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Hypertufa Garden Container

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June is from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, but is currently residing in New York. She loves to cook naturally with plants from her garden.

hypertufa-garden-container

Making Creative Stone Garden Containers

Do you like the look of the old stone planters that were used in the Alpine regions or perhaps containers you may have seen in old English gardens covered with moss and lichen patinas? If you do, you can achieve this same look by using a garden craft called "hypertufa" to replicate those stone containers.

Hypertufa is a messy and easy garden craft. Its creations resemble heavy rock containers. It is made from materials you can purchase at any home improvement store and easily mix up at home. The finished products look like they were skillfully carved out of stone instead of mixed Quickrete medium.

It only takes a few simple ingredients to make fabulous containers for displaying rock-garden plants, Alpine gardens, or succulent plant displays. Working with this medium is like making adult mud pies.

There are probably as many different recipes for the mixture as there are gardeners, so I will only give you my favorite. It is super inexpensive, and the creative possibilities for shapes, sizes, and colors are almost endless.

On this page, you will discover how to make hypertufa garden containers along with the resources for making even more creative hypertufa garden art.

A Simple Technique

Some folks like to use a box-in-a-box technique that sandwiches hypertufa and chicken wire in a boxed frame, but the way I do it is much easier.

Instead, I like to simply pack the hypertufa medium mixture around an upside-down plastic pot or planter. And because it's so easy to work with, kind of like working with play-dough, it can be molded into any shape you like.

By pressing leaves, flowers, or other interesting pieces of vegetation into the wet mud, you can create interesting decorative pattern designs. Get creative and sculpt it into pieces that bring interest into your garden.

Supplies You Will Need

  • Peat moss
  • Perlite (for pots) or vermiculite (for sculpture)
  • Portland Cement Type I/ll
  • Coconut Coir Fibers or Concrete Reinforcing fibers
  • Container for measuring
  • Large mixing tub (a wheelbarrow works really well)
  • Rubber gloves
  • Safety Glasses
  • Dust mask
  • Trowel
  • Plastic tarp
  • Plastic container for a mold
  • Wire brush
  • Mold release spray or inexpensive oil (use whatever is the cheapest and most plentiful)
  • Rubber mallet

Adding Color to the Mix

Tips on the Kind of Container Forms NOT to Use

There are as many recipes for hypertufa plant containers as there are gardeners. I like my concrete recipe because it is so much easier to work with. Some folks like to make it difficult by embedding sheets of chicken wire into the hypertufa mixture. Here is my easy "nickels worth" way of mixing.

I like to add strength to my container mixture to ensure the container will last longer. Adding sand makes a more durable and heavier pot than just using perlite or vermiculite by itself.

Also adding a handful of coconut fiber or fiber-mesh (a synthetic concrete reinforcing fiber) to each batch will strengthen the pot.

Whenever possible, I like using coconut fiber best as a peat moss replacement. It is better for the environment as a sustainable, renewable product.

You can usually find coconut coir fiber readily available at home improvement stores such as Lowe's, Ace Hardware, and Home Depot. Fiber-mesh is available at masonry supply stores or online at Amazon. If you can't find it at any of these places, then peat moss is fine.

I like to use an old wheelbarrow to mix up my hypertufa, but you can use anything you like.

Quikrete Portland Cement

Compressed Coconut Coir Fiber Growing Potting Mix

Ingredients

  • 2 part Portland cement
  • 3 parts sphagnum peat moss
  • 2 parts perlite (or vermiculite)
  • handful or two of coconut coir fiber or fiber-mesh
  • 1 part sand for strength

