Introduction: Go Green Upside Down Hanging Planters

Picture of Go Green Upside Down Hanging Planters

Remember when the Topsy Turvy Hanging Tomato Plant commercial seemed to run incessantly on T.V.? What it really amounted to was a plastic green bag with plastic rings at the top and bottom with a hole for the plant to go through and a hanger.

The concept is that it keeps plants off the ground away from pests and by hanging upside down the plants will naturally grow upward toward the sunlight. With the water flowing downward onto the plant itself it also gets moisture and nutrients onto its leaves, thus producing a hardier plant yield.

Here's a generic version that can be used for a variety plants, from tomato's, green beans or any vine type plant.

I use it to make a Hanging Herb Garden just outside my kitchen door for a year round supply of fresh herbs to cook with. Living in So Cal most growing can go year round but we occasionally get those too cold days and rather than let my herbs die it only takes a minute to grab them and stash then on hooks in the garage until the weather warms up.

This article was submitted to the Keep The Bottle Contest. Please consider giving it a vote and comment if you deem it worthy. Thank you.

Step 1: You Will Need:

Picture of You Will Need:

To start your project you will need:

A young leafy plant, such a Tomato, Green Bean, Cucumber or your favorite Herb. I used Italian Parsley for this project.
A Two Liter Green Soda Bottle
A Hole Punch
A Roll of Duct Tape
Scissors and/or a sharp Knife
Enough soil to fill your bottle at least 3/4 full
A little Garden Mulch or Bark
Something sturdy to hang your planter with, such as twine, leather string, a cut coat hanger, etc.
A weather resistant hook to hang your planter on

Note: I had stated before that using a green bottle aids in photsynthesis, I stand corrected as you will find explained in the comments below by Dwygrshpr.

Step 2: Cut the Bottle

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Cut the bottom portion off of the bottle.

Step 3: Wrap the Tape

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Wrap a length of Duct Tape around the cut end with half of the tape above the cut.

This will add stability to your planter and prevent the plastic from stretching from the weight of the soil after it has been hung up.

Step 4: Fold Tape Inside

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Cut a few slits in the portion of tape above the bottle and fold it to the inside of the bottle.

Step 5: Punch Holes

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Punch four holes in your bottle as close to the center of the duct tape as possible

Step 6: Insert Your Plant

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Insert your plant into the bottle and gently work the plant through the bottle opening.

Press the dirt ball up as far as it will go.

Step 7: Untangle Your Plant

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Very gently untangle your plant and work it the rest of the way through the bottle opening.

Spread the root ball out inside the bottle to prevent your plant from becoming root bound.

Step 8: Fill the Bottle

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Fill the bottle with soil to within 2 - 3 inches of the top.

I used the scoop I made in my earlier article Handy Go Green Scoopsto fill the bottle.

Step 9: Add a Hanger

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Add whatever you choose to use for hanging your planter through the holes made in the Duct Tape.

Step 10: Hang and Water

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Find a nice sunny spot to hang your planter and add water to soak the soil until it drips through the opening.

Cover the opening with some layers of cheesecloth, garden bark or mulch to help keep the soil moist and prevent rapid drying out of the soil.


Sweep The Leg made it! (author)2015-04-26

Made two of these...have them hanging right outside my apartment door currently. Thanks for the idea!

alh2014 (author)2015-04-08

Love the idea of using those 2 liter bottles! A little added trick I know of is to take the guts from cheapo preemie diapers and mix that in your potting soil. the polymers used to absorb wetness in the diaper will retain moisture in the soil without being soggy and encourage root growth.

Andrew Higgs made it! (author)2015-01-14

Thanks for paying this.

I was a little concerned as we get a lot of wind here so I have tired mine to the wash line pole. The plant will also need some extra support against the wind. Will have to see how it works out.

Thanks again.

SP Riley (author)2014-08-13

I plan on doing this with this instructable:

palomasoy (author)2014-03-09


SkyKing101010 (author)2014-01-13

Excellent! Thanks for posting this. This is a great way to get in some early planting if you start it indoors and hang them in windows. It'll be interesting to see how it works out. Thanks again.

dana-dxb (author)2011-06-22

hi there
i was wondering how 2 stop the dripping from the nick of the bottle ???
and thanx a banch 4 sharing all those nice ideas
im making thees now so thanx

milegrin (author)dana-dxb2013-05-02

I put a little cotton wool around the base of the plants before gently pulling them through the bottom hole. Does not stop water dripping completely but slows it down (I try not to over-water causing excessive dripping) and prevent the soil leaking out with the water while the plants are still small.

dana-dxb (author)milegrin2013-05-03

thanx a big time for the reply i dont know way but no mater what i do my upside down plants dont survive!!!

milegrin (author)2013-05-02

I sat down and figured this out after reading a news paper article about school children and their prize winning "Upside-Down-Tomatoe" experiment at a local science thing. The only 2 differences is I use a used 1Lt plastic yoghurt bucket and put a little cotton wool around the plant stem to prevent soil leakage and protect the plant while they still small (The plants almost fill the bottom hole once grown so soil leakage is not a problem then).

