previous
  • Go Green on the Patio
    Go Green on the Patio
  • Get your FREE Everyday Roses download now!
    Get your FREE Everyday Roses download now!
  • Planting the Right Way
    Planting the Right Way
  • Pantone Color of the Year 2014: Radiant Orchid
    Pantone Color of the Year 2014: Radiant Orchid
  • Seed Starting in Speedling Trays
    Seed Starting in Speedling Trays
  • Black Plants Done Right
    Black Plants Done Right
  • Garden Design Basics
    Garden Design Basics
  • DIY A-Frame Veggie Trellis
    DIY A-Frame Veggie Trellis
  • How to Grow Mustard
    How to Grow Mustard
  • Homegrown / Homemade
    Homegrown / Homemade
  • 3 Ways to Design with Containers
    3 Ways to Design with Containers
  • 20 Gardenworthy Self-Sowers
    20 Gardenworthy Self-Sowers
  • Plant Finder: Spring Plants
    Plant Finder: Spring Plants
  • Using Containers as Elements of a Design
    Using Containers as Elements of a Design
  • Pick Plants for Fragrance
    Pick Plants for Fragrance
  • Indoor Seed Starting Materials List
    Indoor Seed Starting Materials List
  • 10 Combinations for Shade
    10 Combinations for Shade
  • Bold and Beautiful Zinnias
    Bold and Beautiful Zinnias
  • Building Better Borders
    Building Better Borders
  • 10 Seed-Starting Tips
    10 Seed-Starting Tips
  • NEW Video Series: There's a Better Way
    NEW Video Series: There's a Better Way
  • Rex Begonias
    Rex Begonias
next

continued 1| 2| 3| 4next>View all

Make Your Own Hypertufa Container

Hypertufa looks like stone but weighs less and takes whatever shape you want

Photo/Illustration: Michelle Gervais

Containers made from hypertufa are wonderful for displaying rock-garden plants or succulents. Over time, the hypertufa ages gracefully, collecting a patina of mosses and lichens. In this article you will find the recipe and instructions for making hypertufa.

The process I use to mold containers is much simpler that the usual box-in-box method that sandwiches hypertufa and some metal mesh in a frame. Instead, I simply pack hypertufa around an overturned plastic pot or planter. And because it's so easy to work with, hypertufa can be molded into many sizes and shapes. 

Wondering what to plant in your new container? Browse our plant guide or check out more articles on container gardening.

Supplies

• mixing tub 
• container for measuring
• peat moss
• perlite
• Portland cement
• concrete reinforcing fibers
• dust mask
• rubber gloves
• trowel 
• plastic drop cloth
• plastic container for a mold
• wire brush

The recipe

1 part Portland cement
1 1/2 parts sphagnum peat moss
1 1/2 parts perlite

To add strength, I add a small handful of fibermesh, a synthetic concrete reinforcing fiber, to each batch, which is easier to work with than sheets of wire mesh embed­­­ded in the hypertufa. You can find fibermesh at masonry-supply stores or online.

Five easy steps

Step 1 —

Measure and mix the peat moss, perlite, cement, and a small handful of reinforcing fibers in your tub. You’ll kick up plenty of dust at this stage, so be sure to wear your dust mask.

Add the water while stirring with your trowel. Test the consistency frequently, as it’s much easier to add water than it is to readjust the dry ingredients. When a squeezed handful retains its shape and doesn’t release more than a few drops of water, the mix is ready.

Measure and mix Click to enlarge image Measure and mix
Add the water Click to enlarge image Add the water
Step 2 —

Mold the mixture around the chosen object, which has been placed upside down on the plastic drop cloth. Avoid objects with a pronounced lip since it would make the object difficult to remove from the finished container.

Pack the mixture up around the sides of the object, tamping it down firmly to bond the hyper­tufa to itself and to avoid a crumbly texture. A 1- to 2-inch layer on all sides will create strong walls.

Flatten the intended bottom of the completely covered object for stability, and shape the sides to a desired form. Then poke your finger through the bottom to create a drainage hole.

Mold the mixture around the chosen object Mold the mixture around the chosen object
Create a drainage hole Create a drainage hole
Step 3 — Wrap the container in the plastic sheeting, and place it in a shady spot for about a day to let it harden.
Wrap the container in plasticWrap the container in plastic
Step 4 —

Remove the wrapping after the hyper­tufa has had a day to harden. The mixture will be firm but still soft enough to work with. Turn the container over, and remove the mold.

Brush the sharp edges and the smooth top, if desired, to give a rougher, more natural look to the container.

Remove the wrapping Remove the wrapping
Brush the sharp edges Brush the sharp edges
Step 5 — Rewrap your container, and place it in a shady place for another two days. Then unwrap it, and soak it with a hose periodically over the period of a few weeks to leach out the residual lime from the cement, which would harm plants.
Rewrap your containerRewrap your container

Design Tip

To dress up your container, place ever­green sprigs or thick leaves around the rim of the mold before you start building the sides of your container. Lift them gently from the rim when you remove the mold.
Photos, except where noted: Steve Aitken
From Fine Gardening 98 , pp. 64-65

continued 1| 2| 3| 4next>View all