Turning a toilet into a planter is a quirky but effective recycling project. Once properly installed, toilets are solid and heavy, so they're unlikely to blow over in strong winds, and they come with ready-made drainage holes. Use your toilet plain or paint it to fit in with your overall garden design, and fill it with plants for the long term or change the display yearly with annuals. You can use the bowl by itself or include the attached cistern in your landscaping. Neighbors sometimes object to toilets on display in gardens, so chat with yours before deciding your toilet's permanent home.
Preparing Your Toilet Planter
Carefully preparing and placing your toilet helps ensure your project's success. The narrow base on toilets makes them unstable, so take care when handling or painting yours so that it doesn't fall over and cause damage or hurt someone. Take out all the removable inner parts so that only a shell remains. Paint or decorate your toilet before moving it to its permanent site. Use outdoor paint suitable for ceramics and seal it with clear enamel spray. When choosing where to place the toilet planter, remember that plants vary according to how much light they need to grow well. If you place the toilet in full sun or full shade, for example, only plants that thrive in those conditions will grow well in your toilet planter.
Placing Your Planter in Its Permanent Site
Toilet planters are heavy and difficult to move, so place yours in its permanent site before preparing it for planting. Dig a hole 2 inches deep and place the toilet base inside. Scoop soil into the gaps and firmly pack it in to hold the toilet securely in the ground. Place an old rag or a handful of mulch at the bottom of the planter, and fill it with a 70/30 peat moss and perlite mix or similar well-drained potting soil. Leave a 1 inch gap between the surface of the potting soil and the top of the toilet to hold water when watering your planter. You can reduce the amount of potting soil needed by filling the bottom half of the toilet with packing peanuts, lava rocks or small, empty plastic bottles. If you're using the cistern as well as the toilet, fill it in the same way.
Filling Your Toilet With Plants
Toilet planters can hold permanent plants or temporary annual displays. Permanent designs could include a small evergreen shrub, bulbs and summer-flowering perennials. Alternatively, sow annual flowers or plant bedding plants in your toilet planter after the final average frost date in your local area. Trailing plants growing at the edge of the planter cascade over the bowl and cistern sides. Water toilet planters regularly so that the potting soil surface stays moist but the soil is never saturated. Feed plants by sprinkling 1 1/2 tablespoons of a slow-release, granular 12-4-8 fertilizer over the potting soil surface when planting, and apply the fertilizer every three months during the growing season, or according to the instructions on the product label.
Choosing Plants For Your Toilet
Choose plants that provide long seasons of interest and grow well in containers for your toilet planter. Thunbergia "Blue Glory" (Thunbergia "Blue Glory"), which grows in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 through 12, is a 2- to 3-foot-long trailing vine that bears yellow-throated, royal blue flowers early summer through fall. Spring crocus (Crocus vernus) is a bulb that grows 3 to 6 inches tall and bears purple or white early spring flowers. Wall germander (Teucrium chamaedrys) is a compact evergreen shrub that grows 9 to 12 inches tall and 12 to 24 inches wide and bears pink-purple or rose-lavender late spring flowers. Spring crocus grows in USDA zones 3 through 8, and wall germander grows in USDA zones 5 through 9.