backyard with floating deck fire pit and hanging outdoor lights

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I told you it was coming after Mom’s party and the landscaping post, so here’s the post all about the outdoor light pole planters I made around the deck!

DIY backyard light poles with planters

This is the ONE project that made the deck “real” for me. After all of the work to build and stain it, this somehow made me feel like I crossed a finish line with this summer project!

Did you miss any parts of my floating deck series? Catch every detail here:

Part 1: Planning & Layout
Part 2: Frame & Waterproofing
Part 3: Decking
Part 4: Trimming Deck Boards
Part 5: Landscaping
Part 6: Light Pole Planters
Part 7: Reveal (Mom’s Surprise Party)

Outdoor Light Poles with Planter Base | Free Plans

I’m offering free plans on this, even though a lot of it was based on my own scrap wood circumstances (5/8″ plywood and 1/4″ lumber, much of which was left over from building the shed and deck). Just for the sake of those of you looking for different options to build these yourself, I’ve got some other blogger tutorials linked below.

One thing that will definitely differ from most other tutorials I’ve found: I went with metal poles instead of wooden dowels or pressure-treated 4x4s. My reasoning for this is mainly that I wanted something that wouldn’t have the opportunity to warp or need to dry out.

My inspiration came mostly from some really expensive planters I wanted to buy. I wanted the deck to look sophisticated and sleek, but EVERY planter I found needed something: either they needed to be larger, needed to be a different color, had extra trim that made it not my style, etc. — on and on. It’s probably a surprise to NO ONE that the few planters that checked every box were well beyond my budget. So, I DIYed as DIYers do, and made them myself instead.

outdoor dining table setup on floating deck with black light poles and hanging outdoor lights

Supplies List

outdoor light pole planter assembly

Anchor poles with quick-set concrete

Place 1 metal pole in the center of a bucket and brace/stabilize so it stands upright while setting (use a level or post level to make sure it’s plumb). Fill with quick-set concrete and follow instructions on the packaging for adding water and time to set. Let cure.

dollar store buckets filled with concrete to make light poles

Assemble planter boxes

1. Cut 5/8″ plywood to size: 4 panels measuring 16″ x 16″ for each planter. These will serve as the main frame of the planter box. Glue and nail the panels together, wrapping one after the other to form a perfect cube. Check for square by measuring corner to corner and make adjustments until they are the same.

plywood cubes for light pole planters

2. Cut twelve 1×4 pieces to length for EACH planter at 17 3/8″ long. These will serve as decorative horizontal slats on all 4 sides of each planter. They also make each planter cube more rigid, so be sure to square the planter box before attaching. Attach panels with glue + finishing nails.

3. Cut 2 strips of plywood supports at 15 3/8″ long (slightly shorter as fine… you just want it to be long enough to support the two pieces that run across the bottom of the planter) and attach, parallel, along the bottom of the planter.

4. Cut 2 more pieces of plywood 15 3/8″ long (if the plywood is warped like mine was, you may have to make small adjustments on length) and attach them to the top of the supports installed in step 3.

base of planter - diagram

5. Paint/finish planter and light pole how you see fit. I chose to use an almost-black exterior paint (Sherwin-Williams Tricorn Black — the same as the Adirondack chairs and fire pit benches, but color-matched to Behr paint meant for outdoor application). For the poles, I used flat black spray paint.

planter in HomeRight spray shelter

6. Place planters in their final spot on level ground. I say this because I’m supposed to in a tutorial, but there was NO SUCH THING as a level spot in my yard! So, I compensated by making a lot of tiny adjustments (such as creating wedges with scrap wood under the planters, putting different amounts of gravel underneath each side, etc.).

landscaping and new planters around deck

7. Insert pole + bucket to the center of the planter and rest it on the bottom supports. Use scrap wood to add stabilizing supports under the lip of the bucket on all 4 sides until snug. Continue to adjust for plumb as each pole is secured. It’s ok if this doesn’t look pretty or if you have to give it multiple attempts; mine looked like a hot mess but it all got covered in dirt and plants, so it made zero difference!

Stabilizing planters + getting the poles straight

This was easily the most time-consuming part since I had to make lots of adjustments so that the pole still stuck straight up while the planter sat on an uneven spot (so, even if the planter was slightly askew on the ground, I tilted the bucket slightly in whatever direction I needed so it was perfectly straight, and THEN secured scrap wood underneath the lip, basically like a wedge, to keep that same adjustment intact). Once I did this on every side, the bucket wouldn’t wiggle, even though it was smaller than the cube of the planter. (Also, this wasn’t nearly as easy as I thought it would be to get in a 3D model, ha!)

adding supports below lip of bucket inside planter

I chose to also fill the planter about halfway with landscaping gravel. I’d heard some horror stories about poles falling over because they can be top-heavy, so I wanted to pay extra attention to giving each planter a solid base. Since I was working largely by myself on this step and things were kind of wonky at times, I found that discarded plastic containers (the ones that came with the plants around the deck) were the perfect size to help! Filling these with gravel kept things steady enough as I wedged in scraps around the bucket.

