Planting in cinderblocks

woodswalker88(6)August 27, 2012

We built a little concrete wall at the side of our covered front patio...we built it out of 3 layers of cinderblocks. The top layer, we left the holes open and embedded a trellis. My thought was that I could fill the cinderblock holes with soil and plant some climbing plants. So that in effect, the cinderblocks would be a "planter".

I am not sure if this would work, because the drainage probably won't be good, plus the cinderblock holes are only about 4 or 5 inches square.

Perhaps if I started the climbing plants as seeds in the spring (something like morning glories?) they would not outgrow the holes. Then since they are annuals, just take them out & plant new ones in the fall.

Has anyone else done something like this and how did it work?

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woodswalker88, I made a raised bed using a single row of cinder blocks (no drainage problem) and planted spices - basil, rosemary, celery etc. in the individual openings. It was a success, even if I say so myself.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2012 at 6:36PM
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However in your case, the cinderblocks were probably resting on the earth so you had drainage. In this case... the top row of cinderblocks is resting on 2 other levels of cinderblocks. The holes in those rows are filled with concrete. So on the top row I have several holes that have concrete on the bottom.

How good a drainage medium is concrete?
Also, I assume I would fill the openings with potting soil rather than the clay we have naturally around here?

would I put stones at the bottom for better drainage?

    Bookmark   August 27, 2012 at 7:56PM
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nil13(z21 L.A., CA (Mt. Washington))

My experience is that anything big will dry out very fast.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2012 at 10:57PM
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Personally, I would have capped the cinder blocks with a nice top stone, and placed planters on top of that. Concrete does not provide for good enough seepage in case of excess water, and if the weather is dry, you'll need to water those tiny holes frequently.

Rocks at the bottom of any planter do not do any good... it's a myth, and old wive's tale. When you change the layers, material size, within a container, you create what is known as a perched water table. There's a great article within this forum called "Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention" written by an expert that can explain it all.

Morning Glories will require larger amounts of moisture than a person with other things to do during the day could manage, in my opinion, much larger root spaces, and if allowed to flower and go to seed, you'll never get rid of them as weeds everywhere. Been there, done that... never again!

You may consider looking for a plant with a small or shallow root system that would grow slow, and not take up a lot of time or space.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2012 at 11:16AM
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I believe this calls for... cacti and succulents! Maybe I'm not picturing this right, but I can't imagine any of this is watertight.. surely if you poured water right into the holes, it would quickly drain away? If that's the case, you can fill the planters with potting mix and plant succulents to your hearts desire. I know you were hoping for something more vining, but that's difficult with a tiny soil volume and the threat of very dry conditions. But cinderblock succulent plantings turn out pretty fantastic too!

    Bookmark   August 28, 2012 at 5:46PM
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Oh, and just google "cinderblocks succulents" for lots of a pretty examples.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2012 at 5:47PM
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hookilau(long island NY)

Sounds like a neat idea. You could consider using alpine plants. Miniature rock garden types would be good. Sedums might be a good choice too. Hen & Chicks, etc. There are so many different kinds, you'd have no problem with variety, color & texture.

I would likely use pots that would fit into the spaces in the cinder blocks with the proper container medium though.

This may not be what you had in mind as Alpines & Sedums and such don't grow tall enough to utilize a trellis.

If it were me, I'd likely go with hunting down planters that would fit, but that's just me :)

Good Luck. Post a pic, maybe you can get additional suggestions.


    Bookmark   August 28, 2012 at 5:53PM
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That's what I was kind of thinking... some sort of succulent. There are lots of nice ones that flower in lovely yellows and reds. They're usually used for groundcover, but I've container grown them before. I've just never done it in cinder blocks.

With a drill made for concrete, you could make drainage holes toward the bottom of each receptacle on the sides. Might help a bit.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2012 at 6:23PM
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The concrete wall is built on patio stones. The first 2 courses are filled with concrete for stability. We left the 3rd course open, and put a trellis in. Then Mike went nuts and faced the cinderblock with classy-looking stone-tile slabs. I doubt if he would want to drill drainage holes in his Masterpiece...

A link in case the image doesn't load...

Perhaps if I want vines on the trellis, I will have to get/build a wooden planter, about a ft high & 40 inches across, and place it on the far side of the wall. Hopefully I can find a vine plant that will climb up to the top of the trellis.

Meanwhile people are suggesting succulents might grow in the concrete holes, nice idea! If that doesn't work, I'll fill it with stones/sand, and put in FAKE plants. ;)

    Bookmark   August 28, 2012 at 7:48PM
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Plant in first photo is planted in concrete urn-like container (sedum spurium 'Dragon's blood'); it has been growing there for over 3yrs. (Photo doesn't show it, but it looks like a big ball). Very nice, good for ground cover, spreads slowly. I think this would look good in your blocks.
Next one is planted between large rocks. This is Euphorbia myrsinites (donkey tail spurge)-grows vigorously, so may be too big for the blocks.


    Bookmark   August 28, 2012 at 10:43PM
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hookilau(long island NY)

O man, that's a cool patio wall! I can certainly see sedums and all manner of succulents in there. Ice plants would look pretty there too. Whatever you decide, I'd love to see what you end up doing with the space :)


    Bookmark   August 28, 2012 at 10:55PM
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