Unique Draped Concrete Planter

Don’t you just hate it when you see so much repetition on the ‘net?! Yes, I like to be unique… but sometimes it feels like it will be the end of me; ‘death by blog’. So, with much effort this concrete draping project is not your usual ‘dip-the-clothes-in-concrete’ type. Won’t you entertain my fancy with this Unique Draped Concrete Planter?!

The Theory:

I’ve been fascinated by what I’ve seen ‘dipped’ in concrete. I’ve used this same concept when making my Step Spook & Witch and realized that the choice of fabric is quite important. Not all types of weaves and textures will absorb the concrete. I’ve often wondered how a thin cotton shirt will hold enough concrete to be stable and hard once cured. After making the effort it needs to be strong, does it not!?

For that reason I tend to use ‘wooly’ or fuzzy types as they will allow more of the mix to get stuck in the fibres. But that will also contribute to the texture of the end product, so it’s a compromise. Polyester apparently will last for years, rather than a natural fibre like cotton which may rot.  But for me strength does win out… I used a polyester fuzzy polar fleece.

The Shape:

By no way are you limited to just having a circle-on-a-bucket shape. I’ve seen many tall draped planters but I also know toppling can be a problem. Make sure that the vessel has a bit of taper so that removal will that bit easier. It should also sit well and is strong enough to carry the weight since the concrete will be heavy.

The Dipping:

One of the issues of draped concrete is dealing with the moisture levels. For this planter I have used a purchased mix; RapidSet Cementall (rather than just Portland cement)

Since the fabric ‘steals’ all the water from the concrete mix it should be dampened before dipping into the premixed concrete.

The concrete mix should be mixed to more of a fluid consistency so that you can ‘massage’ the mix into the fibres. And here again is the issue. Most mixes have some form of sand or granular material in it, and that will tend not to get absorbed into the fabric.

The portland cement and other matter than is fluid will sink in and the sand will just sit on the outside. That is ok as long as you can keep it attached since it will help bulk it up and make the strength… follow me?

You do have the option of just using portland cement and the fabric but it will be much thinner and of different strength. I’m pretty sure the concrete traditionalists would think that is wrong… but my Ghouls have sat out in the elements of canadian winters for years now and seem quite strong.

Pat the ‘sandy’ fabric and manipulate it as you want the draping to hang. Try to keep the sand attached and smooth it out.

To aid in the smoothing it helps to brush some more runny mix on and flatten the fuzzy fibres of this polyester polar fleece. It may seem tedious but I am sure that the thin fabric dips would need additional layers since it would not hold up stiff enough.

What makes this Different:

Anyone can dip stuff into concrete… but here’s the unique part; I’ve used my favourite natural element to accent. There’s usually an abundance and they are free and as interesting as you can find; leaves.

Use the same mix at a thicker consistency and it will become somewhat clay-like. Plop a bit on the underside of the leaf (better veins) and then quickly flip-and-attach to the side.

It’s a thin layer and the texture of the fabric will hold it there. Be random with the placement or more structured.

This mix sets up so quickly especially in the warm summer that the draping will probably already be hardening – perfect.

Self doubt is the enemy of creative expression!

I understand that many don’t think they have the artistic skills needed so this allows anyone to make a unique piece. It’s easy and will allow it to look finished without any need for paint or stain.

Look how wonderful and thick it is! ‘Popped off the bucket quite easily.

If you find there are any ‘soft’ parts you can dampen it (any time you add new concrete) and brush on some more mix. Also if the texture is too rough to your liking, you can brush another layer and it will fill the divots.

The Question about Drainage:

I like to have the option of using these in the house without a dish so I don’t put a drainage hole. When used outside they do fill with rain but the hot summers usually evaporate them quite quickly as well.

If you do want drainage it’s quite simple since the bottom is accessible. Possibly put a piece of plastic tubing to hold the hole open (fabric cut) until cured and then easily pull it out.

The Question about alkalinity:

Yes, concrete is very alkaline. Once cured (this mix is quick – 24 hours) you can soak it in a large bucket of water and leach out the alkalinity I leave it for days and change the water. To quicken you can add 1/4 cup vinegar (acid) to one gallon water  to counteract the alkalinity.

The Question about Sealing/Finishing:

I had all intention of testing some sealers and realized that this mix is so dense that water did not leach through for days and days. So until I formulate a non-toxic sealer I leave them natural. If you determined, use a food safe concrete counter-top sealer.

I try to avoid painting concrete. Like sealed driveways, they eventually fail and do need continuous redoing or they look awful. On a vertical surface water does not sit so I feel it does not need it. For aesthetics if colour is desired than keep it to a minimum. Slight dry-brushing or antiquing lets the concrete breathe and does not show much as it does wear. I have those visions of the concrete ‘Elvis’ that is painted with thick bright paints – ugh.

How can you go wrong with the help of ‘Mother Nature’?! Go check your pile of cast offs and create something. No mold needed… the plants will thank you.