I grow my tomatoes out the bottom pretty much like you do (works brilliantly!!) and then plant herbs and similar vegetables in the top so I get a two-for-one deal :)

These planters are especially suited to "hanging gardens" in flats or similar residences with little or no garden.

I think the 2Lt bottle will work great for carrots in the top with tomatoes (or similar) out the bottom and will definitely try it with my next crop!

cplemons (author)2013-01-14

This is so cool. I like that.

abaneyone (author)2012-11-07

Excellent! For sure I will follow this! Thanks!!!

kirnex (author)2012-11-03

Great instructable. So glad you shared it--I think it's going to inspire a lot of people to repurpose their plastic.

The one thing I'd definitely recommend is adding some sort of stabilizer for the plant's base. I've been doing this project for years with recycled containers, but the one thing I've discovered is that if you live anywhere with wind, your plants are still going to snap in a gust. (I've lost some beautiful tomato plants this way). I just anchor a bamboo stake into it through the top (I tie it off with twine), and tie my plants to it with an old nylon stocking.

The comment about allowing sunlight to the root area is a good one as well. Definitely also recommend somehow making the soil container opaque, in order to prevent algaenation in the soil.

Another tip I can offer (through years of experience making these planters) is to cover the top with mulch and/or pebbles. This will help to prevent water evaporation on hot days, and will thereby not only reduce the amount of watering you need to do, but also help ensure the plant stays healthy (microbially and otherwise).

I usually will do a 1 inch layer of mulch, then cover it with a 1/2 inch layer of baby pebble (river rock). This serves to:

1) provide a buffer between the plant's roots/soil and the rock on hot days (rock heats up quickly and can cause your plant's roots to burn)

2) keep the pH of the plant more acidic (mulch is slightly acidic), which is good for tomatoes (and also helps prevent fungal development) and

3) keep the mulch layer from blowing away.

Last thought: not all plants like to be upside down, obviously. It probably goes without saying that some plants will do better than others this way.

poofrabbit (author)2012-04-16

This was just plain BRILLIANT! Great idea and great 'able!!

busybea915 (author)2012-03-28


MicioGatta (author)2012-03-23

That's cool!!!!!!

chillicharu (author)2011-08-15


AstralQueen (author)2009-09-02

Thanks for this great idea! My herbs have been struggling to get enough sunlight - they've shared a square ceramic box with a mint plant, and my basil has been smothered to the point where they've began to die off. Now with this, they'll get enough sun and water. :D I even replanted things andorganized them properly so they all get enough space and water! Thanks again!

lizspice (author)AstralQueen2011-06-21

Mint is a very aggressive plant, it will take over your whole garden if you let it! Keep mint seperate in a container, your other plants will thank you! :)

jcewazhere (author)2011-06-04

Could you plant another plant on the top of the planter? Grow out of the bottom and the top?

Mirime (author)2011-05-27

Very interresting. But I do have a question, Instead of pop bottles could I use kitty litter jugs? They are about 14 lbs so 8in x 18in x 12in in size.

Nick_Zouein (author)2011-04-03

What to do when the roots start growing upwards and out of the soil ?

dread (author)Nick_Zouein2011-05-27

I have not tried this, so just a theory. Maybe cut the bottle as minimally as possible (just the very bottom off) and fill 1/2 way. If roots get up past that then start filling with more soil? If it gets all the way to the top and keeps going then you know you need to use a bigger bottle for that plant type next year?

hybridracers (author)2009-06-26

So I made 4 of these in hopes of growing some tomato plants in them. I think I have 2 problems. 1) the 2 liter bottle is much much too small to plant tomato in. 2) I have a nightly wind index with decent gusts which can get up to 60mph on occasion and I think that the wind is creating an in hospitable enviroment for anything sticking out of the "spout" but Im going to try again with strawberrry.

