Lightweight planters are a great addition to just about any garden. You know the ones – they resemble heavy concrete or clay pots, but they’re actually made of a light, porous material (not plastic). They add color, structure and texture to your yard, but they’re much easier to move around than traditional clay planters.

Old worn container

The paint on this planter has worn off, but the structure is still good. For a few dollars, I can save this planter without having to spend more money on a new one!

Photo Credit: Mary Moore

Cover the spots

See the white spots next to the grapes? Just use a makeup sponge or small brush to finish filling anywhere the larger paintbrush misses.

Photo Credit: Mary Moore

Add accent color

Brush the accent paint only on the raised design of the planter. Don’t allow the paint to spill into the background.

Photo Credit: Mary Moore

Final color brush

Lightly brush the final color over the surface of the design. Remember, you’re only adding a little definition here, not repainting.

Photo Credit: Mary Moore

Finished painted container

My old planter looks great again in no time – and at a fraction of the cost of buying a new one!

Photo Credit: Mary Moore

The one downside to these containers is that the finishes can start to wear off with normal garden use. The good news is that it’s pretty easy to refinish them, keeping your container garden looking nice. For less than $10, you can save a planter that costs $35 or more! Just choose a paint or stain that’s weather-resistant or recommended for outdoor use. (The best place to look is a craft store, which often carries inexpensive paints that can be used to give old planters a fresh face – or a whole new look.)

Just remember: Unlike glazed clay or plastic planters, these lightweight planters are made of a porous material and will absorb paints very quickly. If you try to create shadows by applying darker accent paint and then wiping it off, the darker paint will stain the planter before you can wipe it away. So instead, try this painting method to create beautiful shadows and light:


  • One worn lightweight planter
  • White or craft paper
  • Two 2-ounce bottles DecoArt® Patio Paint Antique Mum (primary color)
  • One 2-ounce bottle DecoArt Patio Paint Natural Tan Grout (accent color)
  • One 2-ounce bottle DecoArt Patio Paint Clear Coat
  • One small plastic bowl or plate to hold paint
  • One 2- to 3-inch-wide paintbrush
  • One small triangular makeup sponge or small paintbrush for details
  • Soap and water for cleanup

Note: My planter was 16 inches wide. If you’re refinishing a smaller planter, you may only need one bottle of the primary color. If you want a sharper contrast around the raised design, you can add one 2-ounce bottle of DecoArt Patio Paint Woodland Brown for the accent color, using the Natural Tan Grout for the final layer of color.


Start by cleaning your worn planter with water and a soft brush to remove surface dirt, both inside and out. Allow the planter to dry completely before refinishing so the paint will adhere properly to the surface.

Spread out white or craft paper on the surface you’re working on to protect it. Place the planter right-side up on the paper so you can paint the lip of the planter, as well as the sides. (Line the inside of the planter with paper if you want to make sure paint doesn’t splatter inside.) Pour a small amount of the paint into a bowl or onto a plate.

Using your wider paintbrush, paint the entire surface of the planter with your primary paint color (in this case, the Antique Mum). Use the makeup sponge to fill in the gaps around any raised surface. (This will make a big difference in the final look of your planter.) After your first coat has dried, apply a second coat of your primary paint color. Allow the paint to dry, then turn the planter over and paint its base. If you have enough paint left over, add a second coat of paint here.

Allow your primary color to dry completely before adding the accent color. If you live in a hot, dry area, this may take just a few hours, but I prefer to let the planter sit a full 24 hours to ensure there won’t be any blending of colors.

When you’re ready to do the accent, dip the pointed end of a small makeup sponge or small paintbrush into the accent color. Lightly dab in the gaps between any raised areas and around the edges of those raised areas. This will create shadows on the design. If you accidentally paint too far into the flat surface, just wipe off any excess that you can and paint the primary color over the darker paint. (Use two coats of the primary color if you have to.)

When the accent color has dried, dip your thicker paintbrush back in your primary color, and lightly skim the surface of the raised design. If you’re using the alternate colors listed in the materials list, this is where you apply the final layer of color (in this case, the Natural Tan Grout). This adds just a light layer of color on the surface of the raised design and brings the design forward. Don’t try to fill in the gaps or spill over the edges of the raised design. (This is easier to do if you wipe the brush several times after dipping to wipe off all excess paint.) When you’re finished, allow the paint to dry completely. Finally, paint your container with one or two layers of the Clear Coat to preserve the surface longer.

Once your planter is thoroughly dry, it’s ready for planting again!

If you’ve got some old, worn-looking planters hanging out in the garage or shed, think about refinishing them instead of pitching in the garbage. It’s an easy, cost-effective way to keep your pots looking new and beautiful – and your plants looking better than ever!