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A Simple Vertical Garden: How to DIY Stair Step Planters

Is your yard packed with plants? Add more by growing upwards! Simple stair step planters are an easy way to add more plants and increase your curb appeal. Designer-builder Katie Jackson shows you how to build them yourself in this step-by-step project for building your own vertical garden.

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These sleek boxes running down the side of a staircase echo the rise of the steps.

These simple stair step planters can be filled with flowering vines cascading from one box to the next, or with zinnias for a pop of color next to their stark white shape. Whatever plant you choose, enjoy the benefits of a vertical garden and maximize your space!



  • Three 1 inch × 8 inch × 6 feet boards
  • One 1 inch × 10 inch × 4 feet board
  • Two pieces of 1-inch scrap wood to be used for positioning (you will create these scraps when you are cutting pieces to length)
  • 1 1/4-inch #8 deck screws
  • Weatherproof wood glue
  • Plugs



  • Miter saw
  • Drill/driver
  • Quick­flip drive with a #8 11/64-inch countersink bit
  • 3/8-inch drill bit
  • Rubber mallet
  • Tape measure
  • Adjustable square
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Cut the box walls to length.

1. Cut the box walls to length. Using the miter saw, cut sixteen pieces from the 1 × 8s at 10 1/2-inches long. If your miter saw can't cut the full the width of the board, make one cut first, then, with the miter saw turned off, turn the board around, align the blade with the kerf (the space left from the first cut), and make the second cut. Arrange four wall pieces in a square so that each piece overlaps, and is overlapped by, one piece at the corners. Trace the end of each piece onto the face of its neighboring piece.

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2. Construct the walls for the boxes. Measure and mark one side of each face piece for two screw holes.

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3. Predrill for two counterbored holes on each face. Screw together the four box wall pieces. Repeat the steps above for each box.

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4. Cut the bottoms to length. Place a four-walled box assembly directly on the 1 × 10 board. (The 1 × 10 board, when centered inside the box, will leave about a 1/4-inch gap on opposite sides for drainage.) Trace the two inside walls of the planter box form onto the 1 × 10 where it meets the box walls and cut the 1 × 10 to fit the inside of the box. Set the box bottom piece aside and repeat this step for the remaining three boxes.

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5. Construct the box bottom. Place two 1-inch-thick pieces of scrap wood, stacked, against the outside of the planter box and trace the top of the scrap stack onto the box. Remove the top scrap piece. Trace the top of the remaining scrap piece onto the planter box. The two lines indicate where the box bottom will be positioned inside the box.

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6. Using an adjustable square, mark two screw holes between these lines, 1 1/2 inches in from either edge and predrill two counterbored holes. Repeat the steps above on the opposite side of the box, for a total of four screw holes per box.

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7. Place one piece of scrap wood inside the box form (it will sit on the work surface).

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8. Place the box bottom inside the box form, on top of the scrap. Center the box bottom so there is about a 1/4-inch gap on each side.

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9. Screw the box walls to the box bottom.

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Drill drainage holes in the bottom of the box.

10. Remove the quick-flip drive and tighten a 3/8-inch drill bit in the drill/driver. Flip the box over and drill five or six holes in the bottom of the box for additional drainage.

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11. Put a small drop of glue into each screw hole, insert a plug, and gently pound the plugs into the holes with a mallet. Sand the plugs so that they're flush with the surface of the wood. Sand the joints well for a seamless effect. Paint the boxes, if you like.


What are you going to fill your planters with? Tell us in the comments!


Are you interested in trying more DIY, woodworking projects? Check out Katie's new book Hand-Built Outdoor Furniture.