This Container Gardening Hack Turns Chimney Flue Liners Into Stunning Planters

Love the terracotta-filled gardens of, say, the Amalfi Coast? Bring those heady Mediterranean vibes to your backyard by adorning your patio with dramatic clay planters made from, believe it or not, chimney flue liners! They're huge, often more affordable than purpose-made clay planters, and look surprisingly chic, especially if you spend a little extra time and effort decorating them. Position the painted or otherwise finished flues in your yard — either over a gravel surface, garden bed, or patch of lawn. Fill them with a quality potting soil and a few other bits and bobs, and then plant them out with your favorite flowering shrubs, scent-filled herbs, or trailing vines. How about dwarf lemon trees to really channel Italy?

Is it better to grow herbs in plastic or terracotta pots? The answer is a little complicated and often a matter of preference and willingness to take certain precautions. Terracotta pots certainly look more attractive than even the best-designed plastic planters, but plastic is lighter and more freeze-resistant. Soil inside unsealed or unglazed clay tends to dry out faster, and it can be hard to prevent your terracotta pots from cracking when they're subjected to the freeze and thaw of the transitional seasons. Plastic pots shed microplastics into your garden soil as they deteriorate with prolonged exposure to the elements. For those trying to go plastic-free in the garden, there are, thankfully, ways to mitigate the damage to clay pots — the solutions lie in how you put this DIY together.

Buy and pot up your new chimney flue liner planter

You can buy a standard square 24-inch-tall clay flue liner from Kuhlman Direct for a little over $20. If that's too tall, consider Mack and Sons Supply's square option at 12 inches tall for just under $30. Head to Menards for a 24-inch-high round clay chimney flue liner for not quite $25, or buy a historic flue liner salvaged from a demolished home — $25 to $30 depending on the size — from Re:Purpose Savannah.

You'll also need your preferred artificial planting substrate for container gardening. We like MotherEarth Terracraft potting soil — a 12-quart bag is under $25 at Walmart. Gardener's Supply Company has a handy soil calculator on its website you can use to work out how much media you'll need to fill your flue liner. If you wish, source something water-resistant — like pond liner or even trash bags — to line the inside of the flue, especially if you plan to paint the outside.

If you're painting the flue liner, clean the exterior with a mild soap-and-water solution. Once it's dry again, use a non-toxic exterior paint in your choice of hue — spray or brush it on. If you hope to cultivate a weathered patina, simply leave the clay unfinished and let nature do its work. Once decorated (or not), place the chimney flue liner in its permanent location, line it, and fill the pot with your potting medium of choice. Now, all that's left is to choose your plants!