Novel Idea: Make a Succulent Planter From Vintage Books

Turn an old book into a sassy succulent planter.
Succulent Book Planters

Succulent Book Planters

Photo by: Image courtesy of Lesley Patterson-Marx

Image courtesy of Lesley Patterson-Marx

Add new life to an old book (literally!) by planting a succulent between its pages.

Succulents are the cupcakes of the garden world—they're adorable no matter how you display them. I've seen their full, fleshy leaves growing out of everything from gravy boats, bricks and vintage suitcases to picnic baskets, jewelry boxes and even old, rusted-out tires. 

But when I saw a photo of them growing out of a set of Reader's Digest condensed books, three questions immediately sprang to mind:

1. Who makes these planters? 
2. Where can I buy them? 
3. How hard would it be to make one myself?

The answer to question No. 1 is Lesley Patterson-Marx, an artist and instructor in Nashville, Tennessee. 

"I do a lot of work with book arts, often incorporating found books into my work," she says. "The idea for the book planters came about as an extension of my mixed-media work. I thought, could I hollow out a book, then plant something in it? Succulents are perfect for this because they don't need much water or depth for their root systems." 

Patterson-Marx scours thrift stores for her book bases, and gravitates towards Reader's Digest volumes "for the beautiful patterns on the cover." She sells her planters at East Side Story a bookstore in East Nashville that sells local authors and book-related art by local artists—and via inquiry on her website. "They are $34 and sealed with PVA glue and polyacrylic, complete with a drainage screen in the bottom," she says. 

Now I am not the kind of crafty person who keeps a drill, wire cutters and a glue gun around the house. But if you are, there are only 10 steps between you and your new succulent book planter, thanks to the instructions below.

DIY Succulent Book Planters Courtesy of Lesley Patterson-Marx 

Materials: 

  • A thick hardback book found at a thrift store, or a book that might otherwise be discarded
  • Drill
  • Circle hole cutting attachment for drill
  • 2 pieces of wood that are larger than the hole you will cut
  • Clamps
  • Wire cutters
  • X-acto knife
  • Pliers
  • Paintbrush
  • Polyacrylic
  • PVA glue
  • Sandpaper
  • Ruler
  • Hardware cloth
  • Window screen
  • Succulent or cactus
  • Potting soil
  • Rocks (Patterson-Marx gets hers from the aquarium section in the pet store.)
  • Protective eyewear
  • Glue gun with extra glue sticks

Note: This process is very dusty and is best done outside or in a well-ventilated area.

1. Drill a hole into one of the pieces of wood. This will be your template for drilling a hole through your book. 

2. Mark on top of your book where the center of the hole will be. 

3. Place the book between two pieces of wood. The piece of wood with a hole that will act as your template goes on top. 

4. Clamp the book, sandwiched between two pieces of wood, to a sturdy table. 

5. Wearing protective eyewear, place drill into template hole and start drilling. Drill about an inch or two at a time. Every few inches, take the drill out and remove paper from hole attachment using pliers. I always unplug the drill for safety when I do this. Continue drilling until the hole goes all the way through the book and back cover. Remove clamp and wood pieces. 

6. Lift up back cover. Using a utility knife, cut a square shape around the hole, through the pages, about a quarter of an inch deep. This is where the drainage screen will be placed. Place window screen within the square and secure with hot glue. Place a square of hardware cloth (cut with wire cutters) on top of the window screen, then secure with hot glue. 

7. Glue back cover down and hold until the glue is set, about 1 minute. 

8. Clamp the book closed, then apply a layer of PVA glue over the pages and inside the hole. Let dry for several hours. 

9. Coat the bottom of book with polyacrylic, using a brush. Let dry and add another coat. Once the bottom is dry, turn the book over, and coat the top and side, adding two coats and allowing time to dry in between. Let dry for 24-48 hours before adding plant. 

10. Add soil, plant and top with pretty rocks.

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