Introduction: Easy to Make Concrete Bowls and Planters...

Picture of Easy to Make Concrete Bowls and Planters...

For a quick, fun and very easy garden project, grab a bag of concrete, your imagination, and follow me!

Concrete planters and garden ornamentation are a wonderful addition to the outdoor setting around one's home. Often, such decor comes with a high price, enormous size and incredible weight which is not easily transported. The solution? Make your own.

While you would likely not fare well to dive right into large scale concrete landscaping, you can dabble a bit in a smaller project to begin with. Then, when you find how addicting this craft is, take it easy on me for suggesting it. So let's get started.

Curious about the intro bowl? See step five for details.
Curious about the frog? He is a real. Hyla versicolor have the ability to change colors.

Found a typo? Please, by all means, let me know. :-) I appreciate it!

Is your reply positive and constructive? I'd love to hear it.
Please refrain from being nasty or negative. That is not the purpose of this site.

Step 1: Gather Your Materials...

Picture of Gather Your Materials...

What you will need:


QUIKRETE® Concrete Mix (No. 1101) is the original 4000 psi average compressive strength blend of Portland cement, sand, and gravel or stone. Just add water. Use for any general concrete work. (Verbatim as posted on the Quikrete site) Resist the urge to use heavy duty concrete, as it is very chunky. For those familiar with mixing their own concrete instead of using a mix, by all means do so. We use Quikrete because it is available in our area and has proven to be of quality for the items I've made.

Though many home improvement stores carry ready-to-mix concrete in 80 pound bags, it is also available in other sizes, depending on your preference as well as ability to lug it around. Be sure to allow store employees to help load the larger bags into your car. There are many types of ready-to-mix available, choose accordingly. I prefer Quikrete (mainly because it is readily available in our area) and Quikrete Vinyl Concrete Patcher, but these products are mere suggestions. Nothing is cast in stone. Yet.

COLORING - Not a necessary item at all, though coloring concrete is quite fun, and easy! Check out liquid cement colors near the concrete section of your local hardware store. A 10 oz. bottle will color quite a bit of concrete. If you want to maintain color consistency in your projects, consider making up large bottles of colored water for your project, and be sure to keep a lid on the container of mixed water. Shake well before using. Don't get carried away by dumping in more colorant than recommended, or your concrete will not set properly.

MOLDS - An endless supply of molds, containers and other ideas are available everywhere. Scour yard sales, thrift stores and other thrifty places for interesting shapes and sizes. Don't stick to bowls, use your imagination. You could even make your own. Try not to choose anything with great detail, as you may be disappointed. For finer detail, use Vinyl Patch mix, which has far less bumps and bits of rock, or use a good cement and sand recipe.

Just about any container can be utilized as a mold for concrete, provided you are able to get the finished product out of it. Bowls, cups, milk cartons, jugs, the ideas are bountiful. At present, I've found much delight in selecting unique glass containers from second hand stores and yard sales. If the finished item cannot be dropped or dumped out of the mold, after the concrete has fully set up, simply (and gently) tap the glass to crack or break it from your concrete creation, then rinse off the glass and be sure to take it to the recycling center.

Plastic, stainless steel and other materials release from the cured concrete easily when non-stick spray is applied to the mold prior to adding concrete.

NON-STICK COOKING SPRAY - Yes, release agents are sold specifically for the purpose of mold release when using concrete, but quite frankly, a cheap can of non-stick cooking spray works just fine. Use it generously to ensure your project will slide out of the mold. I've used both generic and Pam brand cooking sprays with success. Thanks to the many wonderful Instructable folks who have also suggested using other agents such as WD40 and perhaps even motor oil.

WATER - Necessary to mix with the concrete. Not too hot, not too cold, not too much, not too little. Perhaps my 'luck' has been the love of making mud pies as a child. Think Goldilocks, and mix well.

RUBBER GLOVES - Nothing fancy needed, but you should wear them. Be safe, not sorry. Concrete poisoning is no fun, and it's not pretty. I know this from personal experience.

EMERGENCY MOLDS - So you've mixed a pristine batch of concrete, you've sprayed the mold and you're in the process of filling it. Whoops, not enough concrete! Quick, dump it out and reach for another mold. Keep one close by for this very reason, and don't forget to spray it first. It is better to make a bit more than to end up a bit short.

A POKER - You'll need something about the circumference of a pencil to poke out air bubbles.

A LARGE SPOON - Or any similar item to mix the concrete. My favorite? A skinny garden trowel. Keep your eyes off items in the utensil drawer of the kitchen unless you no longer wish to use it on food.

