Upcycling a cat litter box and other outdoor planters

Joan Fieldstone

June 21, 2016

By: Joan Fieldstone, Home Improv Advocate

In: Landscaping and Pools

Do I have your attention? That's right, upcycle a litter box.

Either you're going, "Ewwwwwww!" or you're thinking, "How clever! And to think I was going to throw it out!" I highly recommend that if you haven't been regularly washing out your cat boxes when you change the litter, you probably should dispose of them as you would a trash can that's been poorly maintained. But if you've got an unused litter box -- a small trash can or waste basket that's in good condition works, too -- here's a repurposing idea for your porch, patio or garden.

Repurposing a pet potty into a pretty planter

Cat litter boxes come in all shapes, sizes and colors. Sometimes after you've barely used one, you decide you don't like the way it looks, blaming whatever human rationale you like. Sometimes the cat or cats decide to give it the cold shoulder for reasons unfathomable to their humans. If you own a kitty litter box that you are going to shove in the garage for lack of anything else to do with it, why not turn it into a planter?

Granted, this particular litter box, with its opalescent pink color, oval shape and contrasting, removable ring for controlling litter as the cats fling it about is not a typical utilitarian pan.

Pink litter box

Litter box turned into planter

This litter box happens to convert seamlessly into a rather chic planter, but you can use these tips to dress up the exterior of any plain litter tray:

  • a coat of some colorful spray paint
  • a combination of texture and spray paint
  • mosaic tile or pebbles and grout
  • designs made with colored tape such as washi or duct tape
  • contact paper or removable wallpaper

As an alternative, you can also use the exterior of the pan repeatedly as a form to fashion good-sized outdoor containers from concrete or ShapeCrete by Sakrete. You can add tint directly into the medium when you mix it, or you can coat it with a paint designed to adhere to concrete once it's completely cured.

Once you've got the outside of your litter box embellished to your liking, either drill a hole in the bottom for drainage, and/or fill it with about an inch of small rocks, both to give the planter weight and keep the roots of your plants from rotting in standing water. Also, be sure to wash the inside of the box, and thoroughly rinse it with water if you plan to fill it with potting soil and re-pot your plants in it. If you are lazy like I am, and they're annuals that will keel over by autumn anyway -- arrange them in your new planter in their original pots and call it done.

Shallower litter pans work well for short, stubby succulents. Use high-backed litter boxes with a few taller or climbing types of plants that you can position at the higher back end and put the shorter plants to the lower front of the box.

Dresser up your potted plants

Old dressers, especially those about to give up their last gasp or with a drawer or two missing, can be prime candidates for planters.

  • Ditch the dresser and use the drawers stacked at angles on top of each other filling the accessible spaces with lush leafy flowering plants.
  • Add legs to a single large drawer for a standalone planter of whatever height you choose.
  • Leave a dilapidated dresser intact, and stagger the drawers ajar with the lowest one fully open, each drawer above it open a little less for a stair step effect. If drawers are missing, that's okay. It leaves room for the plants to grow.
  • Use a drawer front attached to brackets supporting a shelf full of potted plants to create a faux window box.

As a child I used to hear adults joke about furniture or décor items that were out of style or of questionable taste by saying, "Well, you can always turn it into a planter." Now I understand how much truth there is to that!


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