Create a Hypertufa Planter

Add a personal touch by making your own garden accessories.

by Charlie Thigpen   Photography by Chuck St. John

Over the last few years, we’ve taught hundreds of people how to make their own garden planters. In our after–work classes, we show students the basics of making a hypertufa container.

Hyper Who-fa?

Hypertufa is a lightweight concrete mixture and is pronounced hy-per-too-fah. There are numerous “recipes,” but we use 1 part Portland cement / 2 parts peat moss / 2 parts vermiculite, mixed with water. For larger projects you can add synthetic reinforcing fibers for strength. You can also adjust the recipe and add more Portland cement to strengthen planters, but by adding more Portland cement you’ll also add weight.

In the Mix

Wear a sturdy pair of rubber gloves and mix all the dry ingredients thoroughly. Next, add small amounts of water while continually mixing until the hypertufa is the consistency of cottage cheese.

Filling Your Mold

Students choose the shape of their planter from a variety of molds. Anything from ordinary plastic bowls to square and rectangular storage containers will work. We’ve also used old wicker baskets for detail and texture. Cooking spray or cooking oil is thoroughly applied to the molds to act as a releasing agent. Sometimes we’ll use a plastic wrap to line the container and to give the finished product an interesting wrinkled texture. It also helps the hypertufa release from the container.

Hypertufa is then placed in the mold and packed firmly on the bottom first and then worked up the sides. The thickness should be about ¾ to 1 inch. When making larger containers you’ll want to make them thicker for added strength.

Need to Cure

The containers are then placed in a plastic bag in the shade to allow them to dry slowly. After three days we remove the newly formed planters from the mold and place them back into the plastic bag for a week or two. This drying process allows the planter to cure slowly which makes the hypertufa stronger.

Planting Time

The last step before planting is to drill a drainage hole using a masonry bit. Small planters can’t hold a lot of soil so we recommend filling them with succulents which require little water and perform well in the shallow planters. Some of the larger planters are perfect for flowering annuals and perennials.

Hypertufa containers hold up well to freezing and thawing and just get better with age. Planters located in damp shady areas will grow moss and lichen on their exterior giving them a nice living patina.

If you’ve never made a hypertufa planter, maybe it’s time to roll up your sleeves and have some fun. It’s a great theme for a family or girlfriend get–together and you’ll enjoy your planters for years to come.

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