BUCKETS, MEASURING CUPS, MISCELLANEOUS 'TOOLS OF THE TRADE' - Obtain inexpensive tools and reserve them for concrete projects alone, as they will become tarnished with concrete. Don't be wasteful. Clean and re-use your tools.

Step 2: Mix Concrete, Fill Your Mold...

Picture of Mix Concrete, Fill Your Mold...

Spray your mold with cooking oil and set aside. Mix the concrete so it is about the consistency of peanut butter, not a slushee. It should hold a bit of form when shaped into a ball, but not so wet that it slumps, and not so dry that you can't make a ball without a great deal of effort. Not too wet, not too dry.

Pack the mold, tapping and poking the concrete down into any crevices in the mold. Once filled, level off the top with something flat like a ruler. If you can, carefully bounce the project on a firm surface that is covered with something cushy. You don't want to break the mold, especially if you've chosen a glass mold.

Set on a level surface out of direct sun. Wait twenty four hours before you even think of touching it.

Step 3: Allow Proper Concrete Curing Time...

Picture of Allow Proper Concrete Curing Time...

Concrete creation is generally not advised in high temperatures. Work in the shade if you simply cannot resist a Summer project.

CONSIDER A WATER BATH - Concrete is not as easy as mixing, setting and forgetting. It requires a period of time to harden, or 'cure'. Unfortunately, concrete is notorious for setting before the ingredients have had a chance to bond as securely as they could have. The result of a rushed concrete job is cracking, weakened durability and a crumbled project. I allow my projects to remain in the mold for a minimum of 24 hours, longer for thicker items, then carefully set the item into a deep bath of water for a minimum of one week. Okay, fine, I admit it, I stuff them into unoccupied pond plant containers and sometimes in with the Koi (not advised for everyone, though our tanks are HUGE). Often I submerge the entire project to avoid any damage. DON'T rush it, don't be impatient. The reward to patience is well worth it. A week. I mean it!

Many people also merely cover their projects with wet burlap (thanks, Cyoung13) or plastic wrap and such. Unfortunately I've never used such methods, so I cannot speak for them, but they are equally wonderful methods of preventing your project from drying out too quickly.

For those who simply haven't the time or the means to ensure your project stays moist, you might consider an acrylic concrete cure & seal, available in most home improvement centers in liquid form. Brush, roll or spray this formula onto freshly set (not freshly poured) concrete. Look for the deep yellow jug with green and black labeling in the concrete section. This product can be used on recent projects, or even existing concrete.

Step 4: Sanding and Sealing Your Ware...

Now that your project is finished, you love it, you sit back and adore it, you cock your head sideways and wonder what to do next.

It's beautiful, but have you considered making it even more so? Grab a sanding block, your project and let's head outdoors!

On a breezy day, set your project up outdoors in an area where you will get a good dose of air. You don't want to inhale any kind of dust, you know. With a sanding block, rub your project vigorously in a small area. Now feel the other side. What a difference! Go ahead, sand
the entire thing. After it is completely sanded, rinse it off, dust it off, whatever ensures you have removed any residual dust.

Head to your local home improvement store for a jug of this, or a similar item, depending on what your store carries:

Using an appropriately sized brush, roller, or sprayer, apply concrete cure and seal, allow to dry, and enjoy even more!

Step 5: Use Your Imagination...BUBBLE BOWLS!

Picture of Use Your Imagination...BUBBLE BOWLS!

You are not limited by much when choosing molds for your concrete garden treasure. The bowl in the intro was created using what is typically known as a Bubble or Cell bowl. As it is difficult to explain, pictures have been provided. One of the pictures features a copyright message. Not to worry, it is mine. Love you, Dave's Garden!

The glass bowl in the first image is shown upside down. Typically, it is filled with artificial flowers, then turned upside down to allow the bowl to be used, while still being able to see the flowers inside the glass bubble. Look closely and you will see the indented bubble in the middle. The only opening to this 'bubble' is the one you see at the top. This bubble can be filled. I hope I've made sense.

* Updated to include additional images. So many of you did not understand what a Bubble Bowl was, and I understand. It is hard to imagine without a picture. :-)

When filled with concrete, allowed to dry, then flipped upside down, the glass is carefully broken from the concrete, leaving a heavy and very durable bowl. Don't forget to recycle the broken glass.

I hope you have enjoyed this Instructable as much as I have enjoyed making it.

Step 6: Additional Idea #1...

Picture of Additional Idea #1...

I'll post just a few samples to provide a starting point for your creativity.

