Concrete Leaves for Gardens or Fountains

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Introduction: Concrete Leaves for Gardens or Fountains

Kindly vote for this in the Concrete Casting Contest!  Thanks ever so much. ( :

This instructable is on behalf of Madeline Werner, the caster of these lovely leaves.  Being inbetween jobs, I have the time (and inclination) to do it!   This is an easy, cheap, and fun way to make a lasting addition to any landscape. We hope you enjoy our first instructable.  Feedback welcome. ( :

Materials needed:

-Large, fresh, veiny leaves such as rhubarb (don't worry if they have a few holes) or smaller like hosta
-50 lbs. Play Sand for forming
-Plastic wrap, food storage type
-50--80 lb. Bag of Concrete (sand aggregate only)
 -Nitrile gloves
-Spray and hand paints, brushes, etc.
-Water sealer for concrete

Optional: Portland Cement, concrete colorant, wire to coil and set for hanging, chicken wire or drywall mesh joint tape for more strength

Step 1: Gather Leaves

Put the shout out to all you know, we offer a free finished leaf to anyone who donates to the cause.  I've even stopped by a commercial farm, and they were happy to oblige.

Keep in water until ready to use, but no more than a couple of days.

Step 2: Prep the Casting Area

Maddie started off doing them on the ground in the carport, then I built her a table in her shop.  (Much easier on the back!)  Extra large are still done on the ground.

Press the leaf on a pile of sand to desired shape, mounding or flatening. Remove the leaf, then cover the sand with plastic wrap.  Return the leaf to its original spot.  Prep all leaves to be cast before the next step.

Step 3: Mix the Concrete

Maddie has found that adding Portland cement (Up to a coffee can per 40 lbs.) makes a stronger leaf, and is the easiest way to get the water/concrete to the nice pasty consistancy if you've added too much water. A 1/2 bag (about 40 lbs,) of concrete will do 5 medium sized leaves.  We call approx. 18" across the widest point "medium" sized.  12" and 24" would be small and large.

Step 4: Pile It On

Still talking about a medium leaf, it is about 3/4  to 1" thick along the rib, tapering to about 3/8" thick at the edges. Rolling the wrap can neaten up the edges.  Do the thickness in two steps if you plan to add the hanging wire, or mesh tape/chicken wire.  The latter advised if hanging, and for large to monster leaves. 

Step 5: Let It Be for at Least a Day, 2 Is Better

2 is better!  (Water bottle is for scale)

Step 6: Pealing Takes the Most Time!

We've tried compressed air, and a jet of water (from garden hose sprayer).  It seems that patience works best.  The first one still needs work. Needle nose pliers, picks, and stiff brushes can help. 

Step 7: Painting

No holds barred here, whatever you want goes.  We've been liking the metalic look lately, with some accent color in the veins. A sponge for blending works nicely.  Finish with the water seal front and back after the paint has dried and you're done!  Resealing once a year is highly recommended.  One warning, if you bring one to work or a gathering to give to somebody...you will be making more!

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    94 Discussions

    For larger leaves, how do you reinforce them? I've heard of drywall mesh tape and chicken wire, but I'm not sure how to use either one. Thank you.

    1 more answer

    You can also use screen door material. Just cut where it bunches up on curves. Apply 1/2 thickness of concrete, press in reinforcement material (2" away from edges) then add the final thickness of concrete.

    I want to make 5 of these beautiful pieces of art this weekend and want to make a tall fountain. I don't know how to mount them. Please share your ideas on how to support/mount these leafs on to a metal stand

    1 reply

    Without seeing the stand...hard to say! Assuming there is a flat surface on it, you could use concrete to make a small "stand" for the leaf, perhaps using a plastic coffee can cut down to a desired tipping angle as a mold. (Then let it harden on the concrete leaf, then remove the can.)

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    user
    CorryD

    2 years ago

    Love these. Thank you for the tutorial. I shared on my Pinterest and Facebook page.

    Swallowtail seeds sells dinosaur food seed (giant rhubarb leaves) n going to grow my plant and harvest leaves for fountaiin. Am unsure about how to stack secure leaves for fountai . . . . Any suggestions

    I made a elephant ear leaf and It has cracked on one of the side veins. Is there any way to fit it?

    2 replies

    Gorilla Glue works great for this. Just remember it expands, so don't use too much on the top side.

    0
    user
    TedN6

    2 years ago

    would it be possible to use varnish or fiberglass for the project

    when buying Portland cement ask for the back saver bags. only 47 lbs. and half the weight of a big bag. don't ask for concrete. concrete has stone for aggregate. you want to mix Portland with fine sand.

    I love these! Can you tell me How you make them into a three tier fountain?

    How do you get the edges of the leaf to look so neat? Also I found that spraying the leaf with Pam helps with removal.

    1 reply

    Pulling the plastic wrap up and molding with your hand helps the edges look neat. We've tried Pam, but then the paint runs. Washing/blow drying seems just as much of a pain as peeling.

    By the way, we did try using a cooking spray on the back of of the leaf to hopefully help its removal after the concrete set. Not only did it not help, but made the surface resistant to the paint! Fail.

    2 replies

    I use cooking spray, works great you just have to do a quick scrub with a soft brush and a little dish soap, let completely dry and your ready to paint. Also works great if your adding color to the cement (no paint needed) You can also try mixing 2-3 different colors, pouring them at the same time in a swirling fashion. Different every time.

    Beautiful! I made several last year myself, but seemed to get stuck in a rut with painting them...no fresh ideas! Love these. Do you seal them/prime them before applying the paint and exactly what kind of paint do you buy? Any tips would be appreciated! Thanks a bunch!

    2 replies

    I have done quite a few of these awesome leaves and I use cooking spray, works great. With cement colorant no problem, if I want to paint after, I just do a quick scrub with a brush and a little dish soap. Good luck.

    Hi Annie,

    Maddie does not prime them, and uses Thompson water seal after. (The unpainted bottom as well.) She uses rustolium mostly, with some acrylic craft paints for accents and sponging. Thanks for liking!

    Sharon