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  1. I do these pots quite often. I add a pot to the inside ( acts like a liner between dirt and fabric ) to drape over. Once initially cured I recoat with a hypertufa slurry., a couple layers using diffferent tones of quikcrete colorants. Once dry it looks like aged stone. This technique allows using any base absorbient fabric reusable 🙂 Husbands old tee shirts anyone?? Thank you for sharing in yout blog.. . Allows me to be inspired and always put my own spin on my finished projects. Keep posting and happy creating!! 💕

    1. Oh, so you leave the container inside? I suppose it would not hurt since it probably does not expand/contract with temperature much. Glad you put your own spin on it… great creativity! Concrete on…

  2. I make these pots as well and sell them as planters, both empty and planted. Here in Virginia, the weather is hot and humid, so drainage holes are a must, but all you need is a drill bit. The drill goes through easily, but if you want extra-large holes, you can gradually go up several sizes. Sometimes I leave them natural, and sometimes I paint on them. I’ve used dry-brushing, marbling, spots, and spray paint. My best-selling ones seem to be sparingly painted, with just a bit around the top rim to highlight swoops and curves.

    1. Yes, I agree. Using a masonry bit is a mist though and some hydration to keep dust down. The rapidset Cementall is extra hard though. I believe the beauty of concrete should not be so covered with paint, that’s what plastic is for! Concrete on!

  3. Awesome tests on fabric. I am wondering if you could do the same to velvet fabric, also could you take the fabric draping to another place as in a cushion or even a whole chair!!!

    1. Well, there are always new ways to do things! I used this when I designed my faux bois chair as well. The most unique things happen when you cross boundaries and break rules! I do have some ideas bouncing in my head for when it gets warm again… happy making!

  4. Hey! Thanks so much for sharing. I was wondering if you’ve had any trouble with the unsealed concrete harming the PH of the soil? I’ve seen other sites that say you have to seal it before you plant but I can’t find a sealant that seems safe either. Really appreciate all your work!

    1. I do soak mine for a while after cure. Even adding a bit of vinegar will help neutralize the alkalinity of the concrete. But not too much. Change out the water and you will see how it feels soapy from the alkalinity leaching out. Maybe a beeswax based sealant? I haven’t worked on that… yet.

  5. I’ve been researching but can’t find the answer to this situation, I have a metal top patio table that I want to pour concrete on, will it adhere, if not, is there anything I can do to the table to make it work? Love your work.

    1. I have noticed that concrete does stick to metal. The problem with just adding a layer is that the 2 would expand and contract with temperature changes differently possibly making them detach. If you can encase the whole top it would work better as one whole piece. Using the draped fabric is a good idea since it really strengthens it to reduce the possibility of falling apart. I did something similar with this chair Also, choose a very strong mix…

  6. I have done my first large pot using canvas you sew bags with so not over thick, sews beautifully but the mix seems too tin, it is drying atm, am I able to paint another coat over it. I used Portland white cement.

    1. When making with ‘dipped’ fabric the Portland cement is what gives it the strength, if the fabric does not absorb enough it will not harden enough. Yes, you can paint on another layer but dampen first so that it is not robbed of all moisture. The cement needs to be damp when curing as well, if it just dries too fast it may have not reached the full cure it needs with moisture. It is not like paint ‘drying’. Best of luck!

  7. Hello,

    I am having trouble with the cement sticking to the fabric. I’m using a cotton fabric, I even washed it to remove any factory residues, rinsed it well without softener. I wet my fabric first, then dipped it in thin mix of cement. I tried Rapid Cement All, and regular cement (non rapid).

    Do you have any suggestions?

    Thank you for an excellent web site!


    1. The issue can be that the fabric is not absorbent or rough enough to grp hold of the cement slurry or concrete. The sand does not soak in so I usually just use portland cement to soak and massage into fabric. Here are some fabric tests. I also did some concrete jeans (also cotton) and they have been outside since last year… Good luck

  8. Hello,

    My question didn’t post, I think. Trying again, if duplicate, please feel free to delete.

    I am having trouble with the cement sticking to the fabric. I’m using a cotton fabric, I even washed it to remove any factory residues, rinsed it well without softener. I wet my fabric first, then dipped it in thin mix of cement. I tried Rapid Cement All, and regular cement (non rapid).

    Do you have any suggestions?

    Thank you for an excellent web site!


    1. I think it may be a couple things. It does ‘stick to’, rather absorb into. If you are using a regular concrete mix it has at least sand in it and that will not sink into the fabric especially cotton if it’s smooth cotton. As in the post I used a fuzzy nubbly polar fleece and Rapidset Cementall can be used quiet fluid. If the fabric is dry it will suck the water out f the mix and then it will crumble. It needs to fluid enough to massage into the fabric. Portland cement (without sand) will also sink into fabric well as seen here in these tests. I hope that helps!

    1. I admit, I rather do it and see how/why things work as they do… Then I push the limits more. One of the best skills I believe is observation, in any situations. Happy making!