DebH57 (author)hybridracers2009-06-26

I personaly have not had a problem with the size of thebottle. As far as the wind goes I keep hooks in my garage rafters and when the weather gets nasty I move them in there until it passes.

hybridracers (author)DebH572009-06-26

If I moved stuff in every time the wind got nasty I might as well build a big green house. We live next to a mountain so the winds pick up nightly most of the time. Then as I mentioned, Im not thinking this is suitable for most tomato species. I dont think it gives enough root ball mass to support heavy fruit.

DebH57 (author)hybridracers2009-06-26

I have grown many different types of tomato's this way but then again I don't have your weather conditions to contend with, we rarely see high wind until the Santa Ana's begin to blow here but they don't last long (usually) or the El Nino winds that don't come too often. You can always try moving up to a bigger bottle such as a 3 liter or even a 5 gallon bucket if you have space for them.

myfriendshane (author)DebH572011-03-19

The warm Santa Ana's....

chrischildres (author)2009-07-01

I made 6 of these 4 with tomato plant and 2 with cucumber plants. the 2 litter bottles are a bit small but the plants are growing well i am going to try 3 litter or a gallon jug

DebH57 (author)chrischildres2009-07-03

Sounds good Chris, some have also used 5 gallon buckets with success. Thanks for commenting

myfriendshane (author)DebH572011-03-19

You need to use a bucket with a hole in the bottom. 2l works ok, but it is full of roots.

I also then cut up all my veg cuttings and stuff and put it in the top of the container, so my plants are growing in their own pvt compost heap.

Wareagle (author)2009-09-11

the only problem that i had with this is that the tomatoes that i planted in it were really small. i dont think that they had enough room to grow. did anyone else have this problem?

gschoep (author)Wareagle2010-02-22

I think that you probably had a small plant because it was root bound.   I have found that I get the best tomato crop by having a lot of growing media for the roots.  The more roots -> the more foliage -> the more fruit.  I can't imagine getting more than a couple tomatoes from a plant out of a 2 liter bottle.  However, with each plant in a 5 gallon pot or half a barrel I can get a good crop.  I get 200 cherry or pear tomatoes or 30 romas out of a plant.  I would imagine herbs like basil would work best in the planter.

Wareagle (author)gschoep2010-02-26

probably.  i wouldn' t use this again for tomatoes unless i want 5 golfball sized tomatoes.

Oldbear (author)Wareagle2011-03-03

I know this thread is old, but here is my two cents.

This spring will be my fourth year growing upside-down tomato plants. I'll explain my setup:

We have four 12ft 4x4 posts cemented in 4ft deep (I'm in central Alberta and ground frost/heaves are a real concern here). Each post has a bird house built from old barn boards and such (my father gets bored and makes quite a few each winter - so everyone gets a few). Each post has two clematis planted at the base (the flowers attract bugs, bugs attract birds). I have two five gallon pails on each side of the post, hanging off a metal rod. I can get two or three plants in each of these. then I hang a smaller pail (old drywall mud pail) off the front and put peppers or cherry/roma tomatos or strawberrys in these.

Short story turned long...

My first year was a terrible crop too.

I have had to learn to care for the plants same as if they are in the ground. Compost, fertilize, water, coffee grounds, and a trick I learnt from my wife's boss - I cut all the extra shoots so the plant spends all it's energy on one main vine.

Once the garden starts producing its more then my wife and I can eat...

Please don't just give up after one bad year... find out what went wrong and work to improve it. You'll be happy.

gschoep (author)Oldbear2011-03-03

My impression of the topsy turvey(upside down) container gardening is more like when you grew a bean plant in a dixie cup in elementary school. It teaches you to like growing plants but is not useful in itself.

I am just not excited about container gardening after getting my soil amended properly in my small garden. If I were going to container garden I think I would go for something big and portable like a Movable Garden. I have been told lately by knowledgeable container gardeners that even 5 gallons is too small a container for tomatoes, 25 gallons is more like it.

With enough room to spread out my tomatoes in my garden are several orders of magnitude bigger than anything I had in a container. I built a 10x10 raised bed and plant about 40 plants in it plus a variety of herbs. At one time I had over 100 tomatoes on one plant that was about 4x4x4 feet in size and I live in MT.  Now I freeze tomatoes and make sauce over the winter.

Oldbear (author)gschoep2011-03-03

My growing season is end of May to early/mid September. I need to grow them fast... I use more fertilizer and compost tea then I would if it was planted in the ground. And the soil at our newest house (4years now) was garbage.

