Jack-o’-lanterns certainly say “crisp nights and cooler days.” But why not try something new this year: a plant-o-lantern! If you’ve been looking for a new way to express yourself this fall, this may just be the project for you! Create a beautiful fall container to decorate your front stoop or as a unique autumn centerpiece using a popular symbol of autumn: The pumpkin.


Plant-o’-lanterns are the perfect fall project – and make great host or hostess gifts!

Photo Credit: Lane Greer

The project’s simple. You just need a few supplies:

  • Pumpkin(s)
  • Plastic pot(s)
  • 5-7 fall plants per pumpkin (depending on the size of your plastic pot)
  • Potting soil
  • Trowel
  • Wilt-Pruf® Plant Protector (an anti-transpirant available at most garden centers)
  • Knife
  • Large nail
  • Hammer
  • Decorator paint (optional).


  1. Select a pumpkin large enough to hold your plastic nursery pot inside (a pot 6-8 inches works well). It’s probably a good idea to take your pot with you when picking out your pumpkin – just to make sure it’s the right size. (To keep your pumpkin from rotting, you’re going to actually pot up a plastic nursery pot, and slide it inside the pumpkin – which will serve as the decorative container.)
  2. Select “fall” plants. Look for those with some winter interest, like pansies, flowering kale and cabbages, cape daisies, mums and ornamental chard. Ask your local nursery for suggestions that work best in your area.
  3. Cut an opening in the top of the pumpkin large enough to fit the pot inside. Scoop out the goop and seeds. Using the large nail and hammer, make a hole in the bottom for drainage.
  4. Seal the inside of the pumpkin by spraying it with Wilt-Pruf® Plant Protector. (Don’t forget the drainage hole, too.) This helps keep the pumpkin from rotting away.
  5. If you want an exceptionally decorative look, paint your pumpkin. Let it dry thoroughly before you put the potted plants inside. (Gold and white paint work especially well on orange pumpkins.)
  6. Fill your plastic nursery container about halfway with potting soil, loosen the plants’ root-balls and arrange them in the pot to your liking. (You might want to place larger plants in the back or the center to show them better.) Place each root-ball securely down into the dirt, and fill in the remaining spaces with more medium until the pot is full. Pat it down.
  7. Water the pot thoroughly, and let it drain completely before placing it inside the pumpkin. Continue to water the plants as necessary, but be sure to pull out the pot every time beforehand. (Don’t forget to let it drain completely before putting it back in the pumpkin again.)
  8. Repeat – and enjoy!

Plant-o’-lanterns make great fall gifts for friends and neighbors! Spruce up your front walkway with several, decorate your Thanksgiving table, or plant up a few for your Halloween party! With proper care, your plant-o’-lanterns will shine all fall!