How To Make a Simple DIY Plant Shelf

You don't need pricey tools to build this attractive outdoor plant shelf. Create a display for your potted plants with some wood, a hammer, a saw and an afternoon.

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3 to 5 hours






I admit, I'm a plant junkie. I have so many waiting to be planted I practically trip over them getting to my front door. I can't seem to get them in the ground or in pots fast enough, and now I'm running out of places to put them.

An outdoor plant shelf is just what I need. I can store flats of flowers, or make the shelf an attractive centerpiece with pots and flashy color. An Internet search turned up thousands of plant shelves. They're a DIY staple.

I wanted a shelf I could build in a few hours without a bunch of complicated cuts. I love the look of 4x4 posts, so I came up with this sturdy design that uses fence pickets as shelves, with 2x4 supports. Copper post caps add some polish to the rugged shelf.

If you have a miter saw, this project is truly a breeze, but power tools aren't necessary. Have someone at the home improvement center cut the 4x4s. Then cut the rest of the wood yourself with a hand saw, or have them cut it all. I like the look of nails, but you can use deck screws if you prefer (pre-drill any holes).

Use whatever wood you'd like, but if you choose untreated lumber, stain and seal the finished plant shelf for outdoor use. Cedar is expensive, so I went with a brown treated wood. It looks a little like cedar for a fraction of the price.

Let's get started.

Tools Required

  • Hammer
  • Miter or chop saw (optional)
  • Pencil
  • Speed square
  • Tape measure
  • Wood saw and miter box (optional)

Materials Required

  • 1 1-lb. box 3-in. or 3-1/2-in. galvanized: ringed deck nails
  • 2 2x4x8 wood studs
  • 2 4x4x6 wood posts
  • 4 copper post caps
  • 5 5/8x5-1/2x6 fence pickets
  • 8 2-in. common nails

Project step-by-step (7)

Step 1

Cut the Wood

Ask someone at your home improvement center to do this for you, or do it yourself with a miter and/or hand saw.

Safety note: Always wear safety glasses, hearing protection and gloves when using power saws.

  • Cut 4×4 posts into:
    • Four pieces, 2-1/2-ft. long.
  • Cut fence pickets into:
    • Four pieces, 36-in. long.
    • Six pieces, 28-3/4-in. long (use dog-ear ends from the previous cuts for four of these).
  • Cut 2x4s into:
    • Two pieces, 36-in. long.
    • Four pieces, 18-in. long.
    • Two pieces, 11-1/4-in. long (for spacers). You can use scrap wood if you have it.

using a handsaw to cut woodAlly Childress for Family Handyman

using a pencil to mark measurements on a piece of woodAlly Childress for Family Handyman

Step 2

Mark the Legs

  • Lay 4x4s on the ground or workbench.
  • Hold the tape measure at one end and make pencil marks at six inches and 24 inches.
  • Use the speed square to draw a straight line on your marks across the face of the post.
    • Brace the lipped end on the 4×4 edge and use the 90-degree side to draw a line on your mark.
  • Repeat with the three other posts.

making measurements on pieces of wood for the table legsAlly Childress for Family Handyman

Step 3

Lay Out the Sides

  • Find a straight edge, like the lip of your garage floor, a wall or a seam in a concrete driveway.
  • Lay two post ends against this line about a foot apart.
  • Slide 11-1/4-in. spacers between posts and snug up, keeping the post ends on the seam or lip.
  • Align the 18-in. 2x4s perpendicular to the posts on your pencil marks.
    • Place each 2×4 on the same side of the pencil marks.
  • The 2x4s ends should be nearly flush with the outside edges of the 4×4 posts.

laying out the pieces of wood on the ground before assemblingAlly Childress for Family Handyman

Step 4

Build the Sides

  • Nail the 2x4s to the posts with two galvanized, ringed deck nails at each joint.
  • Get one nail started, then align 2×4 on the pencil mark and post edge before driving the nail home.

using nails to attach two pieces of wood togetherAlly Childress for Family Handyman

  • Get the second nail started and realign the 2×4 on the pencil mark.
    • Hold 2×4 on pencil line with the Speed square as you finish nailing.
  • Nail the other joints, aligning on marks before driving nails.
  • Repeat Steps 3 and 4 for the other side of the plant shelf.

the sides of the plant table leaning against the outdoor garden shedAlly Childress for Family Handyman

Step 5

Attach Back Pieces

  • Stand the two sides upright, with 2x4s to the inside and parallel to the ground.
    • Make sure they’re mirror images of each other.
    • The shelves and legs should be the same height, and the bottom 2×4 should be six inches off the ground.
  • Flip the sides forward so that the “back” of the shelf is facing up.
  • Space the sides 36 inches apart, outside edge to outside edge.
  • Attach the two 36-in. 2x4s to the posts, joining the sides and forming the back of the shelf.
    • 2×4 ends should be flush with the outside edge of posts and the same height as the side 2x4s.
  • Flip the shelf back over so it’s upright.

the sides of the shelf attached to the back of the shelfAlly Childress for Family Handyman

Step 6

Add Shelves

  • Add the picket shelves to the 2×4 supports. Each gets:
    • Two 36-in. pickets in the middle, and
    • Two 28-3/4-in. pickets in the front and back between the posts.
  • Line up the edges of the pickets with the edges of the posts and nail down with two deck nails.
  • Nail the bottom shelf pickets first so you have room to swing your hammer.

outdoor garden table with the shelves added inAlly Childress for Family Handyman

Step 7

Add Trim and Post Caps

  • Attach the last two 28-3/4-in. pickets under the shelves to cover the ends of the 2x4s on the front.
  • Get creative here. If you want to trim around the entire shelf, go for it.
    • If no one will see the sides, leave them untrimmed, like I did here.
  • Add the copper post caps.
  • Add plants!

Fhm Diy Plant Shelf Step 7 Add Finials Ally Childress JveditAlly Childress for Family Handyman