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How to Reuse Coffee Cans for Planting

By Nannette Richford ; Updated September 21, 2017
Save your coffee cans during the winter for planters in the summer garden.
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Reusing coffee cans as garden planters is both responsible and practical. It prevents filling up landfills with unnecessary waste and provides you with free planters for your garden. With a coat of decorative paint in the color of your choice, you can create attractive planters to show off your flowers and herbs in style. While smaller 13-ounce to 1-pound cans make optimum-sized planters for houseplants, larger 3-pound cans work well for outside planters for herbs and flowers.

Wash the coffee cans in hot, soapy water and rinse well to remove the soap residue. Dry the cans thoroughly with a soft, dry towel or allow them to air-dry. Because the coffee grounds make an excellent addition to compost and won't hurt your plants, there is no need to disinfect the cans, unless they have been sitting in storage and become contaminated. Cans from storage can be soaked for 10 minutes in a mixture of 1 part bleach to 9 parts water to kill bacteria and germs before using them for planters.

Drill four quarter-inch holes in the sides of the coffee cans approximately 1/2 inch from the bottom. Space the holes evenly around the outside of the container. These holes provide drainage for your coffee can planter and prevent your soil from becoming soggy. Alternately, you can drill the holes in the bottom of the container.

Paint the coffee cans the desired color with spray paint. Some prefer the textured look of sponge painting, while others like to add decorative designs by brush. Still others prefer the rustic appearance of the coffee can as is. How you decorate the outside of the container is up to you.

Place an upside-down plant pot inside the coffee can. An inexpensive 2-inch pot will do in small coffee cans, while a 4-inch pot is suitable for larger containers. The upside down pot helps with drainage and prevents the roots of the plant from sitting in soggy soil.

Fill the container three-fourths full with potting medium. A mixture of 1 part peat moss, 1 part perlite and 1 part all-purpose potting soil or garden soil makes a lightweight soil suitable for containers.

Position your seedlings in the soil and fill in around the roots with fresh soil. Firm it down lightly with your hands to secure the seedling. Water thoroughly until water runs freely through the bottom of the pot. Place the planter in its desired location.


Things You Will Need

  • Dish detergent
  • Bleach
  • Soft towel
  • Drill with 1/4-inch bit
  • Spray paint
  • Paintbrush
  • Sea sponge
  • Small plant pots, 2- to 4-inch
  • Potting medium
  • Seedlings


  • Arrange large and small coffee-can planters in groups to create a container garden.


  • Unpainted metal coffee cans will rust if exposed to rain and weather.

About the Author


Nannette Richford is an avid gardener, teacher and nature enthusiast with more than four years' experience in online writing. Richford holds a Bachelor of Science in secondary education from the University of Maine Orono and certifications in teaching 7-12 English, K-8 General Elementary and Birth to age 5.