Instructions

  1. Measure and mix the cement, peat moss, perlite (or vermiculite), and a couple big handfuls of reinforcing coconut fiber, or fiber mesh, in your wheelbarrow or tub. It's pretty dusty, so you'll want to be wearing your safety goggles and a dust mask at this stage. It's important to protect your lungs and eyes from the fine dust particles.
  2. Add the water, while stirring with your trowel, until it reaches the consistency of cooked oatmeal. Test the consistency while mixing. Remember, it's much easier to add water than it is to have to readjust the dry ingredients. The mix is ready when a handful is squeezed and holds its shape without releasing more than a few drops of water.
  3. Place the object you have chosen to be your container's shape upside down on your plastic tarp. Pat the cement mixture around your chosen plastic form (such as a foam ice chest) or into a mold (such as a round plastic bowl or a plastic dishpan). Avoid objects with a large lip because it will make the object difficult to remove from the finished stone container.
  4. Pack the mixture around the sides of the object, tamping it down firmly to bond the hypertufa to itself and to avoid a crumbly texture. At least a 1- to 2-inch layer on all sides will create strong walls.
  5. Pat the intended bottom to flatten it out so it will sit flat when it is finished and shape the sides to create the desired thickness of your chosen form.
  6. If you would like to create a pretty embossed design effect on your container, now is the time do it. Dress up your container by pressing evergreen sprigs, leaves, flowers, or anything you like, around the rim of the mold before you start building the sides of your container. Next, insert a PVC pipe, or a dowel, into the center of the bottom of your pot to create a drainage hole for the plant container.
  7. Wrap the container in plastic sheeting or in plastic bags, and leave in a shady spot to dry and harden for about 24 hours.
  8. Remove the plastic wrapping after the hypertufa has hardened for 24 hours. The container will be firm, but will still be soft enough to be pliable. Brush the sharp edges and smooth the top, if desired. To give a rougher, more natural look to the container, score the surface with a hammer or file to give it an "aged" look.
  9. Take out the PVC pipe to reveal the drainage hole and turn the container over. Gently lift to remove the evergreen sprigs or leaves, if you used any. Remove the mold or container.
  10. Re-wrap your container, and place it in a shady place for another two days. After the 48 hours, unwrap it and soak it with a hose periodically over the next couple weeks to leach out the residual lime from the cement, which is toxic and will harm plants. Remember to be patient. The longer it dries the stronger it gets.

Note About Coir

Coconut coir is the best alternative for peat moss. It is a sustainable and renewable, and it can completely replace the peat moss. If it's not available to you, just use the peat moss, perlite, and sand.

 Sculptured Hypertufa Container

Sculptured Hypertufa Container

Hypertufa Garden Art Project Idea Videos

These videos have some fabulous garden art ideas to help you unfurl your creativity using hypertufa medium.

A Giant Garden Snail! Recipes and Tips for Planters, Troughs and Garden Sculptures

In this video she first shows how she makes her planter containers. To get to the sculpture technique segment of the video, fast forward to 2:34.

Add Mosaic Pieces

I like to save broken pottery to use in hypertufa projects. In the last home I owned, I had a big box of red and white transferware pieces that came from a set of old china. My "smoother movers" dropped the box of china and the pieces shattered.

You know the old saying, "When given lemons make a cocktail!" So I did. I made a cocktail and went to work making a mosaic hypertufa birdbath for our garden.

It turned out beautifully. I wish I still had the photos.

When I made my birdbath, after it had dried sufficiently I took white grout and covered all the gray portland cement showing between the pieces. I think the white looked much better with the red and white china pieces.

The hypertufa stepping stones (shown below) are a great example of how stunning a mosaic can turn out.

If you don't have any broken crockery, keep your eyes peeled at garage sales this summer for colorful oddball plates, cups, and saucers. I like to use a tile cutting tool to cut pieces into the size I need.

DIY Mosaic Tile Garden Stepping Stones

DIY Mosaic Tile Garden Stepping Stones

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Are You Inspired to Make Your Own Hypertufa Container or Yard Art Sculpture?

Joy on April 10, 2018:

Thanks for this informative guide! I have been looking at big garden pots but they are prohibitively expensive. Now I will try making hypertufa pots by your method, using half or a third of a 44 gallon plastic drum.

KonaGirl (author) from New York on May 01, 2014:

@ramonabeckbritman: Hope it works out for you.

Ramona from Arkansas on April 10, 2014:

I like hypertufa plant containers. I just might try to make one. Thanks to you!

KonaGirl (author) from New York on June 10, 2013:

@norma-holt: Thanks so much for featuring this lens on yours!

