Make a faux planter look real by making fake dirt using real dirt!
Yes, you read that right! In this faux succulent DIY, you’ll be using real dirt to make fake dirt.
Years ago, I tried making fake dirt using coffee grounds mixed with glue and hated it because the coffee smell never faded. It also seemed to be lacking some authenticity. This time, I had the bright idea to use potting soil because I figured what looks more like dirt than dirt itself. Mixed with glue, the dirt won’t spill or look like it needs water. Of course, neither will the faux plant!
Enough about the fake real dirt! This tutorial will also show you how to make mini planters from cut branches. If you don’t have any branches handy, don’t worry; you can use anything you like. In case you’re looking for inspiration, I’ve included photos (below) of different ways I’ve made faux planters using my “fake” real dirt. Oops, there I go again, talking dirt!
Supplies for faux succulent DIY
- Small faux succulents or your choice of plants
- White Elmer’s glue or a wood glue that dries clear. Note: Elmer’s clear glue will not work because it doesn’t seem to set.
- Potting soil
- Branches for planters. Mine were anywhere from 1 1/2″ to 3″ in diameter.
- 2″ Forstner drill bit & a drill or drill press
- Old container to mix potting soil and glue
- Old measuring cup
- Glue gun with (optional) black glue sticks
1. Prepare the branches
I have a lot of big old trees in my yard, so if a big branch comes down in a storm, I know just what to do with it; faux succulent planters and candle holders! The diameter of the branches I used ranged from 1 1/2″ to 3″. If you’ve collected branches from outside, you’ll want to “cook” them. I explain how in the steps below. Don’t drill the holes for the planter until after the wood has cooked. Why? There are two reasons for this: one, the wood might crack around the drilled holes when heated, and two, dry wood drills better than wet wood.
- Cut the branches at various heights. Mine were anywhere from 1 1/2 to 5″.
- Set the oven to 250 degrees F.
- Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
- Add the cut branches allowing enough space for the air to circulate each one.
- Let it “cook” for 2-3 hours. This will help to ensure you won’t have any bugs. It also helps to dry the wood.
- Allow the “planters” to cool.
2. Drill the holes for the faux planter
I have a drill press for this part, but you can also use a vice and a regular drill.
- If your branches are under 2 1/2″ in diameter, use a 1 1/2″ Forstner drill bit. For larger diameters above 2 1/2″, use a 2″ drill bit.
- Whether you’re using a drill press or a regular drill, for safety, clamp the wood in a vice before you drill.
- I always eyeball where the center is, then drill down about 1 inch. It doesn’t have to be exact.
3. Mix the glue and potting soil to make faux dirt
Before you begin, figure out how much dirt you need for each faux planter. I’ve found the easiest way is to add dry potting soil to each planter, fill it to the top with soil, then transfer the soil from each one into an old bowl and mix up one batch. For other planters, like those shown in the photos at the beginning, you’ll need to add more potting soil than you think because the soil gets compacted down.
- Using an old bowl and a spoon, pour some glue into the same bowl as the potting soil and mix. Keep adding glue and mixing until there is no more dry soil. It’s ready when you can shape it into a ball. (Think cookie dough!) Note: if you’d prefer to measure, try about four parts potting soil to one part glue.
- Spoon the glue and soil mixture into each drilled hole, filling it to the top.
- Take the back of the spoon and gently push the dirt down to help compact it.
- Next, use your thumb and gently push down all around. Compacting the soil helps to reduce the chance of the soil cracking when dry.
4. Add the plants before the soil mixture dries
- Trim the stem to about 1/2″ long.
- Add the faux plant before the glue in the soil sets.
5. Finish off by gluing the plants into the soil
Once the soil has dried, gently pull the plant out and add hot glue to the base of the plant stem. I used black glue sticks because they blend better with the soil should any glue show. However, the clear glue stick will work well too.
That’s all there is to it! I hope you had as much fun making this faux succulent DIY as much as I did!
See you at the next project!