MAY 2016 UPDATE: Thank you for all of your enthusiasm and great questions about our DIY vertical clay pots. This project has had quite a life since we first created it for Whole Foods Market back in 2014. Since then, we’ve created a super-size 10-foot-tall version to house tropical plants like anthuriums with scarlet flowers and black-gold philodendrons. It’s been featured in Better Homes & Gardens (see the very bottom of this post) and shared over 10,000 times on Pinterest. And in May of 2016, we’re scheduled to do a live demonstration of this gravity-defying DIY at the grand opening of Potted @Lazybones in Santa Monica.
We’re excited to update this post with the full step-by-step DIY — that’s right, no more clicking around to get the details. If you’ve built one, please take a photo and tag us on Instagram!
DIY Vertical Clay Pots
- 1/4-inch drill bit
- Hacksaw or angle grinder with cutoff wheel
- Cross-head screwdriver
- Tape measure
- 1-inch deck screw and a pair of 1/4 and 3/8-inch washers
- Scrap wood for drilling flanges
- Adjustable wrench (optional)
Step 1. Make a rough sketch.
Roughly sketch your arrangement. Determine how many columns and pots you want to use. One column can look just as powerful as three. Consider the mature height of the plants that you want to pot when determining the distance between pots. Choose a location that you’ll be able to safely hang each rod. Keep in mind that each rod with pots and plants can weigh over 30-lbs. Ideally you’ll want to thread a screw-eye into wood.
Step 2. Source your pots based on your sketch.
After you’ve sketched your arrangement, choose your glazed or unglazed pots. Look for pots with at least a 1/2-inch drain hole. Make sure the pots have center drain holes or you’ll need to drill the holes yourself. Glazed pots will not stain and require less maintenance, however, the roots of most plants breath better through unglazed pots.You may need to expand the drain hole with a masonry bit
Step 3. Refine your sketch.
Based on the actual size and proportion of your chosen pots, sketch the entire arrangement including exact distances between pots.
Step 4. Gather material based on final sketch.
- For each column you’ll need:
- One eyebolt (with sleeve anchor for concrete) or screw eye to thread into wood.
- One S-hook
- One stainless steel threaded rod sized based on your sketch. Most rods come in either 3 foot or 6 foot lengths (although 6 foot lengths can be hard to find). For 8-inch and below diameter pots, we recommend 3/8-inch diameter rod. For pots larger than 8-inch, use 1/2-inch diameter rod and widen 4-inch test plugs with a 1/2 inch drill bit.
- One stainless steel eyebolt matching the rod diameter.
- Coupling nut matching the rod diameter.
- For each pot you’ll need:
- One test plug. Use a 3-inch test plug for 8-inch and smaller pots. Use a 4-inch test plug for pots larger than 8 inches. If using 1/2-inch rod, you’ll need to expand the center holes of each 4-inch test plug with a 1/2-inch drill bit. Disassemble the test plug and use flanges only.
- Two stainless steel washers matching diameter of rod
- Two stainless steel nuts matching diameter of rod
- Two 2-1/2-inch, 1/8-inch thick o-rings (optional, but improves drainage).
Step 5. Cut the rod(s) to size.
Use a hacksaw or angle grinder (with cutoff wheel) to chop the rods to length per sketch.
Step 6. Drill holes in the test plugs.
To convert the test plugs into drainable flanges, drill six 1/4-inch holes through all test plugs as depicted below. We highly recommend securing each flange to a piece of scrap wood with a deck screw and a couple of small washers to prevent the bit from grabbing the test plug and spinning it into your hand. We learned this the hard way!
Step 7. Paint the smaller bottom plugs (optional).
The fastest way to make the red plugs more subtle is to spray the plugs with a gray primer. Make sure to sand the plastic plugs lightly with a medium grit sandpaper beforehand so that the paint better adheres to the plug. Allow required time for paint to dry.
Step 8. Assemble the pots along the rod(s).
According to your diagram, assemble the nuts, washers, o-rings and test plugs along the rod(s). Here are some tips and guidelines.
- Do not over-tighten test plug flanges around pots. Hand tight is preferred. Wrenches optional.
- Secure the middle pot first (second from bottom)
- Secure the upper pot(s) second
- Secure the bottom pot last.
- After all the pots are loosely secured, make final adjustments to match distances in between pots per your sketch.
- Make sure o-rings are properly aligned. O-ring should not be visible when properly aligned.
- Before hanging and potting plants, fill each pot with water to make sure it drains.
Step 9. Attach eyebolt(s) and hang.
Attach an eyebolt to each rod using a coupling nut. Assure that the rod and eyebolt meet in the middle of the coupling nut. Optional: Use thread-lock to prevent rods from spinning loose and falling to the ground.
To hang, install a screw-eye in a beam, eave or ceiling in the desired location. To prevent the pots from falling, make sure to screw into solid wood or use an sleeve anchor bolt with the appropriate load rating. Note: pots can get quite heavy when filled with soil.
Hang rods using an S-hook. Never hang pots outside of a railing when hanging on a balcony.
Step 10. Bring in the plants!
You may need to carefully split the roots around the rod if potting larger plants. We recommend bringing in younger plants (think six-packs) so that the roots can grow naturally around the rods.
Step 11. Water
Water each pot until you see water drain from the bottom flange. We hooked up our pots to an irrigation system with drippers installed just above the soil line on the top pots. Monitor pots over time since they can become clogged. If they do become clogged, try loosening the flange and spinning the pot to clear the dirt. If you still can’t get the water to drain, you may need to completely empty the pot, loosen the flanges and spray out all dirt with a hose before reassembling.
Good luck! And let us know if you have any questions in the comments. We’d love for you to send us photos of your arrangement! See more photos below of our installations.