KonaGirl (author) from New York on June 01, 2013:

@anonymous: Tipi thanks so much for the visit and recognition on FB. It is greatly appreciated!

KonaGirl (author) from New York on May 29, 2013:

@happy-birthday: Have fun with it this summer!

norma-holt on May 28, 2013:

Really enjoyed this lens and yes, I think I will try making some of these pots. Featured on https://hubpages.com/living/low-maintenance-plants...

KonaGirl (author) from New York on May 23, 2013:

@tvyps: Thanks so much!

anonymous on May 20, 2013:

Also FB liked because I love this!

anonymous on May 20, 2013:

What a wondrous idea and DIY for everyone to get going on the coolest garden planters ever, I love the old world feel....and the price is sure right for a great look, I'm thinking this could be addictive....and then there's the adding of color here and there! :)

KonaGirl (author) from New York on May 20, 2013:

@sbconcepts: Thanks so much. I hope that hypertufa will be a fun summer project for your plants.

topbuilderlist on May 18, 2013:

Thanks for sharing, now I have an idea to make it.

KonaGirl (author) from New York on May 17, 2013:

@MarcellaCarlton: Right on! Having fun with hypertufa is the main thing!

KonaGirl (author) from New York on May 17, 2013:

@Lee Hansen: Hi Lee, Haven't "seen" you around in a while. Thanks so much for the nice comment.

KonaGirl (author) from New York on May 17, 2013:

@brownee lm: Thank you for visiting.

KonaGirl (author) from New York on May 17, 2013:

@cmadden: I love them too. That is my next hypertufa container project; sculpting one.

KonaGirl (author) from New York on May 17, 2013:

@anonymous: It might be a bit messy making them out on a balcony, but if you succeed you will have to send me photos to post here in a photo galley!

KonaGirl (author) from New York on May 17, 2013:

@accfuller: Thanks so much for the visit and the bookmark.

KonaGirl (author) from New York on May 17, 2013:

@lionmom100: Have fun with it!

Birthday Wishes from Here on May 16, 2013:

Now I know how i need to make one... :-) Thanks a lot for sharing this wonderful lens!!!

KonaGirl (author) from New York on May 15, 2013:

@ohcaroline: You are welcome. Glad you enjoyed the info.

KonaGirl (author) from New York on May 15, 2013:

@mrdata: I did not get an LOTD for this lens, but thank you for the visit and comment just the same.

GenesisLabs on May 14, 2013:

I really enjoyed your lens, great job. This is something I definitely want to try.

ConvenientCalendar on May 14, 2013:

I learned a lot! Thank you for sharing!

itravel2004 lm on May 14, 2013:

Lovely lens and thanks for the info

Cynthia Haltom from Diamondhead on May 13, 2013:

I need to make this mix for my garden molds. Thanks for sharing

KonaGirl (author) from New York on May 13, 2013:

@Mickie Gee: I love succulents and I'll bet they look fabulous in your hypertufa container! Thanks so much for sharing.

KonaGirl (author) from New York on May 12, 2013:

@aesta1: Thanks so much, Mary. Your support is always appreciated!

KonaGirl (author) from New York on May 12, 2013:

@Aunt-Mollie: I am glad you have found it useful.

KonaGirl (author) from New York on May 12, 2013:

@QuiltFinger: Cheers to your success! Thank you so much for dropping by and taking the time to comment.

KonaGirl (author) from New York on May 12, 2013:

@Ardyn25: Thank you, Ardyn, for your kind words. The people that created the containers in the photos did a spot on job, didn't they?

KonaGirl (author) from New York on May 12, 2013:

@maryseena: Seenamary, creating a hypertufa container is messy work, but it is fun. If you love working in your garden, you will find this a fun project to try. Involving kids can make it even more enjoyable for a 1st time project. Then if you make mistakes you will laugh at the outcome and the next endeavor will be perfection!

KonaGirl (author) from New York on May 12, 2013:

@chi kung: Once you get the hang of it it is easy, and it is so fun playing in the hypertufa mud like a child.

sbmpower on May 12, 2013:

Great idea and it looks like fun. Got to give it a try during my free time.

