Cedar Planters for less than $20!

Submitted by Ana White on Sat, 05/18/2019 - 11:50
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Using cedar fence pickets, you can make these beautiful planters for about $20 each!  Our plans include step-by-step diagrams, shopping and cut lists, and dozens of reader submitted photos and success stories. 

 We also have plans for a taller, more modern planter, a cedar ladder planter (also using cedar fence pickets!) and lots more planter projects here.

beautiful cedar planter about knee height, square block shaped with pink flowers

Cedar planters are so beautiful - you cannot replicate the natural texture and grain of real wood.  But cedar can be expensive.  Why not use cedar fence pickets (about $2 for 6 feet each) and build your own for a fraction of the cost?

This was a quick and easy project, and I absolutely love how it turned out! Every time I come home, I admire my planters.

Framed Top Modification

Many of our readers have modified this plan to have a mitered framed top, like this one below by Hillary Louise

beautiful reclaimed wood planter box made by a reader with yellow flowers

To do this modification, simply cut the 2x2 legs 22" long (instead of 23-3/4").  Attach the side panels flush to the tops of the legs in step 2.  

You'll need to add a 1x3, 8 feet long, to the shopping list.  Cut four 1x3 @ 21" longest point to longest point - both ends cut at 45 degrees, ends NOT parallel. Nail or screw to the top of the planter after you have completed building. 

Rectangle Cedar Planter

You can also easily alter the size of the planters up to double the width rectangle shape, without having to add additional legs, as done here.

rectangle shaped cedar planter with trellis, doubled in width from the plans

This is an easy modification - just add a couple more cedar fence pickets and 1x3s to your shopping list.  I recommend laying out the cedar fence pickets and measuring how long you need to cut your 1x3s (instead of just doubling the cut list dimensions) because cedar fence pickets can vary in width.

Cedar Fence Picket Planter Plans

The plans for the cedar fence picket planter are below.  Please share a photo if you build - we greatly appreciate brag posts.

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Cedar Planters

dimensions diagram of cedar planter
Dimensions shown above.


Shopping List

2 - 1x3 @ 8 feet long

1 - 1x2 @ 8 feet long

3 - 5 1/2" wide x 72" long cedar fence pickets

1 - 2x2 @ 8 feet long

2 1/2" exterior pocket hole screws

1 1/4" exterior screws or galvanized nails

exterior wood glue

Cut List

10 - 1x3 @ 17"

5 - 1x2 @ 17"

4 - 2x2 @ 23 3/4"

12 - cedar fence pickets @ 17 3/4" long (shortened by 1/4" from diagrams to allow for saw blade width and dog eared end)

Tape Measure
Speed Square
Safety Glasses
Hearing Protection
Kreg Jig
Circular Saw
Brad Nailer
Power Sander


Step 1

Start by first building your four panels. I sized this plan to allow for an 1/8" gap between the cedar pickets as they will shrink/expand with moisture and let's just face it - the cedar fence pickets are not going to be perfect! I used 1 1/4" galvanized nails and exterior glue from the insides.

Step 2

On all four of your panels, drill 2 - 1 1/2" pocket holes on the inside, behind each 1x3 on the ends. This will put screws through the fence pickets, 1x3s and then into your legs. Join two of the panels to the legs as shown in diagram.

Step 3

And then add the remaining two panels to create your planters. Adjust for square.

Step 4

Now don't think that this whole planter needs to be filled with dirt!!! Unless you are planning on harvesting potatoes in there! I put my bottom 6" down from the top to keep the planter lighter and use less dirt. Start by attaching cleats to sides at desired height.

Step 5


Mary Helen

Wed, 06/25/2014 - 13:35

I thought I would make one planter just to get me started and give me enough courage to move on to bigger things (like a farmers table). Well, I made the planter with no problem. It was pretty easy. My husband liked it so much he contracted me out to our church who in turn wanted 4 more planters for there new wooden deck. So, I made 5 planters for my churches new wooden deck. I am so proud of my work that everytime I go to church I tell someone new, Guess who made those planter? Duh! Me. Yep, I made them all by myself. Thanks Ana for the plans!!


Sun, 02/15/2015 - 17:01

These look great! I have a question though. On step one it says, "attach at bottom and top with 1 1/2 inch ph screws and 2 1/2 phs screws." There aren't 1 1/2 ph screws in the shopping list. The 2 1/2 Pocket hole screws are for the pocket holes right? And then we attach the cedar planks to the 1x3's from the inside with 1 1/4 pan head screws? Is that right?

Sue Hill

Wed, 04/22/2015 - 09:17

I just love all your projects using these pickets. I have tried all over CT to find them but no luck. I've been using pressure treated pickets 1x6x6' but would rather find the cedar. Anyone have a source?


Wed, 12/02/2015 - 19:23

I built these with pine and stained with steel wool and vinegar.  They turned out good, but I would like to use them outside.  Should I put a coating on them for protection (one that has a matte finish), or will they be ok?



Thu, 12/31/2015 - 14:35

An alternative to the 1x3 pine would be to rip a cedar picket in half.  As the cedar pickets are 5.5 inches wide, you wouldn't end up with 3 inches per board, you get something like 2.625 inches in width for each board. But I think the advantage is the cedar pieces will weather better than the pine.


For the verical slats, if each picket is 6 feet in length you should be able to get 4 boards per picket, each 18" in length - helpful to those people wanting to build a bigger box.  If wanting to conceal the dog ear, put the dog ear end on the bottom of the planter and it will be hidden from everyone except the gophers.


It may be easier to attach the cleats (step 4) prior to building and fastening the box on all four sides, the advantage being you can screw or nail the cleats while each side of the planter is on a flat surface, and then do the tilt-up.  If attaching the cleats after the box has been built, it creates a somewhat awkward angle for hammering or screwing in that you don't have a direct downward view on your fasteners while attaching the cleats.




Sun, 04/03/2016 - 16:51

This is my first project with pocket holes....and I have already messed it up during step 1. I attached the fence pieces to the 1 bys with your & 2 screws for each board at top & bottom (4 screws per board). I now do not have enough room for the pocket holes :(. I am hoping I can correct this by removing the screws that are in the way. I wanted to mention this to try to help another newbie. Ana, thanks for sharing so many free woodworking plans. I hope to learn from this one & try several more.

Wayne Oglesby

Sun, 05/22/2016 - 12:40

Am I reading the instructions attaching legs by drilling 1 1/2 pocket holes but use 2 1/2 screws? FWIW I nearly cut the end of my thumb off getting in hurry cutting legs 2 weeks ago. Surgery this week. Anxious to finish and build more. 

Wayne Oglesby

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