*Also see step 9*

Fill a bowl (plastic is reusable) half or three quarters full of concrete.
Spray a bowling ball with cooking oil, hold it by the holes and insert into the bowl of concrete.
Push hard, twisting the ball as you press down, but don't let the concrete overflow
the bowl. Allow to sit for a day or so, then twist the ball out of the bowl. The harder
you push, the deeper your bowl will be. Neat! Don't forget to cure it properly.

Step 7: Additional Idea #2...

Picture of Additional Idea #2...

Fill your choice of container with concrete, squish a glass votive holder into the concrete.
Allow the glass to remain in the concrete even when it dries. Try not to be too sloppy, and
you won't have to clean up the glass afterward. Let it cure, add a candle, and enjoy. You
can remove the original container or allow it to simply be a heavy item with concrete intact.

In this example, a flower-shaped votive holder was pressed into a bowl, then later broken out,
leaving a nice shape with a well for a votive candle.

As this bowl has only today come out of a curing water bath, I will allow it to dry, then grind
down the rough edges.

Step 8: Additional Idea #3...

Picture of Additional Idea #3...

This bowl is made using the same type of glass bubble bowl as in the introduction
of this Instructable, but it is much more shallow and of larger circumference. It is heavy, which
makes for an excellent pet food or water bowl after it has been properly sealed...don't want Fido
to become sick from anything harmful that may leak from the concrete. Thanks for the reminder,

No tipping! Best source for these bubble bowls -
yard sales and second hand stores.

Step 9: Additional Idea #4...

Picture of Additional Idea #4...

Special thanks to Design Sponge and Design Gal for the idea of using a glass fixture. My wheels began to turn!

A very large glass lighting globe was using to make this 30+ pound concrete sphere.
Please note, the glass was removed entirely, I just wanted to share a photo showing both
the concrete and the glass, which if you look carefully, you can see it is thinner glass in
some areas of the globe. A fun project I enjoyed doing.

I simply filled a large glass globe with concrete, left it alone for a week, then submerged
it in water for another week. Wearing safety glasses, the lighting globe was then removed
by gently smacking it with a hammer. What am I going to do with it? I haven't yet though that
far, but for now, it simply remains in our garden walkway for amusement. It isn't likely someone
will run off with it very far. :-)

Step 10: More on the Bowling Ball Bowl From Step 5...and a Link to a Great Instructable!

Picture of More on the Bowling Ball Bowl From Step 5...and a Link to a Great Instructable!

Several of you expressed interest in the bowling ball bowl. Say that three times fast!

In a nutshell, you simply choose a bowl that is larger in circumference than your bowling ball.
Fill the bowl half to three quarters full of concrete, submerge the ball in and give it a squish.
Allow it to dry.

Remove the ball, remove the bowl and there you have it. :-)

Want more? You should definitely check out Creativeman's Bowling Ball project!

Great job, Creativeman!

Step 11: Libbie Wanted in on the Action...

Picture of Libbie Wanted in on the Action...

Libbie decided she should keep an eye on the concrete ball as it cured.
Just in case something went awry, you know.


pockafwye (author)2017-12-24

This is an older post but I see folks are still commenting. It's a great idea but everyone should check their local recycling policies. In most cases, you're not allowed to put broken glass in your recycling bin for safety reasons. You may be able to drop it off at a local facility, but the curbside bins are handled by sanitation workers who may not be prepared for shards of glass.

perfo (author)2017-11-23

informative post thanks. You love what you do which is always a good thing.

I wondered if you'd have any ideas on a project I'm hoping to do.

I want to build a fountain with maybe a 2meter bowl at the bottom then maybe a 1m bowl and 0.5m one on top with a stand between them. I can buy these sorts of cascade fountains if I had oodles of cash.. but as I haven't I'm thinking of how I could make one. The mould for those kind of sizes don't come readily to my mind..

thanrose (author)perfo2017-12-11

If you want to try a large diameter bowl, search high and low for exercise balls. I know them make them in a variety of sizes for physical therapy. They might be expensive if you can't get them used. Since you plan on doing a fountain, a flat bottom for the pedestal and riser shouldn't be a problem. Then you might search out restaurant and catering supply places and see what they have for huge acrylic or plastic salad bowls.

perfo (author)thanrose2017-12-12

Ok , thanks for your comments... Though even a huge exercise ball may not be big enough.... :-)

Fotmasta (author)2017-12-03

Hi Froggy!

KarenKT made it! (author)2017-07-05

I agree that everything can be a container! I love making garden art with very cheap/ free materials. For example, I waited until after Halloween one year to buy a glass skull on clearance, and took the bottom off, filled with concrete. I was very patient in waiting a week to "unfold" by putting it in a heavy duty garbage bag and removing glass with a hammer. Then it was painted. I used a 50/50 mixture of play sand and cement. I usually will put in strengthening additives if the piece is larger.

