Planter Puzzler

Looking for a fun and novel table decoration for a special event? Here’s an idea. We turned our table decorations into a game for the School Gardening Conference.

PHOTO: Oregano sprigs in an oregano spice jar.
Oregano in its namesake jar was our Planter Puzzler example.

We paired unusual plant containers with plants that had some relationship to those planters and asked teachers to guess the connections. We provided an easy example to start. You can duplicate this game using our examples or invent your own combinations. Start with a plant that has a fun name that lends itself to ideas for containers based on the shape, color, or function of the container. You can also start with a container and then select a plant or seeds to match.

If you have one or the other and can’t think of good pairing, do an internet image search for related words. We had a gumball machine, so we tried “gum plant,” “ball plant,” and other ideas just to play around with the idea before we decided to fill it with sweet gum tree seeds. (Sorry, I did not get a good photo of it.)

PHOTO: birdseed growing in a birdhouse.
I had a ceramic birdhouse, so I filled it with soil and planted birdseed (actually, millet and sunflower seeds).
PHOTO: Goldfish plant growing in a fish bowl.
It was easy to find the right container for this goldfish plant (Hypocyrta glabra)—a fish bowl!
PHOTO: A pitcher plant growing in a pitcher.
A pitcher plant growing inside a beverage pitcher was a favorite table display. (This pitcher is a species of Nepenthes.)

Here are a few practical tips for doing this at home:

Since these containers were not made for plants, you may need to line them with a plastic bag or insert a plastic cup or pot. If you want to keep the plants in this container for any length of time, you’ll need to provide drainage or the roots will rot. Follow directions from Tim Pollack for planting a terrarium in this YouTube video.

You may have to alter the container to make it work. I had to take apart a toy drum to turn it into a planter for beets. (Beets in a drum—get it? If you want to impress, don’t shy away from puns, references to popular stories, or inside jokes.)

In addition to the ideas mentioned above, we also used these plant-container pairings:

  • chamomile in a Peter Rabbit teapot
  • radishes in a Peter Rabbit ceramic bowl
  • mint in a teacup
  • lettuce in a wooden salad bowl
  • chain of hearts in a valentine chocolate box
  • spider plant in a “Big Bugs” coffee mug
  • herbs in a recipe box
PHOTO: Chain of Hearts plant grows in a Valentine's Day chocolate tin.
A heart-shaped chocolates tin from Valentine’s Day—the perfect home for a string of hearts plant (Ceropegia woodii)

©2013 Chicago Botanic Garden and