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How to Make a Winter Planter

Have you ever looked at the beautiful Winter Containers featuring spruce tips and other lovely greenery and said “yes, please”, just to look at the price tag and said “no, thank you.” I just can’t justify spending those prices and yet I love adding festive touches for the holidays and having something pretty to look at outdoors besides winter gloom. I have no floral arranging skills whatsoever, but if I can put together a winter planter, so can you. I find that every year I do it, my Christmas porch pot looks better and better.

Included here are some practical, easy-to-follow steps for creating your own DIY Winter Planter.

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Greens, Plants and Other Things to Include in Your Winter Planters

Greens and Branches for Winter Container

Feel free to pin any of these pictures to your favorite gardening or outdoor winter decor board on Pinterest. There are more Pins at the bottom of the page.

How to Make an Inexpensive Winter Planter

Purchasing all your supplies is definitely cheaper (unless you go crazy) than buying a planter already put together. But, do you know what is cheaper yet? Foraging in your own yard, your neighbor’s yard or family members’ yards for these supplies. Of course ask for permission, if it’s not your property and be responsible. Like don’t go loping off the tops of baby trees. Simply do a little pruning off of lower branches. 

Scroll back up and go through the list again and see how many of these things you can find in your yard or in your neighbor’s yard. I think you’ll be surprised at how much you can come up with for free.

If you’re having trouble coming up with something that doesn’t look dead, use spray paint. Really! Hydrangeas take spray paint really well.

If you’re very nice, it’s possible to get free tree trimmings from places like Home Depot and Lowe’s. Or, even stop by a local pop-up Christmas tree selling stand and simply ask if they have tree trimmings you can have. I’ve even know people that will buy the cheapest, ugliest tree on the lot and cut it up for their containers.

Although, I’ve never done it, I’ve read on several gardening Facebook groups where members have gone to their local compost site and were able to get evergreen trimmings for free.

Another frugal way to do outdoor winter planters is to save some of the elements you use from year-to-year, like:

  • birch logs or any other log you use
  • dogwood twigs
  • pinecones
  • lotus pods
  • anything else that will keep

Here is a container my sister put together using mostly branches and greens she found in her yard.

Winter Container Using Foraged Greens and Branches

Creative Pots to Use for Winter Containers

I just use the containers I have in my collection. Just beware that if you use ceramic or clay pots and you live in a zone where it freezes, they will likely freeze and crack. Here are some ideas for creative planters:

  • Galvanized items like buckets, watering cans or wash tubs
  • Vintage milk cans
  • Urns are great if you’re looking for some elegance
  • Wine Barrels
  • Bushel Basket
  • Etc., Etc. – use your imagination

How to Arrange a Winter Planter

First, if you purchase your spruce tops or other greenery, clip off the ends of the stems. That will help them absorb water. 

Image of gardener clipping off the end of evergreen branch.

Place the fresh clipped greens into a bucket with water, so they absorb water. The more water they absorb, the longer they will last.

Image of bucket of evergreen clippings

Next, fill your pot with soil, or just use one of your fall containers that already has soil in it (so long dead mums). If possible, or if it’s not already too late, arrange your winter containers before they freeze. As an alternative to potting soil, use rice hulls or sand. The idea here is to use something that you can stick your branches, sticks and logs into. The benefit of using potting soil is that it will freeze and keep your planters intact through winter.

Also, this stuff that real floral people use works great. You can even use it on top of the soil. If you live in a warmer zone where it’s not going to freeze, I would recommend using these bricks because they hold moisture. I ended up using a combination of potting soil and the foam bricks here because all my fall containers were frozen solid. Chicken wire formed into a ball will also work.

How to Arrange a Winter Container

Now, place the tallest piece of greenery, branches or logs in the container first and then arrange the remainder of the greenery around those centerpieces. Here I used birch logs. I would prefer them to be different heights, but my handyman wasn’t around to cut them for me.

How to Arrange a Winter Container

There really is no method to my madness, I just keep at it until I create a winter container that will pass muster. Someday I will take a class on assembling winter containers at a local garden center. Until then I’m happy with the ones I create with my limited skills.

How to Arrange a Winter Container

Once you have all the greenery arranged, water very well. Don’t worry after this initial watering, I don’t water my winter containers the rest of the winter. For me, they freeze and that keeps the greenery stable. If you are in warmer zones, you will need to water your winter containers to keep the greens from turning brown.

