Shoe Planters

Sep 1, 2000

Don’t throw out that old ratty pair of shoes just yet!

Children are sure to take an interest in a personal garden made of old shoes, full of their favorite flowers and personal touches. Any old pair of tennis shoe or boots will do nicely for this planter project. I personally prefer planting within shoes of neutral, muted tones and with very little design to them. Children, however, tend to like color, and lots of it! It is also fairly easy and inexpensive to find a pair of shoes at a secondhand store or rummage sale that they will find appealing for this garden project.

What You Will Need

One Shoe
Hammer and Nail
Potting Soil
Plant/Flower Seedlings, or Seed
Fertilizer such as Miracle Grow, fish emulsion, or compost

Preparing Your Shoe Planter

Place the shoe, or shoes, you plan to use as planters atop a piece of scrap wood or a hard outdoor surface that will not be damaged when nailing holes into the soles. If your child insists on helping with this part of the craft, a rubber mallet would be a better choice in the hands of younger children. With the nail and hammer, you will need to make several holes in the bottom of the shoe for water drainage. At this time you may chose to open another hole into the front portion of the shoe to add another planting area. This is the front portion of the shoe where the upper part of the foot would be normally. Cut into the soft section, not through the seams, otherwise your planter may not hold its shape well after subsequent waterings.

Next, partially fill the shoe with clean potting soil, being sure to pack some into the frontal portion as well. Now position the chosen plants or seeds into the openings of your shoe planter openings. If you are using various seedlings, place the plants according to height and preference. Keep in mind the expected growth of chosen plants.

It is usually best to put any tall upright plants in the center of your largest opening and place trailing varieties to the outer edges and within any smaller openings. Push seedlings into the soil firmly, then fill in around them with addition soil.

Take care not to crowd plants into the shoe, it helps to be aware of the space needed by individual plants as they grow and mature. When you have completed your shoe planter, add just a bit of fertilizer to the soil within and water.

Place your new shoe planter outdoors or indoors according to the plant type and your preference. If you are attempting an indoor version, place the shoe on a waterproof surface or other container. Or simply water in the sink and let drain completely before returning it to a sunny location. Water and fertilize as necessary, although while plants are taking root you may want to keep them supplied with both more frequently. Every few weeks for fertilizer is usually a good idea until vigorous growth appears.

My daughter and I have made several of these planters in the past few years, and I have seen more of them decorating other whimsical gardens in recent times. Not only a simple, unique and fun project for parent and child, but something you can incorporate into the landscape for years to come. It may be just a bit of humor in a more sedate flowerbed you pass by often, or it can add a definite touch of colorful individuality to your balcony, porch, or patio as well.

Plant Ideas

Sedum such as ‘Hen and Chicks’ and Rock Cress work wonderfully in planters such as these. These plants will flourish, as they are known to take hold on extremely barren objects with only a handful of soil. You may also try to grow a larger upright plant through a shoe by cutting out a larger portion of the sole and placing the shoe directly over the area that this plant will grow. Or prepare a place in a flowerbed for a seedling and place the prepared shoe directly over top, filling in with soil to anchor it until the plant grows to maturity.

Lobelia, ivy, helichrysum, and lotus are good trailers.

Pansey, violet, marguerite, osteospermum, portulaca, bellflower, polyanthus, and nasturtium make nice container plants. And these are hardy growers, nearly guaranteed to bloom for your enthusiastic young gardener.

Be creative! Even herbs and miniature roses have been successful in our many planter creations. And don’t forget the many beautiful bulbs such as tulip, hyacinths, daffodils and paperwhites. These all grow well in small containers outside, as well as in the home. Just be sure to water them in a sink or take them outdoors until they have completely drained. It is also advisable to place a tray or place them on a water resistant surface to prevent damage to furniture when indoors.

I have even seen quite a few cactus plants grown in this type of planter. Although, unless you live in a dry, arid climate, most varieties will probably be more successful as an indoor addition only. I don't personally care for prickly varieties in my home, with two active children and two large felines, it just isn't prudent at this time.

This really is a fun activity to do with your little ones, as they can participate in all aspects of the preparation and care of these quirky planters. A perfect gift for friends too, just choose a shoe type that is relative to your intended receiver and prepare a shoe planter with their favorite flowers or color variation within. Generally these type of containers will last quite a long time, depending on climate, natural aging and the deterioration of cloth material. And they can always be emptied and brought in to winter over, as you would do with other decorative garden containers and materials.

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