DIY Planter with Pole for String Lights

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Wooden Planters with Built-In Posts for Hanging String Lights

I love how these planters have built in poles for string lights: we can plant them with summer flowers and enjoy the ambiance of string lights at night!

wooden planters with build in pole for hanging string lights

Earlier in the summer, one of my friends asked whether I’d ever used concrete to make a planter with a pole for holding up string lights. My answer was nope, but… I offered to make one out of wood so it would be a little more stylish and a little less heavy. Thanks so much to those of you asking about the instructions… hopefully these make sense, but leave a comment with ANY questions! Unfortunately when I build I kind of make it up as I go so it’s not always so easy to write up when all’s said and done.

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Materials for 16x16x16 Planter

• 2×3 for the  underlying frame
• 1×4 for the side slats
• 2×2 for the center pole
• 1×2 to support the pole inside the planter
• 1×3 for the top rim
Simpson Strong Tie Right Angle
• Eye hook
• Quick link
• Paint/ Stain
• Caulk/ Wood fill
• Wood Glue
• (Optional) Plastic/ staple gun
• Drill
• Kreg Pocket Hole system
• Brad nailer
• Also shown: Ryobi Pressure Washer

Essentially, I made a box out of the 2x3s and then covered them with 1×4 slats. The planter I made was 16 x 16 x 16 so I started by cutting the 2x3s as follows:
(4) 11-inch lengths
(4) 13-inch lengths
(4) 16-inch lengths

how I cut my 2x3s for the planter

Step 1: Build the Planter Frame

To build the planter frame, I used my Kreg jig and made a pair of pocket holes in either end of the 11-inch pieces AND either end of the 13-inch pieces.

kreg jig pocket hole system pocket holes in either end of the longer 2x3s

I assembled the two planter ends first as shown using the 16″ lengths and the 11″ lengths. Note that I attached the lower edge of the planter about one inch high up the sides to protect it a bit from moisture on the ground. Essentially, I gave my planters little ‘feet’.

assemble the planter ends first

Once either end was assembled, I attached the four 13-inch lengths to each corner. I get a little lazy when screwing together my Kreg joints so I don’t clamp as often as I should. I used my body weight so I drill down into the material on the table. In other words, I screwed the four 13-inch lengths down into one end of the planter, then I inverted this entire thing on top of the other end. (It looked like a table was resting on top of the second end of the planter.)

add cross pieces to one end of the planter use cross pieces to attach the two planter ends

Step 2: Add slats

For the slats, I set my miter saw to 45 degrees and started by measuring the width of the planter and cutting the shortest side of the mitered slat to this length… but I found that it was ultimately easier just to mark the boards to fit and cut each one accordingly.

cut a 45 degree miter on either end of the planter slats

To attach the slats, I applied wood glue and then used my pneumatic brad nailer. I used a piece of scrap wood as a spacer, but there’s no reason you can’t just use a ruler if scrap wood doesn’t provide the right spacing to fit your planter.

dry fit the slats and then attach with wood glue and brad nailer

use a spacer to determine distance between slats

wooden planter wrapped with slats

Step 3. Add Top Edge

With all the slats attached, I realized that the top edge of the planter looked a little sloppy. A 1×3 was essentially the perfect size for a top edge, so back to The Home Depot I went and grabbed two 1x3s. Again, I mitered the edges and dry fit the boards, then went back over with wood glue and my brad nailer.

top of the planter with exposed edges top of the planter with mitered wooden frame

Step 4. Fill in wood holes and seams

Keeping the planter as water tight as possible was a goal of mine to prevent wood rod, so I was careful to fill in all the wood holes and caulk any exposed seams. (I used this caulk.)

Step 5. Paint the Planters

My friend wanted them painted white so that was an added layer of protection from the elements. I set up my Homeright Spray Tent and painted the planters with this, and then stained the posts to match her existing patio furniture.

stained light post and painted planter boxes

Step 6. Secure the Light Pole

This is the point of the planter build that I had to figure out how I was going to secure the light pole. The poles were 8-feet long so I new they had the potential to be really tippy… I wanted to secure them well in two spots on the planter to help disperse the weight. I had some Simpson strong tie right angle brackets that fit the pole perfectly. For the first point of attachment, I added a 2×3 with pocket holes to the bottom of the planter (pictured below… the planter is upside down in this photo). For the second point of attachment, I screwed a pair of 1x2s along the underside of the top edge. Make sure that the pole is centered not only along the bottom 2×3, but also that it’s pinched securely between the centered 1x2s as well.

inverted planter with support system for string light post

The last thing I did, which is hard to see in these pictures, is I added some scrap lumber (a 1×5 I believe)to the bottom of the planter to help keep the soil/ plants in place. Also, because my friend wanted to plant directly into the planter (vs. just placing potted plants inside), I stapled some heavy duty plastic around the inside perimeter to keep the dirt from falling out between the slats. It also keeps the wet dirt from sitting right up against the wood which would increase the likelihood of rot.

view of the finished planter with stabilized string light post

You can attach your string lights anyway you like. For this planter, we used an eye hook and these quick links. Before we set up the planters, I wanted to clean off the patio a bit, so I pulled out my most favorite of outdoor tools… my power washer! This one by Ryobi is SO easy to use and it just plugs in to an outlet, connects to the garden hose and… voila. The before and after is SO worth it!

stone patio before pressure washing patio planters with clean flagstones

I LOVE the way these planters turned out! They’re a great portable way to hang string lights AND decorate the patio. This design could be easily modified to a different size planter depending upon the size of your space. One of the added benefits to this design is that the planters looks just as nice during the day as it does when it’s illuminated at night!

diy wooden planter with built in pole for hanging string lights wooden planters with built in pole for patio string lights lovely home exterior with string lights and diy planter wooden planters with built in pole for patio string lights

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diy wooden planter with build in pole for string lights

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  1. Hi, Charlotte! I was on Pinterest looking for some good ideas for sprucing up our patio/deck as a surprise for my Mom’s 5oth!! thanks for this great idea with the planter and lights! I just had to read your story because you sounded like a kindred spirit…thank you for sharing and I hope you and your adorable family are doing well! God bless!

