Building a Concrete Block Planter

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Last summer, as I was planning my Succulent Zen Garden, I found myself staring at a blank, ugly corner. I knew I needed something tall to hide that corner and make the area beautiful, but I couldn’t come up with any ideas. I first read about using concrete blocks to build a planter on A Minneapolis Homested’s Dreaming of Concrete Blocks blog post last fall. I fell in love with this idea right away, and knew I had found the perfect solution for my ugly corner!

This planter looks great, and it was inexpensive to create. The cement blocks are only $1.00 each; which came to $16 total for my planter. I needed more dirt than I expected, and the dirt ended up costing almost as much as the block. But I still built the whole thing for under $30, an amazing price for a planter this size!

Planter made out of concrete blocks

If you’re thinking about making one of these, keep in mind the blocks are very heavy. I must have moved each block at least ten times in the process of building this planter, and my back was sore the next day! I wanted to mention this because I didn’t think about it before I started the project.

Now, on to the fun part… The first thing I did was set up the block to create a design I liked. I was hoping to come up with a really cool design, but I wanted to planter curved so that made it more difficult.

Building the planter design

Once I started putting the design together, I noticed the blocks weren’t all the same. Some have a flat end (bottom left in picture below) and some have ridges on both ends (right block in picture). This didn’t affect the way the blocks went together, but I had to pay attention when I built it so the flat ends faced the front of the planter. If I build another planter, I will pay attention to the blocks when I buy them to make sure I have enough of the ones with the flat ends.

Concrete blocks can be different

I played around with different block placements until I figured out the basic idea of what I wanted. If you end up doing this, make sure you take a picture of your design. I took a picture purely for the purpose of writing this blog post; and boy was I glad I did because I referred to it often as I built the planter. Here’s my initial design…

Initial planter design

Once the design was done, I disassembled the block and started building the planter. The first row of block takes the longest because the blocks must be as level as possible. Once you get the first row level, the other rows go faster since they can simply be stacked on top. I recommend waiting to fill the block with dirt until you’re done with the whole row. Blocks filled with dirt are a pain to move and re-level, I learned that the hard way.

First row of block must be level

Once I started filling and stacking the blocks, I realized that most of the blocks on the bottom won’t have plants in them. Of course, I bought high quality potting soil for the plants. If I would have thought of this at the start of the project, I could have cut my soil cost in half by using cheap fill dirt or rock for the blocks that won’t have plants in them. Live and learn.

After adding the second level of block to my planter, I discovered my curved design created gaps that made filling some of the holes impossible because the dirt would just fall out the bottom. Oops!

Gap between curved blocks

I had to figure out a way to add support on the bottom of these sections so the dirt would stay in the planter. My solution was to take some wire fencing (chicken wire would work too) and lay it across the gap under the block for support.

Wire fencing to support the dirt

Then I laid landscape fabric over the wire fencing, and placed the block on top. Whew, that did the trick!

Landscape fabric to hold in dirt

When the planter was done, I filled it with zone 4 hardy succulents. Once they fill the planter and cascade over the sides, it’ll look even more amazing.

I am thrilled with the way this planter turned out, it’s perfect in the corner of my new Succulent Zen Garden!



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Comments

  1. says

    I noticed this wall when you posted previously about redoing this area. Thanks for the step by step on building the cinder block planter. I'm sure that in another year or two it will look fantastic with everything spilling out of its container.

  2. says

    Looking good Amy. Thanks for the shout out. They look great. Isn't funny what you find out you didn't think of before you start a project. LOL.

  3. says

    Great job, Amy. I love what you did. It had to be a little tiring, all that heavy lifting but the end result is so worth it. I hope you'll take another photo after the plants fill in.

  4. ravi says

    Hi Amy
    indeed a very practical yet stunning idea , very cost effective …im gonna be doing the same this weekend for my herb garden
    i have one question though ..
    how do i prevent the soil from falling through the block for those blocks that are protuding ?
    thanks
    ravi

    • says

      I just put a decoration in mine, and thought that looked nice. I have seen tutorials where they cut a piece of concrete block to fit in the bottom of the opening, and then glued it in using a special glue.

      Amy

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