How to Make Living Flower Pots (Ornamental Edible Gardening)

We took my daughter to the Riverbanks Zoo & Botanical Garden in Columbia, SC last week. By that, I mean we spent 90% of our time at the zoo before running around the Botanical Garden for the last 10% like our pants were on fire. This is what happens to a gardener when the people with her are more interested in fauna than flora. I just couldn’t compete with the penguins and naked mole rats.

I think these almost look more like fauna than flora:

Photo Caption: These kale & grass spheres were hanging from a low tree at the Riverbanks Zoo & Garden in Columbia.

I like that they have kale growing out the top — these could be a good focal point for someone who enjoys edible landscaping. It would solve the problem of how to harvest your pretty edibles without leaving an ugly gap in the garden. Just create multiples on a staggered schedule and replace them as they get too big.

Photo Caption: Chia with a purpose! Once they get too top-heavy you can turn them into snacks.

If you’re challenged for space or have shady summers, you can hang these from deciduous trees so they’ll get enough light in the winter.

I don’t know how Riverbanks made theirs, but here’s my version:

Materials needed: 2 coco plant pot liners, needle & heavy thread, ryegrass seed, potting soil, a pretty kale transplant, 3′ – 6′ hanging cord (to put it in the tree), and clay-consistency mud (you can buy it from a ceramics supply store or dig it up yourself — I think southern red clay would make an attractive “pot”)

  1. Cut a small (2″ diameter or less) hole in the bottom of one of the coco liners (this is where the kale plant will stick through)
  2. Sew the two coco liners together to make a solid sphere
  3. Fill the sphere up with potting soil and insert the kale transplant so that the leaves stick up out of the hole
  4. Make 2 tiny holes near the opening in the top to thread the hanging cord through
  5. Water well
  6. Mix ryegrass seed in the clay-like mud you use and then paint the outside of the sphere with a thick coating (so that you can no longer see the coco-ball)
  7. Hang it up and let the clay dry out slightly before watering (so that it doesn’t wash off)

I’d also use a little organic fertilizer for foliage growth.

If you prefer to try something less complicated you could make a plain grass ball out of an old, dark-colored sock. Fill the sock with potting soil and tie it closed (and cut off the excess fabric). Then you’d need to soak it until thoroughly moist, affix a hanging cord to the top, and coat it with the ryegrass/mud mixture. Make sure the clay has time to dry slightly before your next watering so the sock doesn’t show through. In theory, you’d never know it was a sock.

If anyone has an idea of how the botanical garden got a soil clod to hang suspended with no support, let me know. Maybe they have enough resources to replace them every time it rains. In the meantime, I think these two methods would be a more reliable way not to end up with soggy plops under your tree that look like landscaped ant hills. :)

Eliza Lord

I'm a Greenville, SC native (the Appalachian foothills) who wears the hats of Greenville Master Gardener & Upstate Master Naturalist. I love to write about food and sustainability.

27 thoughts on “How to Make Living Flower Pots (Ornamental Edible Gardening)”

  1. Jamie - December 1, 2010 8:18 pm

    Awesome! We’ve been to riverbanks numerous times and yet, I can never get anyone to go to the botanical garden with me. Next time, I’m insisting! When we get out of this rental with no trees, I hope to have trees and want to make these hanging kale plants. Too cool 😉

    Reply
    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - December 2, 2010 11:49 am

      Fortunately I’ve gotten to walk slower through Riverbanks on numerous occasions… but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to every single time! They might have planted something new!
      .-= Sustainahillbilly´s last blog ..How to Join My Blogroll &amp Use Blotanical =-.

      Reply
  2. Pam's English Garden - December 1, 2010 8:41 pm

    Dear Eliza, I love these living flowerpots … how very clever! Your blog is great and I will visit again. Pamela
    .-= Pam’s English Garden´s last blog ..In Search of an Angel =-.

    Reply
    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - December 2, 2010 11:49 am

      Thanks! I really like yours, too. :)
      .-= Sustainahillbilly´s last blog ..How to Join My Blogroll &amp Use Blotanical =-.

      Reply
  3. Kathleen - December 1, 2010 8:51 pm

    These are just fabulous Eliza. I’ve never seen them anywhere before. I might just have to make one!
    I know very well what it’s like to try and examine plants in a Botanic Garden while with kids!
    .-= Kathleen´s last blog ..Amaryllis Novella =-.

    Reply
    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - December 2, 2010 11:50 am

      I tried to find more on Google without any success, I think it is probably something that the Riverbanks employees came up with.
      .-= Sustainahillbilly´s last blog ..How to Join My Blogroll &amp Use Blotanical =-.

