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This is the ONE project that made the deck “real” for me. After all of the work to build and stain it, this somehow made me feel like I crossed a finish line with this summer project!
Outdoor Light Poles with Planter Base | Free Plans
I’m offering free plans on this, even though a lot of it was based on my own scrap wood circumstances (5/8″ plywood and 1/4″ lumber, much of which was left over from building the shed and deck). Just for the sake of those of you looking for different options to build these yourself, I’ve got some other blogger tutorials linked below.
One thing that will definitely differ from most other tutorials I’ve found: I went with metal poles instead of wooden dowels or pressure-treated 4x4s. My reasoning for this is mainly that I wanted something that wouldn’t have the opportunity to warp or need to dry out.
My inspiration came mostly from some really expensive planters I wanted to buy. I wanted the deck to look sophisticated and sleek, but EVERY planter I found needed something: either they needed to be larger, needed to be a different color, had extra trim that made it not my style, etc. — on and on. It’s probably a surprise to NO ONE that the few planters that checked every box were well beyond my budget 🤣. So, I DIYed as DIYers do, and made them myself instead.
- 5/8″ plywood (I used scrap)
- 1x4s (I used scrap)
- exterior wood glue
- finishing nails
- circular saw
- miter saw
- nail gun + air compressor
- level or post level
- quick-set concrete
- bucket (I found these cheapest at the dollar store)
- metal fence post (I went with 2 7/8″)
- fence post caps (make sure these match the diameter of the post)
- exterior latex paint
- paint sprayer
- spray paint
- landscaping fabric
- cup hooks
- exterior adhesive
- exterior lights
- drill + drill bit
- soil + plants of your choice
Anchor poles with quick-set concrete
Place 1 metal pole in the center of a bucket and brace/stabilize so it stands upright while setting (use a level or post level to make sure it’s plumb). Fill with quick-set concrete and follow instructions on the packaging for adding water and time to set. Let cure.
Assemble planter boxes
1. Cut 5/8″ plywood to size: 4 panels measuring 16″ x 16″ for each planter. These will serve as the main frame of the planter box. Glue and nail the panels together, wrapping one after the other to form a perfect cube. Check for square by measuring corner to corner and make adjustments until they are the same.
2. Cut twelve 1×4 pieces to length for EACH planter at 17 3/8″ long. These will serve as the decorative horizontal slats on all 4 sides of each planter. They also make each planter cube more rigid, so be sure to square the planter box before attaching. Attach panels with glue + finishing nails.
3. Cut 2 strips of plywood supports at 15 3/8″ long (slightly shorter as fine… you just want it to be long enough to support the two pieces that run across the bottom of the planter) and attach, parallel, along the bottom of the planter.
4. Cut 2 more pieces of plywood 15 3/8″ long (if the plywood is warped like mine was, you may have to make small adjustments on length) and attach them to the top of the supports installed in step 3.
5. Paint/finish planter and light pole how you see fit. I chose to use an almost-black exterior paint (Sherwin-Williams Tricorn Black — the same as the Adirondack chairs and fire pit benches, but color matched to Behr paint meant for outdoor application). For the poles, I used flat black spray paint.
6. Place planters in their final spot on level ground. I say this because I’m supposed to in a tutorial, but there was NO SUCH THING as a level spot in my yard! So, I compensated by making a lot of tiny adjustments (such as creating wedges with scrap wood under the planters, putting different amounts of gravel underneath each side, etc.).
7. Insert pole + bucket to the center of the planter and rest it on the bottom supports. Use scrap wood to add stabilizing supports under the lip of the bucket on all 4 sides until snug. Continue to adjust for plumb as each pole is secured. It’s ok if this doesn’t look pretty or if you have to give it multiple attempts; mine looked like a hot mess but it all got covered in dirt and plants, so it made zero difference!
Stabilizing planters + getting the poles straight
This was easily the most time-consuming part, since I had to make lots of adjustments so that the pole still stuck straight up while the planter sat on an uneven spot (so, even if the planter was slightly askew on the ground, I tilted the bucket slightly in whatever direction I needed so it was perfectly straight, and THEN secured scrap wood underneath the lip, basically like a wedge, to keep that same adjustment intact). Once I did this on every side, the bucket wouldn’t wiggle, even though it was smaller than the cube of the planter. (Also, this wasn’t nearly as easy as I thought it would be to get in a 3D model, ha!)
I chose to also fill the planter about halfway with landscaping gravel. I’d heard some horror stories about poles falling over because they can be top-heavy, so I wanted to pay extra attention to giving each planter a solid base. Since I was working large by myself on this step and things were kind of wonky at times, I found that discarded plastic containers (the ones that came with the plants around the deck) were the perfect size to help! Filling these with gravel kept things steady enough as I wedged in scraps around the bucket.
Finishing details: plants + lights!
8. Next, I added landscaping fabric over the gravel (so the soil doesn’t fall down through the gravel), then soil, and plants.
9. Drill a hole through one side of the pole, near the top, and insert a cup hook (remember that the drill bit should match the width of the screw end of the cup hook minus the threads). As an extra step, secure the cup hook with a nut on the inside of the pole and add some exterior glue. I did these additional steps because the exterior lights I picked out were much heavier than I anticipated, and I didn’t want the poles to pull on each other. Place the cap over the top of the pole and finish spray painting so the cup hook & cap match the color of the rest of the pole.
10. String up the lights, and enjoy!
We’ve had these planters installed for about a month. In that time, Georgia had two hurricanes pass by our neighboring states and dump its fair share of storms on the house. So, if that’s any indication, I think these are going to last us long enough to entertain plenty of guests and be satisfied in the coming seasons.
Don’t forget to pin!
I truly can’t wait to have a big sectional on the deck and enjoy a cup of coffee on colder mornings. It’s probably still a few months out, but we’ve already had lots of guests over to enjoy the fall weather with us and show off all the new builds.