Add in some extras like pine cones, berries or even a solar lantern. For a festive touch, go ahead and add a big bow and some bright Christmas balls. You can always remove the Christmas looking items later in the winter.

Winter Container

I’ve never used it, but I’ve read that this product keeps your winter container greens looking good for a few months. It might be worth a try.

Below is a sample of a winter planter using just natural elements. I think the bushel basket adds a rustic touch to the arrangement.

Image of a winter planter
To make it a little more festive, I added in faux red berries. By the way, I paid a little more for these faux berries for outdoor use and I’ve been able to reuse them for a few years now. Also this evergreen basket includes items that I’ve used previous years, such as the birch logs, the red twigs and the lotus pods.

Image of a Christmas porch pot with faux red berries 

Winter Window Box

I’ve always wanted a window box, so when we moved to our current fixer upper home, I could immediately picture a window box under our big front window, so my handy hubs built one. This winter I decided it was time to try my hand at filling it with greenery. It’s much easier for me to plant flowers, but I’m happy with the way my window box turned out. I’m really hoping it will last all winter, or at least for a few months. And, yes, that is real snow!

Winter Window Box

Little cardinals live on both ends.

Cardinal in Winter Window Box

Here it is all lit up in the evening. We love these candles. They came with a timer and a remote, plus they flicker like real candles.

Winter Window Box in the Evening

In the Winter Planter and Window Box, I used spruce tips, balsam, white pine and dyed eucalyptus. I added in some faux, waterproof berries and some pine cones on picks. I love the different textures and the color contrasts. When it warms up a bit, I’ll fuss with the winter planter a little more and add in some Christmas lights and maybe a bow. 

If you don’t have the time or the energy, or it’s just plain too cold where you live, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with using faux greenery. It’s also perfectly fine to use a mix of real and faux items in your winter container. 

If you are a visual learner, this is a cute video by a garden center close to my home. It’s fun and you may find it helpful.

Thanks so much for stopping by Gingham Gardens today. I hope I’ve inspired you to put together your own Winter Container. What do you think, are you going to give it a try? Leave a comment and let me know.

Gingham Gardens is chock full of all kinds of gardening tips and ideas for both beginner gardeners, master gardeners and all those in between. In case your interested, here’s a really great gift guide for gardeners, Creative Gifts for Gardeners, for that special gardener in your life… even if it’s you. Oh, and if you like the idea of making DIY gifts, be sure to check out the post, DIY Candle Making. It’s easier than you think.

To see some more adorable and creative ideas for winter planters and outdoor decor, check out Winter Outdoor Decor – Use What You Have at Our Fairfield Home & Garden.

There are lots and lots of gardening posts that include Flower Garden makeovers and Flower Garden tours. If you love flowers and gardening, Gingham Gardens is the place for you.

Happy Winter Gardening, 

p.s. Follow Gingham Gardens on Pinterest for lots of great gardening ideas and tons of gardener’s eye candy. Gingham Gardens is also on Facebook – come say “hi.”

Pins to Share:

Image of a Winter Window Box with Text Overlay - How to Make a Winter Planter

Image of a Winter Planter with Text Overlay - How to Make a Winter Planter

Image of a Winter with Text Overlay - How to Make a Winter Planter

Image of evergreens pinecones and red berries with Text Overlay - How to Make a Winter Planter


  1. A word of caution – we have found that reusing the dirt and sometimes the container will kill or harm the springs annuals. Use a container and sand just for the evergreen branches. If I am gong to use a specific container, I will use a different container on the inside. I have not used anything wooden but I would clean it well next spring.

    1. Hi Shirley – thanks for stopping by and thank you so much for your sweet comments! I’m always happy to inspire. Stop back soon. Joanna – Gingham Gardens

  2. I generally go hunting in the woods on our property for evergreens,pine cones ,berries and even interesting bare branches to fill my winter containers. It has become a tradition and it is a sure fire way to get in the Christmas spirit. I use the large urns that held ferns all summer and just arrange the winter greens into the soil. They generally last till Feb when they are removed and burned to signify the end of winter. Love your idea of adding some slenderbirch logs and the beautiful red shoots of dogwood.

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