This is the first year we'll try planting in the real garden. I'll keep the hanging garden going though, for frost protection. I found last year that the frost hit my hanging plants 2-3 weeks after it had killed my ground plants (we also had a bad early frost here).

Our friends built a "recycled" window greenhouse to grow their veggies in... that's next on our list.

dwygrsshpr (author)2009-01-16

Green light does not aid photosynthesis. The reason why plants are generally green is because they are reflecting that color in the visible spectrum which means they absorb ZERO energy along that wavelength. Red or blue light work because that energy is absorbed fully. Regardless, the leaves are outside the bottle (where photosynthesis occurs) and are exposed to all of the sun's energy. The green may help keep the soil warm as an insulator which may stimulate growth.

actually if the plastic is green, then it reflects green light. so, green and clear are the best colors to use

What happens when you put a green filter over a bulb? Does it come out every color but green since it's "reflecting" green light? Why don't you google "photosynthesis" and "green light" and get back to me.

TheMind (author)dwygrsshpr2009-04-19

Dwygrsshpr is exactly right. When a plant reflects green light, it means it doesn't use the light. Green is that plants waste light. Dumping more on it is just flooding it with something it can't use in the first place.

It's somewhat like giving a kid a bunch of black licorice candy because you see him giving it away. The fact is, the kid doesn't want it, and the plant can't use green light.

skimmo (author)TheMind2010-08-08

maybe the green bottle just makes it look more environmentally friendly and dynamic.

robocrazy155 (author)dwygrsshpr2009-04-20

The green filter makes the light from the light bulb look green b/c it blocks all of the other colors of light and only lets the green light through. (TO halofreak) : I don't think the color of the bottle effects the photosynthesis, but the darker green bottle would trap more heat in the soil, and I would think that would effect the growth.

DebH57 (author)dwygrsshpr2009-01-18

Thanks for the input and the explination I will correct my article.

theocrat (author)2009-10-29

A lot of people promised to show their produce, but I didn't see any photos? Does that mean that this didn't work well, little or no produce, aka crops? Or did people just get too busy harvesting the crops to take time to photograph them?

I have included photos of my right side up tomatoes grown on my backyard deck.

By the way, I would love to try this, if it really works!

aaronjehall (author)theocrat2010-06-14

Yeah, I wish I woulda remembered. Turned out great for my Grape, Cherry, and Pear Tomatoes. I also had great luck with the Banana Peppers. I actually had Grape Tomatoes in December(mainly due to the warm fall). My friend had great luck with Cherry peppers, too. Unfortunately, no pics.

aaronjehall (author)2009-06-12

Also, I came up with a simple way to get the plant through the hole. Gently stretch the leaves and branches up. On my second try, I wet them to try to make them a little more elastic. Not sure if that made a difference. Take some newspaper to roll them up. GENTLY roll the newspaper small enough to squeeze through the hole, and work the newspaper through the hole. Fertilize according to manufacturer's directions to ensure you won't have shock from transplanting. I like worm castings and fish emulsion for fertilizer, but you may want to use bat guano, as well.

dilinger (author)aaronjehall2010-06-11

I just did something very similar; I transplanted 2 strawberry plants from raised beds into 2 liter bottles. One of them was small (it was an offshoot, new from this year) and I easily fit it through the hole. The other was a mass of 3-4 plants (that is, it could've easily been split if I cared enough), and even had a ripening strawberry on it.

I wrapped the bigger one in a piece of paper; not small enough. I rewrapped, applying a bit more force; still not small enough. One final wrap, and some careful squeezing through the hole, and I managed to get the plant through. Sadly, the ripening berry got squished, but the rest of the leaves/stems seemed just fine. Hopefully they'll both make it. :)

Note that that's a temporary location. I have too many strawberry plants, those are going to a friend who has none.

aramanthe (author)2010-05-22

I made five of these and love them! My jalapenos and tomatoes are going crazy, and even my strawberry plant seems to enjoy the innovative planter. These are SUCH an awesome idea, and they took no time at all to make. Thanks for posting such a great instructable! 

PrincessBabycakes (author)2009-05-28

Thanks for this fab instructable!! I made it today and it was really easy (although getting the tomato plants through was tricky - think I'll use smaller ones next time!) Ti stop the water evaporating, I punched holes in the cut-off bottom of the bottle and pushed it into the top of the planter. Not only does this stop the water evaporating but makes a nice little water bowl that I can just fill up and let it drip feed into the planter.

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