Make your garden structures work double- (or even triple-) duty. Terra-cotta pots provide the building blocks for this all-in-one planter, birdbath, and lantern.
lantern blue outdoor planter

Combine three terra-cotta pots and a saucer to make a garden accent with multiple purposes: Filled with lush plantings, it features a birdbath by day; float candles in it to make a glimmering lantern by night, letting the white-flowering plants add to the candlelight glow. What’s more, the planter/ lantern is portable. Set it in the garden or on a patio, deck—or wherever it will work best for you. It can be dismantled easily, unplanted, and put away for winter storage.

Use the terra-cotta pots au naturel, or prime and paint them to suit your garden style. Spray-paint pots with a coat or two of spar urethane to seal and protect the finish if desired. Birds need a clean place to drink and bathe, so scrub the saucer regularly and refill it with fresh water every other day. Situate the birdbath in a place where it will be accessible to birds and close to nearby shrubs or trees.

Tip: When you entertain outdoors on a summer evening, move the planter/lantern near the entrance to your garden to provide a welcoming glow. Never leave burning candles unattended. Unless you plan to keep an eye on the floating candles, use battery-powered LED tea lights. Instead of water, fill the saucer with pea gravel and snuggle the lights among the rocks.

  • Working time 3 hrs
  • Start to finish 2 days
  • Difficulty Easy
  • Involves Painting, Planting

What you need


How to do it

Part 1

painting terra-cotta pot
Step 1

Paint Pot

Apply exterior primer to the outside of the pots; let dry overnight. Brush one or two coats of exterior paint on the pots; let dry thoroughly between coats.

bird bath
Step 2

Assemble Structure

Once you have determined desired location, set up the pots in the intended configuration to see how they fit together as well as how the planter or lantern suits the site. The most stable configuration will have the largest tall pot as the base, and the smallest shallow pot on top.

terra-cot pot rock placement
Step 3

Plant Bowl

Turn the large tapered pot upside down; set it in place. Set the bowl on top of the large tapered pot. Fill the bottom of the bowl with rocks or gravel to facilitate drainage once the bowl is planted. Turn the small tapered pot upside down and set it in place inside the bowl on top of the rocks. Fill the bowl halfway with potting mix. Add plants, alternating petunias, lofos, and sweet alyssum. Fill in between the plants with potting mix. Water thoroughly.

filling water in bird bath
Step 4

Add Top Saucer

Set the saucer on top of the small tapered pot. Fill the saucer with water. Add a few large stones if desired to provide a perch for birds or for decoration.

Step 5

Add Lighting

Add floating candles to the water, or skip the water and nestle LED lights into gravel, to create a lantern after sunset. If using water, scatter a few blossoms across the surface for a romantic effect.


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