How to Plant a Bourbon Barrel Planter

In my part of Kentucky, landscape designs often feature bourbon barrels pretty prominently. Cities' garden societies beautify their downtowns with the oak barrels, so I figure I’m not above it!

A few weeks ago, I got the opportunity to buy four half barrels for $10. Total. I jumped at the chance. For those of you not lucky enough to work in the industry, barrel halves are available for public purchase. Here’s one site I found – watch out for shipping. Maybe they’ll let you pick them up to avoid those charges?
Last weekend, my little sister moved into a new house – one that she and her husband hope will be their home for a very long time. While she assures me that landscaping and front porch furniture are in the works, I decided that a barrel planter was in order for a housewarming gift!


Bourbon barrels are more massive than you think! Each half weighs about 60 pounds, is about 18” tall and about 24” in diameter, tapering towards the bottom.


Each half barrel requires about 2.5 cubic feet of dirt or potting soil. I used Pro-Mix Ultimate Container Mix. Knowing the skill my sister has at keeping plants alive (I’m much like her), I chose to go with the planting medium that claims to hold on to water and contains a fertilizer already mixed in.


Before buying your plants, it’s good to assess the sun/shade situation of your planter. This particular location will get mostly full sun during the day, so I bought accordingly. I always find it helpful to lay out projects before committing to a final draft. Planting flowers is no different. So, here’s my rough draft – situating the still-potted plants around the space to see what works and doesn’t.


It turns out that my rough draft was pretty pleasing. My sister approved it, and I went to work planting the items. In the back, with the broad leaves, I planted 3 Tropical Yellow Canna Lilies. In the middle, as a sort of focus piece, I planted a Hardy Lily – it should grow a bit taller than the canna lillies and really stand out. On either side are two Shasta Daisies. In the middle are low-growing pink Dianthus. Finally, spilling over the front is a pretty plant with velvety leaves called Dichondra or Silver Falls.


As these grow, I’m hoping that they fill out and really shine on the front porch. If we all keep our fingers crossed and they survive my sister’s black thumb and the summer, all the varieties should come back next year, with the exception of the ornamentals up front.

It’s simple to make a nice, welcoming entrance to your home with bourbon barrel planters, plus it’s so completely Kentucky that it will be an instant conversation piece for any out-of-state visitors you might have!