Turn Flea Market Finds into Plant Containers

two flea market containers on stone steps
Photo: Kindra Clineff

Whether it's egg baskets, chipped kitchenware, or coal scuttles, vintage farmhouse materials can spill with plants. Most buckets, pails, tubs, or bins can be turned into containers for plants. Even a milk strainer is fair game. Find rusty treasures at flea markets or hidden away in a farm outbuilding, an attic, or a basement. A farm motif brings muted grays, whitewash, and faded paint into the picture, letting the plants take the lead for the color dialogue.

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Easy Birdbath Planter

Worn out garden accents can be upcycled planters to house your favorite plants. Turn an old birdbath into a sweet succulent planter in a few simple steps.

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Stepladder Plant Stand

rustic ladder with plant containers
Kindra Clineff

Given thick, sturdy boards laid across its rungs, an old stepladder can become an instant plant stand. This one balances Portulacaria afra (elephant bush) emerging from a whimsical faux-shoe planter, echeverias, a container holding a maidenhair fern, and a ceramic hen bristling with Sedum rupestre 'Lemon Coral'.

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Chicken Feeder with Hens

metal box with succulents on gray surface
Kindra Clineff

Hens-and-chicks (Sempervivum)nestles on either side of an Orostachys planted in a repurposed zinc grain feeder for chickens. Succulents will thrive in containers with a shallow base. If there are no drainage holes, place pebbles and charcoal on the bottom to keep the soil from going stagnant.

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brown basket filled with succulents on gray surface
Kindra Clineff

An antique 16-inch-wide colander filled with Senecio, Kalanchoe, Lampranthus, Portulaca, Aeonium, and Crassula ensures the succulents don't get waterlogged. For open-slat containers, such as egg baskets and colanders, utilize a moss mat as a liner. Burlap sacking and window screen can also be used to hold the soil intact.

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Edible Bath

metal bathtub shaped container filled with lush plants
Kindra Clineff

Even if your veggie garden is confined to a container, you can make it a showstopper. Here, a vintage infant bathtub cradles dinosaur kale, basil, parsley, nasturtium, copper fennel, and 'Bull's Blood' beets.

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Olive Bucket

slatted metal box with red plants inside
Kindra Clineff

A slatted metal olive bucket finds another career holding brightly colored 'Stained Glass Copper' coleus. A creative eye and sense of experimentation can turn most castoff items into vessels for plants.

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Coal Scuttle

black container with pink flowers and succulents
Kindra Clineff

A black coal scuttle makes the flower colors pop with Dorotheanthus 'Mezoo', Arcada Begonia 'Light Pink', Fuchsia 'Mary', and Aquilegia 'Leprechaun Gold'. When looking for containers to host flowering plants, make sure they are at least 7 inches deep and have drainage holes. Drill a few holes if necessary.

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Milk Box

rustic metal box with purple leaf plants
Kindra Clineff

Try this upcycled garden idea. Heuchera 'Plum Pudding' sprouts from a vintage metal milk box that once graced a front porch. A drill with a bit made for puncturing metal can make necessary drainage holes.

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Leaky Can Solution

bright red flowers in rustic teal watering can
Kindra Clineff

Extend a rusted watering can's life beyond its ability to hold water by popping in Salvia splendens Ablazin 'Tabasco'. Contrasting colors add pop to this simple combination. This upcycling idea is an easy way to add garden charm.

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Painter's Tray

hanging metal tray filled with succulents
Kindra Clineff

Drilled with some screw holes for hanging, a vintage painting tray becomes a planter for succulents. Only tiny plant plugs will fill its narrow pocket.

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Farmhouse Ready

two flea market containers on stone steps
Kindra Clineff

On cottage steps, an enamel bucket becomes an aquatic garden with water hyacinths and Ruellia brittoniana 'Purple Showers' (Mexican petunia). Behind it, a milk bucket is planted with Salvia farinacea Sallyfun 'Blue' and a double petunia.

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