  2. What a great idea. I have a large patio with no place to string lanterns and i’m not ready to commit to a pergola yet. I stumbled on your blog through pinterest. very nice!!!

    1. I was actually able to follow them quite easily. I made my wife 3 of them for our back patio. Thanks CHarLotte! My wife & I love you! God bless.

    2. We did this and it wAsnt bad tho i do have to say not sure i coukd of fine without hubbie..Hardest part was getting out side dlats perfect, but once we got going it was fine

  3. Looks great! Definitely want to do this for my backyard. What stain did you use for thE light pole?

  4. Maybe i missed it.but wHat did you use for the center post? Size? Looks like wood but wanted to me sure or would that bend. Is it a pipe? Thanks for the inspiration!!

    1. Hi there! This is wood… our Home Depot has these in the trim aisle… it may be cedar but honestly I don’t remember… It’s a 2×2 post which means it’s actually more like 1.5 inches on each side. Good luck!

      1. Hi there, quick question about your LOVELY planters! I am making planters similar to these and my husband is getting FINICKY about the center pole and it warping. I know you made these for someone but have they reported any warping of the center poles with the lights?

        My biggest challenge right now is finding the right length. I would prefer 10-12ft center poles but havent had much luck finding anything other than 8′!

        1. Hi! Sorry for the delay… we lost our internet for a couple days! I asked my friend and it has NOT warped but I splurged on a pole made out of the good lumber. (Cedar would be ideal.) Speak to a lumber yard… they may be able to custom order some for you?
          Good luck!

  5. Hi charlotte!
    Im about to start this project now! thanks so much for simple step by sTep Pics/instructions!!
    Do you recall what size pocket hOle screws you used? How have the poles held up in the elements?
    Thanks again!

    1. Hi Kristen! I don’t remember exactly, but the screws correspond to the width of the material, so depending on which lumber you choose, that would determine the size of the pocket holes. I think 1 1/4″ might be what I used for the 3/4 width lumber. Seems to be holding up fine!

    2. For 1.5″ thick wood, you would use the 1&1/2″ setting on your Kreg jig, and 2&1/2″ pocket hole screws (for outdoors, i highly Recommend using the blue / coated screws!).

  6. Looks quite nice, but I’m more interested in the lights. I’m trying to find some that are battery/solar operated that give off a decent amount of light. thank you.

  7. Hi Charlotte, the light posts look great and am hoping to replicate but two thingS i noticed that would help future IMITATORS are:
    1. Missing quantities of the lumber RequIred
    2. The 1×3’s (2) that you used for the top of the box don’t make aN appearance in your materials list.

    Other than that, great post!

  8. Hi charlotte, these planters look great! My fiance Wants me to make some for our patio. I jUst had a quick question If You would be so kind. I was wondering what kind of plastic you stapled to the inside to hold in the dirt? Do you happen to know the Name of the product. Thanks so much!

  9. Charlotte –
    Thank you for your ingenuity and great report. We are picky about the poles being straight and I saw a couple of comments on the matter. My question is when I look at a few of the completed pictures, the pole closest to the house on the far corner appears to tilt significantly to the left. Is that an optical Illusion? warp in the original piece? just some looseness in the pole given how it is connected to the box?

    Thank you!

    1. Hi there! That was installation error! I installed it and forgot to measure for vertical on all axes. It’s not nearly as crooked as it appears in photos, but you’re correct… it’s off by a few degrees! The posts themselves appear to still be straight!

  10. i sold 4 planters I build to a customer and they tripped across your light setup. Sooo I have to modify theirs to hang lights now. Thanks for the idea.

  11. the outside of the planter is built and looks great (what a nice design)! Two questions:
    1) where did you place the cross 2×3 against the inside bottom frame? Did you just center it in the box and center it on the sid 2×3 (PICTURES SEEMS TO INDICATE THAT)?
    2) the scrap lumber you used for the bottom: were they just laid on top of the extra 2×3 you installed in the end? If attached how and where did you do that?

    Thank you!!!!!!!!!

    1. Hi there!
      For the 2×3 on the bottom, yes… I centered it and used pocked holes to attach it to either side of the frame. The scrap lumber just sits on top of the bottom 2×3 frame. There’s a lip there… I just used wood glue and my nail gun.
      Hope this helps!

      1. Hi charlOtte, thanks fOr thr grEat ideas. I have done Something simIlar With 2×2 wood poles but after a year they warPed. Have you exPerienced that? Any way to prevent? Was going to change and use 4×4 but afraid they may Look too bulky. Thoughts?

  12. Hi Charlotte, I love your work. You make it sound easy. I was wondering how is the post doing with the dirt and water? I want to make sure it lasts and does not ROT within a couple months.
    Thanks 😊

    1. Hi Cris! Thanks so much! The paint and caulk has really helped to weather proof it! These actually live at our friends house, but they used them again last summer and don’t bring them in over the winter so they’ve been going strong for a few years!

  13. Hi Charlotte! This is a cool design and idea. I was wondering, do you think these would be heavy enough to hold up a shade cover ? And lights ?

    1. Hi there! Hard to say… I don’t have much experience with the shade covers sadly. I will say… these *would* be very easy to either add more weight too OR brace to the ground somehow to have more support. Good luck!