WUVIE (author)KarenKT2017-07-15

Very cool! I'm so glad you shared this, and added it to the I MADE IT section. Love the paint job, too!

KarenKT (author)WUVIE2017-11-25


KarenKT (author)WUVIE2017-07-16

Thank you... concrete is a media I enjoy. I have looked on eBay for cool molds and have made many things. I like the painting part, especially. Then you can take a plain grey form and bring it to life. Sometimes people don't even recognize it is concrete until they pick it up!

lorenkinzel (author)KarenKT2017-11-24

Wow! 50/50 is pretty hot. I guess being in glass for a week was a pretty good cure schedule. Looks cool.

KarenKT (author)lorenkinzel2017-11-25


KarenKT (author)2017-11-25

Thanks so much!

mariannerobertadavis (author)2017-11-24

What a great garden project! Thank you so much for sharing.

perfo (author)2017-11-23

informative post thanks. You love what you do which is always a good thing.

I wondered if you'd have any ideas on a project I'm hoping to do.

I want to build a fountain with maybe a 2meter bowl at the bottom then maybe a 1m bowl and 0.5m one on top with a stand between them. I can buy these sorts of cascade fountains if I had oodles of cash.. but as I haven't I'm thinking of how I could make one. The mould for those kind of sizes don't come readily to my mind..

GrietaGozo (author)2017-02-09

How do I add drainage holes for plants?

nikeya2u (author)GrietaGozo2017-11-23

You could hot glue PVC pipe to bottom of bowel (or duck tape it but I think hot glue better). Just spray the same oil or release agent on the PVC pipe (which needs to be taller than the bowl). There is always a masonary drill bit but that is messy & takes a while.

AppleP1 (author)GrietaGozo2017-07-04

Using the bowling ball bowl as an example, how about gluing 3 short (1/2"-1"?) lengths of dowel vertically to the bottom of your mold, put in the concrete and press your bowling ball down until you hit them. Alternatively, set the bowling ball in the mold balanced on top of your trio of dowels before you pour your concrete in around the ball.

After you remove the mold and ball from the concrete item there would be a bit of concrete that seeped in between the dowel and bowl but I imagine that could be carefully chipped out. I haven't tried this. It's just an idea that came to mind.

Tangski (author)2017-07-04

You could also use stain glass and set it into the concrete. We use 2 different cements for that...a very fine one where that glass is set down onto the mold surface, mold release, then pour the finer cement over that, then the heavier cement. It seems to work very well, and you get beautiful table tops, stepping stones, and of course you could do that with this method of bowls etc...just an extra idea:) Of course, vibrate layer one, then later layer two when that is added...or just use one fine cement...up to you.:) One can get sooo creative with this stuff, and I sure love your added ideas:) Will take that to the glass guild when I see them next. Cheers and thanks!

WUVIE (author)Tangski2017-07-15

Many thanks, Tangski!

Paulo Rogerio (author)2017-07-04

Dear Wuvie, congratulations on your work. What would you tell me if you used direct colors in the concrete mix ?? Using various types of paints, one obtains excellent finishes and a divine appearance. How about the idea ???

WUVIE (author)Paulo Rogerio2017-07-15

Paulo, I think using colors in the concrete would be very cool. I'm not familiar with using colorants, but I do hope you'll give it a try, and let us know how yours turns out.

Tetrafish (author)2014-04-30

I had been wondering if something like this could be used like a mortar & pestle. Preferably something to keep outside (since it's heavy anyway) and to crush up egg shells to use in my raised garden beds for insect control (& here I find it :-). I think I'd use a larger bowl (like with the bowling ball) for the mortar, and a smaller globe for the pestle.

WUVIE (author)Tetrafish2017-07-15

Oh, this would definitely be a neat idea. I would use it in the garden, though not for my own food. I love Apple's idea to use a light bulb for the pestle.

AppleP1 (author)Tetrafish2017-07-04

Maybe a light bulb (sans metal part) plus a cardboard tube for the pestle?

WUVIE (author)AppleP12017-07-15

Apple, what a cool idea!

WUVIE (author)Tetrafish2014-05-01

Hmm. At first, I thought this was not such a great idea, but I was thinking about food consumption, with bits of concrete in the food, which is likely what would happen.

If you use one to grind eggshells for a garden, perhaps that would not be so bad, provided you were more or less tapping the shells into crushed form and not necessarily grinding then against the concrete. Sounds neat, though, I'd love to see a picture if you end up making one, and an update with regard to the eggshell crushing. Neat!

