
Adding the final touches—wooden dowels around the whole can. Photo by Caroline Mullen

Any other ideas for how to upcycle used cans? Tell us below!

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Win
  • Judi Burow
    Judi Burow
  • Brittany Guy
    Brittany Guy
  • Smaug
  • Mandy86
When I'm not writing & editing for Home52, I'm likely to be found DIY-ing a new piece of furniture (or restoring an old one), hanging things on the wall in my apartment, or watching hours of vintage RHONY.


Win February 7, 2021
I LOVE this idea. Is there something special I need to place under the
stand to collect run-off or excess water?
Any ideas would be greatly appreciated.
Caroline M. February 8, 2021
Hi Win! You can definitely place it on a plate to catch excess water, but I usually water my plants in the sink and let them drip for a few minutes before putting them back in their respective places.
Win February 8, 2021
Thank you so much. Never thought of letting it drip dry in the sink.
Judi B. February 6, 2021
Great idea. I love to work with wood of any kind, it can be so rewarding. Thanks again.
Brittany G. February 5, 2021
This is cute and so doable! I'd love to see more projects like this.
Caroline M. February 5, 2021
I'm so glad you like it!! :)
Smaug February 3, 2021
A lot of the fun in woodworking is in inventing jigs/fixtures to help get the job done. In this case, the dowels and legs will need square cuts and precise lengths. Not so easy to do by hand, and short pieces like this are generally not so easy to do on a miter saw, table saw etc. I would suggest a simple jig along the lines of a miter box- you'd need a small flat board (though big enough to clamp to a table would be good, a few sticks, a glue gun and something to serve as a square (in a pinch a book or cd case or some such will do). And a sharp saw- I think x-acto makes a pretty good little crafts saw if you don't want to invest in a dozuki saw or some such.
Caroline M. February 3, 2021
I actually did most of the cuts with my miter saw & a clamp, and it worked swimmingly! I did do a chunk of them with the hand saw & miter box to make sure it would work, too. Unfortunately with small pieces of craft wood, though, there is some variation from piece to piece, so you kind of have to pick and choose the best ones, and do a bit of sanding at the end. For me, I've learned that any amount of woodworking—big or small—just requires patience.
Smaug February 3, 2021
It can be done, but it can be pretty dangerous, too- once again, if you're going to use any kind of power saw, at least a full size one (there are "craft size" tools more suited to working with small pieces-Dremel makes some decent tools, and Proxon makes some really nice ones) a simple jig would make it a good deal faster, safer and more accurate. I have found that, while woodworking can take a lot of patience, an understanding of the materials, the tools and the procedures can be very helpful. By the way, since the holes will compromise the coating on the can, I would suppose that rust would eventually become a problem with this. Not so long ago, trees and shrubs used to be sold in tin cans; to plant them you would cut slits up two sides of the can and bury it with the root ball- the can would rust away in fairly short order.
Caroline M. February 3, 2021
Oh I love the Dremel & attachments for small projects like this, as well. Mostly the purpose of the hand saw & miter box is to make this project approachable for all skill & tool levels! Since the set of them costs about $15 and stores easily, it's a great intro to DIYing with wood, with more accuracy than just hacking at it.
Smaug February 3, 2021
I think that it would be well within the scope of anyone who could carry out this project to make an accurate homemade cutoff jig, and would be a good lesson in repeated cuts. I don't suppose that people getting craft projects from a food blog run to particularly well equipped shops. A miter box wouldn't be a bad investment for someone who planned to do more projects, but most of the fun in woodworking is in learning to improvise. By the way, come to think of it it's Proxxon with two xes- I used to see their tools in Woodcraft stores; there was a little table saw that was so cute that it was all that I could do to keep myself from buying it. And making a little house for it...
Mandy86 February 3, 2021
Another good hack is to punch holes on three (3) sides and thread some jute through and make a hanging plant holder. To make it farmhouse approved, wrap the twine, jute or raffia all around the can and secure with a bow! Enjoy🪴
Caroline M. February 3, 2021
Genius, Mandy!
Candlin D. February 2, 2021
Ack! Do I really see the plant in a pot with drainage holes sitting right on top of a stack of books? What are you thinking?
Caroline M. February 2, 2021
Oh, it was just there for the photo! My books are in perfect health.
Jstolze February 3, 2021
I believe Perception here is the key point Candlin D. is attempting to point out. No harm intended I don't think.

Very nice plant stand and extremely creative idea using the wooden dowels instead of the old trusty pop sickle sticks.
Caroline M. February 3, 2021
Thank you so much! :)
Curtis W. February 7, 2021
My thoughts too! I'm going to do this, or a variation of, but mine will be more of a jardinière with no drainage. I'll just put a vinyl saucer inside like any other decorative container.
Foodie February 8, 2021
What catches the water draining from the holes?
Caroline M. February 8, 2021
I usually just water my plants in the sink so they drip for a bit before putting them back in their places! Works perfectly for me.