Q&A / 

How to Concrete Planter DIY Hypertufa Planter

Quick Column Summary:

  • Need to fix a planter
  • Can it be ground down and leveled
  • Easier to start over
  • Link to video series

Barbara Mandese, who lives not to awful far from the San Andreas fault in Monterey, CA, reached out for a life preserver after throwing out her back mixing concrete. Read what her dilemma is:

"Hi there!!! So glad I found this site. Here's my question. I made this "Hypertufa" planter (in case you don't know it is cement, peat moss and vermiculite). I've included some photos for you.

I had to dig a hole in the ground then cover with plastic to make a mold for it. But the one thing I neglected to do was to see if it was level on the bottom!!

After 24 hours, I took it out to let it start to dry, but because my back went out I had to wait a few days to start working on it. NOW it's completely dry. It fell down last night in some winds or because of a raccoon, and it didn't break. That's how dry it is.

Anyway, it's not level on the bottom and I need to fix it somehow, hoping if I add more cement mixture if that is possible. Is it possible to add my cement stuff to the already dry pot? I have been using a sander and some of my carving knives to try and get it down a bit, but it only goes so far.

Also in the middle where the drainage hole is - well, the water wouldn't drain in its current condition. Do you have any suggestions other than starting over? 🙂  The person I am doing this for wants it to be somewhat organic looking so much of the shape and outside lines and creases don't matter. It's just leveling it.

I would be so grateful if you can give me any suggestions. I'm female with a bad back, so if you have an "easy" suggestion that would be awesome otherwise I'll take what I can get. I'm off to like your FB page too. Can you look at the photos of my issues and tell me what you would do? Thank you so much if you can help. 🙂 And honestly I have no idea what improvements you can make to your site. I'm finding what I need so far. 🙂 So I'm just gonna click one to get to the next window. K?"

My answer is below the photos.


No downhill slope for drainage

Need to add to bottom to fit base of the stand


Whole bottom of planter needs to fit base of the stand

planter 4

I would like to reduce the top a little bit on the high part.


Here's my answer to Barbara:

Barb, don't OD on Advil. I've heard too much of that is not good for the liver.

First, I feel you did a commendable job on this project! I respect people who make an attempt to do things themselves.

But you made some mistakes like I did years ago when I was a young pup. This is why I developed my AsktheBuilder.com motto: Do It Right, NOT Over!

Guess what? You can salvage the planter and correct all the imperfections. But in the time it takes you to do this, you could have made three new ones.

Yes, you can add more cement to the areas that need it. Watch my three-part video series about how to do this. Pay attention when I discuss the magic compound you use to ensure the stucco never peels off.

You can buy or rent a grinder to remove the excess you don't want, but it will ruin the look of the planter.

You can rent or buy a drill to enlarge the drain hole.

Do you have a high school kid looking to make a fast $20 for an hour's work? Or a male friend who owes you a favor?

Enlist one of them to mix the new hypertufa compound and pour it into a new mold you've created that will produce the results you're looking for.

You're going to cut out a piece of old plywood that's just one-half inch less in diameter than the iron ring base. That will ensure you'll get the base the correct size and when you put this disc in the soil at the base of the in-ground mold, you'll use a torpedo level to get it LEVEL in both directions.

You're then going to build a square form using scrap 2x4 material for the top of the planter. This will nestle in the soil too. You'll get it level both directions too. Fill in the corners of this square with soil to create the rounded shape you want. Double check the plywood disc and the form for level in both directions.

Add a stub of 1.5-inch PVC pipe in the center to create a real drain hole. Make it as long as the base of the planter will be thick.

The only thing you'll be doing is supervising the mixing of the lightweight concrete mixture and shaping it once your helper shovels it into the forms. Shovel it into the forms SLOWLY so you don't disturb the disc or the outer form.

Cover the planter with plastic for THREE days to allow it to cure properly.

Send me a NEW photo of the masterpiece once you complete it.


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