ClareBS (author)2017-07-04

I wondered how you got such detail in the matching frog! Beautiful bowl, great instructable. I might even make one some day.

WUVIE (author)ClareBS2017-07-15

Many thanks, Clare!

Manorlady (author)2017-02-23

Hi, I've bought some latex moulds and need to cast them and then make fibreglass jackets. The problem is when I cast them they stretch and go out of shape. I've tried putting them in sand to secure them but this hasn't worked. How can I get a cast made without them stretching? Any advice would muchly be appreciated. Thank you.

LarryE27 (author)Manorlady2017-07-12

Use plaster of paris.

Shinchan (author)2013-11-05

Do you think you could eat off of bowls made from concrete? Would it have to be treated? I have a plan to make a mochi usu (large mochi pounding mortar) from concrete but hesitant to do so if the concrete would leach out something into the mochi.
Mahalo for any info!

AppleP1 (author)Shinchan2017-07-04

Sounds cool! Yes, you definitely need to seal it to prevent eating concrete as well as to make a smooth, cleanable surface. Think of ceramic dishes which always have a glaze on them.

Shinchan (author)AppleP12017-07-04

Thanks, I made the mortar with an embedded stainless mixing bowl so I didn't have to seal it for thought next time.

Tangski (author)2017-07-04

Kitty looks as if to say, so where did you hide the catnip in all this stuff???

bobski_horner (author)2015-10-08

good idea and also simple instructions .

Can I give you a better way to get rid of air in the concrete though?,try using an old vibrator from your wife or girlfriend or just buy one. using vibration is the method that industry use to get rid of air in concrete . I`m not going any further on the vibration side as I`ll probably get some stick to mention it here :>

LOL, great idea. I believe a back massager would do the trick? What do y'all think? Does it have to go into the concrete or does it go on the side of the bowl?

A palm sander works, as does a washing machine on the spin cycle (top loading). I've cast stepping stones, placed them on a raised piece of plywood & used both to "jiggle" the air bubbles to the surface.

Swansong (author)2017-04-12

This may be a good solution! I've got some plants that need to go outside but the wind here gets crazy. A normal planter just won't be heavy enough to stay standing.

meacham8085 (author)2017-02-28

Hi. I've been trying to find out how to make that bowl for a while. Thank you so much for sharing! Wonderful, thoughtfully worded instructions. I plan to try it this summer!

AlyceF (author)2017-02-13

I'm looking for a lion mold. All I can find are small ones. Would love to find a larger one. Ideas?

Leewinks (author)2016-10-16

Hi I've just got some fibreglass molds and I'm wondering what to use to get the concrete out once set and do you submerge the whole thing or just concrete once out of mild. Thanks lee

KarenK106 (author)2016-08-13

I love the smooth sides of these bowls. I am having a really hard time finding bubble or cell bowls like the ones you have shown here. Do you have particular source that you use?

JannDe (author)2016-07-07

Is there any kind of glue that could be used to add mosaic glass pieces or pebbles to the rim? I've used Weldbond, but some of the pieces came off...

CaroE1 (author)2015-12-14

Spelling is excellent and what a super little frog!:)

WUVIE (author)CaroE12016-07-01

LOL. Thank you, Carol. I try to pay attention to my writing, but there are times my fingers go a little too fast, and I don't notice the typos. Incorrect spelling is typically a peeve of mine. :-)

CaroE1 (author)WUVIE2016-07-01

Everybody spells something wrong but it does niggle me if in a newspaper or book!

Not familiar with peeve in that context, can be peeved over here, I love the regional variations!

Tree hugging, it has been known! I think it's meant to earth out negative energy or summat. Certainly nice to study them with wonderment..I saw what thought was indian bean tree earlier, then realised it was the lovely pink magnolia, the houses there are over a century old and I wonder about the tree now, fantastic shape. Tree bark on a plane always reminds me of a map or summat.

ScottG85 (author)2016-06-25

This is awesome! Would be perfect for a succulent planter. How big are the concrete bags for one planter? Thanks.

WUVIE (author)ScottG852016-07-01

Hello, Scott,

It would really depend on the size of the container you were going to use as a mold. If ever I am in doubt, I mix plenty, but then I have several smaller containers around, just in case. Better to have too much than not enough. :-)

ScottG85 (author)WUVIE2016-07-01

Thank you! It wouldnt hurt to make a bunch at once so theyre setting together.

About This Instructable




Bio: Let's skip the pretentious titles. At present, I am a paper pusher for a manufacturing plant. In the remainder of my life, I am ... More »
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