      Reply
  4. Janet - December 1, 2010 9:33 pm

    Think it calls for another trip to Columbia. Have that one on my list of places to go to in my immediate area.
    .-= Janet´s last blog ..Odds and Ends- Bits and Pieces- This and That =-.

    Reply
    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - December 2, 2010 11:52 am

      It’s great you’re close enough to see them yourself! I really like their semi-hardy citrus display, too. They have a beautiful trifoliate orange and a citrangequat.
      .-= Sustainahillbilly´s last blog ..How to Join My Blogroll &amp Use Blotanical =-.

      Reply
  5. Tara - December 1, 2010 9:50 pm

    That’s my problem with edible ornamental gardening at our house! It is pretty for a while and then you eat it and it’s bare!! I love to look at it, but I like to eat it too :/ what to do?

    Thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving a comment :) Happy Holidays to you and your family!

    Reply
    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - December 2, 2010 11:52 am

      Happy holidays to you, too!

      Reply
  6. Ali - December 2, 2010 2:32 am

    Wow, I like these a lot and I have a huge tree in our backyard that we could hang these in. Thank you!
    .-= Ali´s last blog ..Onion Tales =-.

    Reply
    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - December 2, 2010 11:52 am

      Let us know how it works out for you!

      Reply
  7. One - December 2, 2010 5:36 am

    What a clever idea! Thank you for sharing.
    .-= One´s last blog ..Citrus Butterfly =-.

    Reply
    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - December 2, 2010 11:53 am

      You’re welcome :)

      Reply
  8. Meredith - December 2, 2010 8:03 am

    Fun idea, Eliza. I hate that you got to spend only a dollop of your time at the botanical garden. If you’re like me, you could have happily lost hours there. Forget the naked mole rats. 😉
    .-= Meredith´s last blog ..plenty =-.

    Reply
    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - December 2, 2010 11:54 am

      It’s not the first time I’ve been, but I don’t think I’ve ever been this late in the year before. I really want a citrangequatnow!

      Reply
      1. Sustainahillbilly
        Twitter: appalachianfeet
        - December 2, 2010 11:54 am

        Er, a citrangequat, now!

        Reply
  9. Carolyn @ Carolyn's Shade Gardens - December 2, 2010 8:04 am

    I really like this idea. They would be perfect incorporated into a deck or patio planting with plenty of containers on the ground. Carolyn
    .-= Carolyn @ Carolyn’s Shade Gardens´s last blog ..Keeping the Shade Garden Going in Late Fall =-.

    Reply
    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - December 2, 2010 11:55 am

      That does sound like a nice way to do it!

      Reply
  10. Carolflowerhill
    Twitter: flora
    - December 2, 2010 8:13 am

    What an imaginative and healthy idea! I love it! I love your blog too! So glad to have found you.
    .-= Carolflowerhill´s last blog ..A Muse Day Carnival Hot- Loud and Proud =-.

    Reply
    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - December 2, 2010 11:55 am

      Thanks!

      Reply
  11. Michelle - December 2, 2010 8:11 pm

    I’ve seen petunia balls before, but not grass balls. The instructions were similar to yours, except they made several tiny holes in the coco lining and stuck the petunias into the soil. I’m really feeling like I need a few grass balls or a flower balls now :-) Thanks for sharing! It’s on my list of things to do soon!
    Michelle
    .-= Michelle´s last blog ..First Freeze in my garden =-.

    Reply
    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - December 3, 2010 9:32 am

      I was trying to think of other plants I’d use instead of kale… but then I was too enchanted with the idea of kale. Petunias sound very pretty, too!
      .-= Sustainahillbilly´s last blog ..How to Find Hedgehog Mushrooms and Eat Them- With Recipes =-.

      Reply
  12. Berceste - December 2, 2010 8:41 pm

    First I love your blog and photos.

    Then I liked the idea of living flower pots. I must to try to do it.
    .-= Berceste´s last blog ..Momo =-.

    Reply
    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - December 3, 2010 9:32 am

      Thanks so much! I hope the pots work out for you, let us know!

      Reply
  13. Meredehuit - December 2, 2010 11:16 pm

    Those are way cool planters… I’d love to give it a try! Since we’re buried under snow, I may have to wait awhile. My first visit here, I’ll be back for sure!

    Reply
    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - December 3, 2010 9:33 am

      Great! I hope the snow doesn’t keep you indoors for long.

      Reply

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