Rusty can as succulent planter: upcycling gone right—or wrong?

It's no secret I like the look of rusted metal in the garden. Weathering steel (Corten) planters, however, are not cheap. In the spring I converted a few old chimney flue liners into faux metal planters using oxidizing iron paint; the result surprised even me.

In my ongoing quest to find low- or no-cost metal accents, I've decided to try something I've avoided so far: use a rusty tin can:

Hechtia epygina

What do you think?

The first time I looked at the final product from a few feet away, I wasn't sure whether I liked it or not.

Now, a few days later, I've warmed up to it. What makes it work for me is the plant, a Hechtia epygina. It's unapologetically disheveled, and it goes great with the honest basicness of the can.

This project—if you can even call it that, considering it's so simple—has one element that's invisible from the outside: a thermal layer that adds a bit of heat protection for the roots. Here's what I used:

An Amazon bubble envelope cut to size to fit inside the can. Cost: $0.00.

Here's the finished planter in its new home at the base of an Agave bracteosa 'Calamar':

It gets a few hours of morning sun, but the sides of the can are in the shade so the roots of the hechtia shouldn't heat up too much.

Now that you've heard the rest of the story, what's your verdict? Yay? Nay? Or simply meh?

As for me, I'm already speed-rusting my next can.

© Gerhard Bock, 2019. All rights reserved. No part of the materials available through may be copied, photocopied, reproduced, translated or reduced to any electronic medium or machine-readable form, in whole or in part, without prior written consent of Gerhard Bock. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States and international copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Gerhard Bock. 

If you are reading this post on a website other than, please be advised that that site is using my content without my permission. Please report such unlawful use to me at gerhard[AT]succulentsandmore[DOT]com. Thank you!


Alan said…
I say "Yay", but I'm also in the rusty metal crowd. (Maybe that's because it's a lot easier to embrace rusty than it is to keep rust away.)
ks said…
I like it, and I also like that you found a use for the ubiquitous Amazon single use plastic envelops. But my big question is, where did the can come from ? Is it a paint can ?
That's a good question, isn't it? The can (64 oz.) is from Caffe d'Vita Mocha Cappuccino mix. This particular can has smooth sides, the newer cans have the corrugated ridges typical of steel cans.
I like your thinking! Why fight a battle you're never going to win :-).
shycat100 said…
It looks great. Rust in the right place! I've been lining pots with a foil backed bubble wrap insulation used for pipes, after losing a few favorites to the extreme heat here in Palm Springs. Seems to help a lot. Your envelope idea is brilliant as it adds a recycling element!
luv2garden said…
I like the look especially with the unassuming hectia. Especially like how you are creating containers from recycled materials. My only concern with using rusting metal is your need to keep your tetanus shot up-to-date.
I've used regular bubble wrap before as a liner, but we have so many of these Amazon envelopes waiting to be recycled that a light bulb went on in my head! And I love the fact that it didn't cost anything.
Your comment reminds me that it's time to check my tetanus shot status. It's probably a good idea for every gardener to keep up-to-date on their tetanus shot, seeing how we dig in the dirt, etc.
Kris Peterson said…
I like it too! The use of the Amazon packing material as heat protection is genius, although I'll be interested to hear how the lining holds up over time. The Hechtia is attractively shaggy in my view.
I am not always in the “rusty” crowd but I am with this pot and plant. Perfect and thanks for the Amazon bag idea! It’s a great one!
It'll be interesting to see how long the Amazon envelope will last. That'll give a good indication how long it will take to decompose in a landfill. My gut tells me it will outlast the can!
LOL, few things are better than $0.00.
danger garden said…
Love it! Great match up of plant and pot. I’m also glad to see you aren’t leaving it sitting on the wood table as that would certainly lead to a rust stain that’s impossible to remove. So what did you end up doing with the rusty pieces you bought at Metalwood Salvage when you were in Portland?
Ali Kayn said…
I played with the idea of using the rusted (or painted) cans as a garden bed border, each with a small plant in it.
Hoover Boo said…
Looks good to me! Even ceramic pots don't last forever.
That sounds great. To think I used to toss cans in the recyling bin before! Now I collect them.
Very true. And sometimes you have to smash the pot to get a plant out because it's worth more to you than the pot (just happened to me).
I'll post pictures of metal pipe pieces I picked up in Portland. They have a beautiful patina of rust. Both have terrestrial bromeliads in them.