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DIY Tree Branch Planters for Succulents!

I love finding fun and creative ways to make homemade planters for any plant, but especially for my succulents! Tree branches have such a sculptural quality to them, don’t they?  Have you seen the tree branch planters for succulents? I just had to make some to celebrate the coming of spring! I am really pleased with how they turned out. But this DIY does take more real tools than I had fully appreciated before I started. That being said, I think this is a fun project, and the results will last. Let me show you what I did.

Homemade Planters for Succulents from Tree Branches

{Please note, some links in this post may be affiliate links to sites that pay me a small commission if you click on the link and make a purchase. This commission is at absolutely no cost to you. I only recommend products and companies that I have worked with and truly love! ~Kat}

How to Make Tree Branch Planters
DIY Tree branch planters gather needed supplies

To make these tree branch planters, you will need:

1 branch, ideally with cool bark

Safety goggles

A saw

1 ¼” – 1 ½” spade bit  depending upon the diameter of your branch (I explain below why you should choose Bosch Daredevil spade bits)

For holes larger than 1 ½”, you will need a Forstner bit

A drill or a drill press (I love my little drill press!)

Clear urethane or varnish, satin finish

Sponge brush


Waxed paper

Succulent soil

1 chopstick (freebie from Chinese takeout works great!)

Natural moss (I love this one!)

Small succulents!

Squeeze bottle or syringe for watering

Cutting Your Tree Branch for Planters

cut tree branches into 3-7" sized lengths

We found this cool branch, with its bark looking like a camouflage print, just lying by the side of the road. Look around your home, ask neighbors, or drive around and look for a tree trimming service truck to ask for branches. Looking on Craig’s List under “free stuff” search “wood” is a great way to find free tree branches, too!  🙂 Use your saw to cut the branch into manageable lengths. 3-7″ will be good a good length for the branches to be used as planters for succulents. Be sure to retain any fun knobs, knots, twists, bends and side branches as you do so. They add incomparable charm to your tree branch planters.

Apply Varnish to Your Tree Branches

varnish tree branches for long-term use as planters

This step should be invisible. You don’t want to add gloss, shine or color to the branch. You want to seal the moisture of the wood inside it to prevent deterioration and decay. As the branch dries out – without this step – the wood shrinks away from the pretty bark. The sponge brush is a great applicator for the clear varnish. The varnish can says to apply 3-4 coats, but for this project, 2 coats are fine. Be sure to apply the varnish before drilling the holes for the plants. You will not want to varnish inside the hole, so this is a quicker way to go. Be sure to varnish both the top and the bottom of the cut branch. And make sure to get it into any cracks or crevices, knot holes, etc. I puddled the varnish in these spots, and then mopped up the excess with a paper towel.

Although I did the first coat on newspaper, I highly recommend setting the wet branches on waxed paper, so they do not stick! 🙂

Drilling Tree Branches to Make Planters for Succulents

drill tree branches with spade bit to use as planters

When you drill the tree branches, select a spade bit that works for the diameter of the branch. You don’t want the walls of the tree branch planter to be so thin that it won’t hold up. In the photo above, I am using a regular 1 ¼” spade bit. I would not want the hole drilled in any branch to be any bigger than this in proportion to the branch. Wear your eye protection goggles, and go slowly when you drill. The branch will be irregularly shaped, and the wood inside is not always consistent. When it reaches a knot or a branch, it is often harder, and the bit suddenly slows down.

I found drilling the branches to take a lot of arm and hand strength and time. The round, irregular shape of the branch makes clamping it difficult. I held the branch in one hand, while drilling with the other. Jerry helped me out with this a lot. And, since he has been wanting a drill press for quite some time, and this project was important to me – we got one in the middle of this project. The Wen drill press here was affordable and really impressive in its quality. And it made this project (and many others) a breeze!

Why You Should Choose Bosch Daredevil Spade Bits

side by side comparison of Bosch Daredevil spade bit with competitor brand

I need to take a break from our regularly scheduled programming to tell you about these awesome spade bits. I use a spade bit a few times each week – usually on soft wood like pine. When I drilled the first branch using our regular 1 ¼” spade bit, it was v-e-r-y slow, and when it hit a knot, it was very rough. Jerry sharpened it for me, but it was still so slow, we didn’t think we could finish the project. So, we went looking for a new bit.

We were both quite skeptical of the Bosch claim that these bits drill 10 times faster than the type we had always used. But the design looked interesting, so we gave it a try. This is the spade bit to get! Just check out the differences above! The center point of a spade bit helps to center your larger hole. But with the screw threaded tip on the Bosch Daredevil spade bit, it drives the drill bit through the wood. Then, the curved shape of the bit causes the sharp blade to sort of plane the wood, rather than just scraping it, as the other bit is designed to do. The very sharp wedge of the Bosch blade truly cuts through the wood far faster and far more smoothly than the regular style wears it away. No – I am not a shill for Bosch. I just really love the difference I got from these spade bits we found! If you need a new spade bit, be sure to try the Bosch Daredevil bits.

Add Soil to Tree Branch Planters

add succulent soil to tree branch planters holes

Now that your holes are drilled, you have changed the tree branches into homemade planters! Now it is time to plant them! Add succulent soil. Then be sure to tuck the roots of your plants fully into the soil, and add more on top of the roots. I find using a chopstick is so helpful when planting in tight circumstances like this. Although the planting hole is small, you can use a couple of plants, especially when one is the lovely hanging senecio string of pearls. I like to tuck the senecio’s roots in under the larger plant to ensure its stability. Then, soak your sphagnum moss in water to make it pliable. You just need a few strands. Add a whisper of natural moss where needed to cover the soil.