KonaGirl (author) from New York on May 12, 2013:

@SheGetsCreative: Thanks so much. Glad you like it and perhaps you will attempt to create your own hypertufa containers for your garden.

KonaGirl (author) from New York on May 12, 2013:

@Cynthia Haltom: Thanks for stopping by. Let me know your success if you try your hand at making these.

KonaGirl (author) from New York on May 12, 2013:

@LiteraryMind: Hypertufa containers can be made any size you want and also work great in smaller container sizes for small spaces too.

kathysart on May 12, 2013:

How LOVELY this is.. such a gift. Thank you.

sbconcepts on May 09, 2013:

Wow, I had never heard of this very creative idea! Thanks for such a beautiful and helpful lens. I will have to try my hand at this project, I just re-potted some flowers today and was looking for a way to add some color to the garden area. You ROCK!

Teri Villars from Phoenix, Arizona on May 09, 2013:

That is so cool! You are so creative.

cire81 lm on May 08, 2013:

Good lens writing. Keep up the good work and looking forward to more lens from you. Do check out my lens and give me your comment.

IMKZRNU2 from Pacific Northwest on May 07, 2013:

You have made this look very easy. Thanks for sharing it with all of us!

PhilVardy on May 07, 2013:

Very interesting stuff here.. I think I'll be using some of these ideas this summer..

MarcellaCarlton on May 06, 2013:

I love to play in the mud! This is right up my alley. I'll be back.

SteveKaye on May 05, 2013:

Thank you for publishing this lens. Now I know how to make these things. I've seen them in many places.

Lee Hansen from Vermont on May 05, 2013:

We made hypertufa planters for the table centerpieces of our garden wedding. I love hypertufa and really enjoyed this lens.

lionmom100 on May 05, 2013:

I haven't tried these yet, but would love to do it.

brownee lm on May 03, 2013:

These are so cool! Thank you for sharing this amazing lens!

cmadden on May 03, 2013:

What a great idea! I'm especially impressed with the sculpted ones.

anonymous on May 03, 2013:

These look like fun creative projects for those with balconies who can only container garden.

accfuller on May 03, 2013:

I like the looks of these! They kind of look like a giant version of my mini peat trays that I start my seedsin. I gave you a squid-like and a g+1 ... )

ohcaroline on May 03, 2013:

What a neat crafty idea for your garden or patio. I bookmarked it for future use. No space now to do large crafts...but will definitely be back later. Thanks for showing me this useful craft.

mrdata on May 03, 2013:

Valuable lens and congrats for your LOTD!

Mickie Gee on May 03, 2013:

I made a hypertufa container a few years ago at a local garden shop that had a class. I put succulents in mine.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on May 02, 2013:

I love these. This is the first time I have heard of it.

leifgustafson on May 02, 2013:

Very interesting and informative lens!

Aunt-Mollie on May 02, 2013:

I've never seen a recipe to make these before. This is an excellent idea and I'm eager to try this out. Thank you for the detailed explanation.

Ardyn25 on May 02, 2013:

I love these! I've never heard of them before. Thanks for the great info and photos.

Ardyn25 on May 02, 2013:

I love these! I've never heard of them before. Thanks for the great info and photos.

QuiltFinger from Tennessee on May 02, 2013:

Thanks for sharing this tutorial. I've always wanted to make hypertufa troughs, and now I can!

maryseena on May 01, 2013:

I would like to try, but it seems like a lot of work. I love the results, though. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

chi kung on May 01, 2013:

great explanation on how to build a hypertufa - you make it seem so easy to do

Cynthia Haltom from Diamondhead on May 01, 2013:

Looks like fun, I have been using concrete for my garden art, but this looks much better

Angela F from Seattle, WA on May 01, 2013:

What a cool garden craft. Pinned too!

Ellen Gregory from Connecticut, USA on May 01, 2013:

Great idea for a big garden where one needs a lot of pots. They look so sturdy and yet are lightweight.

LorLinda from Denver Colorado on April 24, 2013:

I will have to come back and like it apparently I ran out of likes lol

LorLinda from Denver Colorado on April 24, 2013:

awesome lens very informative thanks for taking the time. Looks like you put a lot of effort and work into this lens. Great job!