How to Make a Succulent Letterpress-Tray Planter

Plant your own container garden—with succulents like jade plant, aloe vera, and burro's tail—by upcycling wood into the style of a vintage letterpress tray.

succulent planter in a letterpress tray

This idea comes from our friend Kara Whitten of A Kailo Chic Life. A letterpress drawer is a thin wooden tray with compartments, which store letter stamps that were once used in a printing press for relief printing. Although it's something of a bygone era, these trays are commonly found at flea markets and antique sales.

Create your own vintage-style letterpress tray from paint stir sticks and wood stain, then fill it with succulents for a unique centerpiece. Within a few months of caring for your succulent letterpress tray (to insure proper rooting), you can glue peat moss around the soil onto the tray edges and hang your tray planter on a wall for a vertical succulent display.

What You'll Need


  • 1/2" birch plywood
  • 3 packs of 2-foot long paint mixing sticks (9 total sticks)
  • Miter saw
  • Wood glue
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Wood stain in your choice of colors
  • Old rag
  • Cabinet pull
  • Succulents
  • Potting soil


  1. Measure and cut plywood to 16 1/2 inches by 11 3/4 inches. Then, make all your wood cuts to create the compartments for your letterpress tray. Cut stir sticks: two pieces, each measuring 16 1/2 inches long; three pieces, each measuring 11 1/4 inches long; four pieces, each measuring 8 inches long; two pieces, each measuring 5 1/2 inches long; two pieces, each measuring 2 1/2 inches long.

  2. Assemble compartments, using wood glue to attach sticks to the plywood base. (Note: Be mindful to not use too much wood glue so that it protrudes out the seam. Wood glue prevents stain from penetrating the wood, so you will be left with unfinished wood wherever the wood glue overflows.) Let the tray dry overnight.

  3. Screw a cabinet pull into one side of the tray.

  4. Use a scrap rag to dip into your stain and rub it on the unfinished wood compartments—top edges, included—which produces a tonal color-blocking. Let the stain set for two to three hours.

  5. Add your soil and succulents to the tray's compartments. Give them a nice initial watering and then display on your coffee table or outdoor dining table.

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