Finishing details: plants + lights!

8. Next, I added landscaping fabric over the gravel (so the soil doesn’t fall down through the gravel), then soil, and plants.

stone pathway from deck stairs to fire pit

9. Drill a hole through one side of the pole, near the top, and insert a cup hook (remember that the drill bit should match the width of the screw end of the cup hook minus the threads). As an extra step, secure the cup hook with a nut on the inside of the pole and add some exterior glue. I did these additional steps because the exterior lights I picked out were much heavier than I anticipated, and I didn’t want the poles to pull on each other. Place the cap over the top of the pole and finish spray-painting so the cup hook & cap match the color of the rest of the pole.

10. String up the lights, and enjoy!

tan floating deck with landscaping white table white balloons hanging lights

We’ve had these planters installed for about a month. In that time, Georgia had two hurricanes pass by our neighboring states and dump their fair share of storms on the house. So, if that’s any indication, I think these are going to last us long enough to entertain plenty of guests and be satisfied in the coming seasons.

Don’t forget to pin!

diy-outdoor-light-pole-planters---Ugly-Duckling-House

I truly can’t wait to have a big sectional on the deck and enjoy a cup of coffee on colder mornings. It’s probably still a few months out, but we’ve already had lots of guests over to enjoy the fall weather with us and show off all the new builds.

DIY Floating Deck Series

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17 Comments

  1. Love this. Can’t wait to do it at my house. Do you have a link for the lights you purchased?

    1. If you look to around the middle of the post, you’ll see a list of materials/supplies used. I’ve linked up to some similar ones I found listed online!

  2. Oh my gosh, those lights are gorgeous, and I love that they are in planters instead of just out on their own! I defintely need something like this in my yard. We’re working on getting a new fence up, but then I think that this will be my next project! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Hi, what a great project! Can you let me know the length of the metal poles and where you found the poles and caps? I looked through the directions and found links to all materials except those items. Thanks!

    1. I bought 8-foot metal fence poles and caps at one of the big-box home improvement stores (the section where you’d get chain link fence). Hope that helps! I’ll try to update the links if I can find the equivalent listings. Thanks!

  4. Sarah, I have followed your blog for a couple years now and am finally starting to work on my backyard. Your posts are SO helpful and provide inspiration as I start to plan! :) Do you think this is a good beginner level project? Thanks!

    1. Yes! I try to make most of my projects beginner-friendly (in terms of building things, I consider myself a beginner for the most part, since most things are made on a whim). A lot of this design was made on the fly and I created plans after the fact, so you can use the plans or just take the basics and put your own spin on things. The main challenge is getting the pole to sit upright and getting it to stay secure for the lights. It’s easiest to build things in place once you get the main box created. Lots of luck on your makeover!

    1. Hmm, maybe? The lights will make the pole top-heavy, so the main thing is to really anchor them well or they’ll eventually lean from the weight/weather.

  5. This is great. I’m trying to find a way to support a wood slat divider screen on my patio. Do you think cementing a cedar post into a larger bucket would work?

    1. Hmm. Honestly, I’m not sure! I would consider wind playing a part if you are putting up slats on something without it being anchored and screwed in somewhere (whether the force of the wind would be strong enough to blow the whole thing over when it hits the slats, even if the wind can pass through some of it). I think you’d have to make sure the base would be wide and stable enough. Jaime Costiglio built a wall sort of like this concept (?) and used extra pieces of wood to reinforce the bottom. Hers was indoors, though. Sorry I can’t be of more help but since I haven’t built one myself, I wouldn’t be able to say for sure!

  6. This is exactly what I needed thanks! I almost bought a half whiskey barrel, but I’d like to build my own with my scraps laying around the shed! Blessings!

  7. Hi,
    Those look great! Do you think concrete deck blocks would have worked too instead of quick dry cement? Some come with a hole in the middle too. I was thinking of using those with wood pieces wedged between the pole and the sides of the planter and then fill part way with gravel, but thought I would ask what your thoughts were.

    1. My experience with concrete deck blocks: great for support, but they need structural reinforcement to work as designed. So when they’re working in a grid with additional framing (such as a deck, like the one I built here) they work great. Having just worked with them right before building these planters, I never really considered them to use with the pole planters because they don’t tightly hug the pole like the way the quick dry cement does. I’m not saying it’s not worth giving a try, but I didn’t think it (personally) to be a better option at the time.

  8. Thanks, Sarah! By chance, my google search led me right to you and now I can credit my elementary friend for my Saturday project with my kid!

    1. Omg, hi!!! Been a LONG time (though sometimes it feels like a flash). I hope you’re doing well! I’ve seen some of your pictures on social media and you have a beautiful family! Good luck on your project. :)