Cedar Planters for less than $20!

Build cedar planters for less than $20! Free easy step by step plans from Ana-White.com


Projects built from this plan. Thank you for submitting brag posts, it's appreciated by all!


Author Notes: 

I've been wanting a few cedar planters for the front of my house, and had some leftover cedar fence pickets to use up. This was a quick and easy project, and I absolutely love how it turned out! Every time I come home, I admire my planters!

And the best part is, they are so inexpensive to make! For the cost of a store bought planter, you could line your driveway with DIY cedar planters! I estimate this project will cost around $20 to build using cedar fence pickets and whitewood boards on the trim.

($3) 2 - 1x3 @ 8 feet long
($1) 1 - 1x2 @ 8 feet long
($6) 3 - 5 1/2" wide x 72" long cedar fence pickets
($2) 1 - 2x2 @ 8 feet long
$8 leftover for screws and glue

Good luck building! Please share your photos when done, I can't wait to see your planters!

Shopping List: 

2 - 1x3 @ 8 feet long
1 - 1x2 @ 8 feet long
3 - 5 1/2" wide x 72" long cedar fence pickets
1 - 2x2 @ 8 feet long
2 1/2" exterior pocket hole screws
1 1/4" exterior screws or galvanized nails
exterior wood glue

measuring tape
safety glasses
hearing protection
General Instructions: 

Please read through the entire plan and all comments before beginning this project. It is also advisable to review the Getting Started Section. Take all necessary precautions to build safely and smartly. Work on a clean level surface, free of imperfections or debris. Always use straight boards. Check for square after each step. Always predrill holes before attaching with screws. Use glue with finish nails for a stronger hold. Wipe excess glue off bare wood for stained projects, as dried glue will not take stain. Be safe, have fun, and ask for help if you need it. Good luck!

Dimensions shown above.
Cut List: 

10 - 1x3 @ 17"
5 - 1x2 @ 17"
4 - 2x2 @ 23 3/4"
12 - cedar fence pickets @ 17 3/4" long (shortened by 1/4" from diagrams to allow for saw blade width and dog eared end)

Step 1: 

Start by first building your four panels. I sized this plan to allow for an 1/8" gap between the cedar pickets as they will shrink/expand with moisture and let's just face it - the cedar fence pickets are not going to be perfect! I used 1 1/4" galvanized nails and exterior glue from the insides.

Step 2 Instructions: 

On all four of your panels, drill 2 - 1 1/2" pocket holes on the inside, behind each 1x3 on the ends. This will put screws through the fence pickets, 1x3s and then into your legs. Join two of the panels to the legs as shown in diagram.

Step 3 Instructions: 

And then add the remaining two panels to create your planters. Adjust for square.

Step 4 Instructions: 

Now don't think that this whole planter needs to be filled with dirt!!! Unless you are planning on harvesting potatoes in there! I put my bottom 6" down from the top to keep the planter lighter and use less dirt. Start by attaching cleats to sides at desired height.

Step 5 Instructions: 

And then lay the remaining scrap boards down to create a bottom for either gardener's cloth or just set a plastic planter on top. Done deal!

Preparation Instructions: 
Fill all holes with wood filler and let dry. Apply additional coats of wood filler as needed. When wood filler is completely dry, sand the project in the direction of the wood grain with 120 grit sandpaper. Vacuum sanded project to remove sanding residue. Remove all sanding residue on work surfaces as well. Wipe project clean with damp cloth. It is always recommended to apply a test coat on a hidden area or scrap piece to ensure color evenness and adhesion. Use primer or wood conditioner as needed.
Project Type: 
Estimated Cost: 
Skill Level: 


Neat project Ana. These will tie in nicely with my short 30" cedar fence around my front porch I just built. I even have 16" cedar boards leftover from my cuts.

Error: Cutlist: 10 - 1x3 @ 17" (You've listed 1x8)

Thanks again!

...Cedar Fence Pickets don't seem to exist in my part of the country! I have a friend that works for Blue and he says they don't actually carry cedar in this region (central PA) in anything but pre-fab fence sections and corner posts. :-(

Guess I'll have to go the more expensive independent store cedar board route for my planters and raised beds.

I have a small problem. I have my 1/8" gap on all sides like the plans say, but as soon as I put my PH screws in the gap goes away. That even after I glued it and nailed it. So my gaps in the middle are no longer 1/8". But it still looks good even with the bigger gap, but I'll post some pictures as soon as I finish it.

I absolutely love your website. I'm so excited to get started on a few of your plans. You're any inspiration. Is the budget or $20 the cost per planter?

Continued blessings,

I just wanted to let people know that when I built this planter box I used the 1 1/4" exterior galvanized nails with glue to fasten the cedar planks to the 1X3. The issue I had is that the very tips of the nails would poke through the font of the 1X3. Since this was my first build ever, at first I thought "SHOOT I messed up already and its only the first panel". But after taking a closer look at the nail length I discovered the problem. I would recommend using a slightly shorter nail/screw. When I was building my box it was late in the evening so I couldn't just run down and buy new nails so I was forced to think outside of the box. I did some modifications to my nails by using my tin snips to cut the very tips off each nail. Probably a stupid idea but it worked! Took about 5 minutes to cut all the nails I needed. Thanks Ana for all the plans, video, and encouragement you proved. I'm looking forward to making more saw dust and bending a lot more nails in the near future.

Well for me the 1/8th of an inch over on each end didn't work when attaching the 2x2's it made them buckle a bit inward. I think next time I would just make it flush. They are very sturdy when done and look great in different finishes.

Is it really necessary to use pocket holes? I don't have the jig thingy, and I was wondering if there is another way instead of the pocket holes?

It's possible to use dowels, if you put a reference mark on each surface where the dowel goes, and build a custom drilling jig. I'm not 100% sure that's a practical option for the beginner though, because you probably want a drill press to create the jig. You also have to remember that dowels are never the size stated on the package. You have to select a drill bit that is slightly smaller than the dowels as measured by holding them up to each other.

If you want to see what I'm talking about though, google "Krenov dowel drilling jig." It's a pretty simple tool you build yourself, and the joint it creates is really strong.

Thanks. I went ahead and bought the least expensive gadget for the pocket holes. So kind of you to suggest anything though!

I used the main plan for ideas, but opted to use 3.5 inch pickets instead of the 5.5's, which allowed for a smaller planter that wasn't as big. Also chose to miter 1x3s for the top which I think really finishes it off. Used cedar for everything, including the one bys. Sanded everything with a belt sander to 220 grit.

Assembled using a pneumatic staple gun from the backside, then finished with exterior wood screws so nothing would show.

For the finish, I used minwax golden pecan plus three coats of poly inside and out (much faster to treat all the boards first before cutting and assembling), to keep the rain out! Finished size was about 17x17. Tile spacers work great to keep the gaps even!

Thanks so much for the good idea... the wife loved it which is the most important thing (especially if you want to keep buying new tools LOL!!!)

"A day without coffee is like a day without coffee."

Made two of these. Love them, but the slats I put in the bottom rotten/molded quickly. What have others used to protect the wood at the bottom or are most people using a plastic inserts?

I thought I would make one planter just to get me started and give me enough courage to move on to bigger things (like a farmers table). Well, I made the planter with no problem. It was pretty easy. My husband liked it so much he contracted me out to our church who in turn wanted 4 more planters for there new wooden deck. So, I made 5 planters for my churches new wooden deck. I am so proud of my work that everytime I go to church I tell someone new, Guess who made those planter? Duh! Me. Yep, I made them all by myself. Thanks Ana for the plans!!

Mary Helen