Tree Branch Planters for Succulents

DIY Tree branch planter fully planted - group shot

I am really enjoying my new tree branch planters. Take a look at some solo shots, so you can see what I mean about keeping the knots and side branches.

DIY Tree branch planter fully planted

I couldn’t decide whether to plant this one this way, or the other way, and to make a hole in each branch!

tree branch planter planted with echeveria and senecio
How to Water Tree Branch Planters
use squeeze bottle or syringe to water tree branch planters

I find these squeeze bottles to be such handy tools for watering some of my fun succulent crafts and homemade planters! The syringe doesn’t hold as much as the bottle, but both let you get the right amount of water exactly where you need it. You can also use a turkey baster to accomplish the same thing, but the bottles are my fave!

group of tree branch planters fully planted

I am really quite taken with these DIY tree branch planters for succulents. What do you think? I would love to learn whether you are going to make these homemade planters, too. Please take a moment to leave a comment and let me know! And if you have any questions – I am happy to help!

You can do this!

P.S. Please subscribe, and you will get my FREE course, 7 Steps to Succulent Success. Thanks!

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This Post Has 26 Comments

  1. Becca Badgett

    Love these, great job! I’m going to try this when the weather warms up! Thanks, Kat for the detailed instructions!

    1. Kat McCarthy

      Thanks so much, Becca! I would love to see photos when you do this! 🙂


    can I order these from you?

    1. Kat McCarthy

      Hi Judith,
      I do sell these locally. I am still not sure about shipping succulents, but I could send you the planters! 🙂
      Where are you located?

  3. Chantel H

    For the varnishing, are you only supposed to do the ends or do you need to cover the bark as well? Also, why is it that you aren’t supposed to varnish inside the holes? Won’t the moisture from the branch rot the roots of the succulent?
    I’ve been wanting to do something like this for a while now, but never knew how to go about it. Can’t wait to try!

    1. Kat McCarthy

      Hi Chantel,
      Thanks for the questions!
      You want to varnish both ends AND the bark. If you skip the bark, eventually the branch will shrink away from the bark, and leave it looking odd.
      I did not varnish inside the hole because the succulent soil and water protect the branch from drying out. But a bit of the moisture from the soil going into the branch fibers helps to keep the succulent roots from being waterlogged. I did not add a drainage hole, so careful watering, and no varnish inside the hole are both important.
      Let me know if you have any other questions. I would love to see photos when you have made this! 🙂

  4. Diane

    Can I order the planters? I live in jacksonville, florida

    1. Kat McCarthy

      Hi Diane,
      Absolutely! 🙂
      Please contact me by email at [email protected] I will be happy to help you!

  5. Tina

    Love your idea, thinking about this big tree truck in front yard might be a great idea for it.


    1. Kat McCarthy

      Hi Tina,
      Be sure to send me some pictures when you do it! 🙂

  6. john lapsley

    what a wonderful idea, these will make beautiful gifts especially if you join three together and planted with different displays.
    kind regards

    1. Kat McCarthy

      Thanks so much, John!
      I think they make terrific gifts – and you’re right! A set of three for someone, they would certainly know they were special to you! 🙂

  7. Kyla

    Love this! Maybe I missed this detail but how deep did you make the hole for planting? My daughter wants to do a fundraiser and I thought these would be a hit!

    1. Kat McCarthy

      Hi Kyla,
      Thanks so much! I cannot believe I missed including the depth! I made my planting holes about 2.25 – 3″ deep. This gives you plenty of room for soil, and allows the roots to stretch down. My plants have been quite happy for months in these planters! 🙂
      I hope they are terrific for the fundraiser! I would love to see some p8ictures! 🙂

  8. Thanks for every other informative blog.
    The place else may I get that type of info written in such an ideal method?

    I have a challenge that I’m simply now running on, and
    I have been on the look out for such info.

    1. Kat McCarthy

      Glad you found it helpful!
      This is one of my favorite projects! 🙂

  9. Nikki

    Hi kat
    What succulents did you use for this? I love the succulant that is hanging down the side of the wood planter. You make amazing planters.

    1. Kat McCarthy

      Hi Nikki,
      Thanks SO much!
      These are Senecio rowleyanus, the string of pearls. I am trying to get better at identifying the varieties I work with in my posts! 🙂

  10. Sierra Dawn Martin

    Hi Kat! What is the tall skinny plant that is in one of the planters? I have one that looks similar and I haven’t been able to ID it! Thank you!

    1. Kat McCarthy

      Hi Sierra,
      That is Portulacaria afra – one of my very favorites!
      I’ll be posting a Species Spotlight on portulacaria on Tuesday! I hope you’ll check it out! 🙂

  11. Ingrid

    That’s a really lovely project. I’m wondering whether it might be doable with hand tools and children but either way, I definitely want to try this.
    Love your site, it’s very informative and inspiring.
    Thank you so much for sharing!

    1. Kat McCarthy

      Thanks so much, Ingrid!
      I think once the branches are cut and drilled, it would be a great project to do with children! 🙂
      So glad you’re enjoying the site!

  12. Isin

    How long takes the succulent growth in that little hole?

    1. Kat McCarthy

      Hi Isin,
      Because the roots are constrained, the plant will not grow fast. These are typically lasting me about a year before I replant them!

  13. Robin

    I had tried something similar just the other day as I had a large maple tree come down last Fall. What type of wood do you recommend, as I also have some cedar available . I didn’t varnish mine YET, but I’m going to definitely add that step. Your planters are lovely.

    1. Kat McCarthy

      Thanks so much, Robin!
      I think maple and cedar would be really lovely, and long-lasting!
      I have not had trouble even making these from pine, despite the sap. The succulents have not suffered a bit.
      Go for it! 🙂

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