15 Trough Planter Ideas

Trough planters can be absolutely gorgeous if used correctly. These ideas will help you have a unique garden.

Raised bed and container gardening has gained immense popularity with homeowners in the last couple of decades. As an alternative to sowing plants directly into the soil, you plant your garden vegetables or flowers in a container. This type of gardening is popular because of its advantages over traditional growing methods, and using trough planters provides even more benefits.

Why You Should Use One

Growing plants in a trough planter, whether large or small, offers many benefits over traditional gardening.

  • Adds outdoor space. For people in apartments or homes without a yard to plant in, using one opens up a new way to garden. They can be set on a driveway, balcony, or patio, depending on outdoor design and garden ideas.
  • Improved accessibility. Using a planter puts less stress on the body because of the height and opens up having a garden for people with limited mobility.
  • Improved soil structure. After buying, you need to add potting soil to your trough. This means you create a soil high in organic matter, water holding capacity, and aeration.
  • Fewer weeds and pest problems. New soil equates to fewer weed seeds, and the high sides of a trough prevent many pests from crawling up into your garden.
  • Higher garden yields. The combination of improved soil structure, high organic matter, and fewer pest problems come together to increase plant yields.
  • Longer growing season. The soil in a these structures warms up quicker in the spring than the ground, allowing you to plant your garden earlier. You can also set hoops over the box to protect your garden in the fall.
  • Showcases your garden plants. When you take the time to garden and tend to your plants, you want to show them off. Growing in a trough puts your ideas front and center, displaying them beautifully.
Showcase your plants and help them grow in beautiful trough planters

The biggest reason you should use trough planters? Using a prefabricated trough to grow a garden or flowers is a convenient and easy way to reap the results of raised bed gardening. There’s no need to purchase all of the building supplies and tools or ask someone to help construct one for you.

Buy it, fill it with soil, plant it…and, done!

What to Look For

There are many products available on the market, and it’s not hard to find one you like. Before buying a planter, though, think about the following details to make sure you purchase the perfect one for your outdoor space and garden design.

Type of Material

Trough planters can be purchased in a range of materials from plastic composites to metal, each product having distinct advantages and disadvantages.


Wood has long been a staple in gardening and are commonly used for raised bed gardens. They come in many different sizes, can be purchased prefabricated, or made to your specifications. You can also paint or stain the wood any color you choose to match — or complement — the landscape design or the look of your home.

When looking for a wooden planter, opt for cedar or teak wood. Pressure-treated woods may seem like a great way to protect it from the outdoor elements, but they contain chemicals that leach into the soil and affect your garden.

Wooden trough planter is a stylish idea for growing plants

Plastic Composites

Plastic or resin containers are well-liked for container gardening because they are lightweight, inexpensive, and can be purchased in various sizes, shapes, and colors.

If you want to garden in a plastic trough, look for a brand made with plastic composites. Plastic composites are strengthened with fibers, fillers, or powders during manufacturing to improve their firmness, allowing them to hold a greater soil volume. It also protects it from cracking when left outdoors in the sun or cold.

Cast Concrete or Stone

Cast concrete or stone containers are incredibly sturdy and withstand weathering well; they are excellent choices for large, massive plants such as trees and shrubs. One of their most significant advantages is you can let them set outdoors all year long since they aren’t affected by the elements.

This durability does come with a downside, though. Due to their weight, concrete and stone isn’t suitable for some balconies or decks.

Cement trough planter is creative


Metal has always been and will continue to be the most common option. It’s easy to find products in various metals (copper, aluminum, and galvanized steel are the most popular), giving you plenty of color and design options.

When you opt for a metal trough, remember the color may change over time after exposure to the sun and rain. Some people like the way a metal planter will patina and opt for copper or untreated aluminum. If you prefer to keep the original look or the product, look for galvanized planters. During manufacturing, the steel undergoes a process that prevents it from rusting when left outside.

Also, metal will heat up when sitting in the sun, causing the soil to experience fluctuating temperatures. To keep the soil from getting too hot and damaging your plants’ root system, you may want to add a plastic or coconut coir lining to your planter before you fill it with soil.

Metal trough planters with proper drainage add an aesthetic element

Proper Drainage

When growing a garden, there is a delicate balance of providing plants with enough moisture without waterlogging their roots. Too much water pushes oxygen out of the soil and harms the plant roots.

Trough planters are simply oversized containers, so gardening in them follows the same principles. This means they need holes in the bottom to allow excess water to drain out; any container without holes in the bottom traps this excess water creating adverse growing conditions.

It was recommended for a long time to create a layer in the bottom of containers to help improve drainage if there weren’t holes in the bottom. Skip this step, please. Research has proven it’s more detrimental than helpful.

Gravity pulls water down through the soil naturally, but the water stops moving when it encounters this layer created by rocks or small stones because of the pore size difference. Before the water moves into the layer, all of the potting soil must fill with water, creating more problems.

If you are set on a trough without holes, you can use a cordless drill and add them. Plastic, wood, and metal containers are relatively easy to add holes in the bottom; stone or concrete boxes will need a particular bit for your drill.

Also make sure to check out our article on whether we recommend liners in raised beds.

Planters on patios or porches make for wonderful small gardens

Appropriate Mobility

Regardless of the type you get, the box will be heavy once you add potting soil and plants. If you need to move it to a different spot on the patio or put it back in the garage for winter, consider looking at a product with wheels.


The budget you are working with is always important to keep in mind. These planters can vary in price from under $100 upwards to $400 or so, depending upon the container material, size, and added product features.

Keep in mind too, before you start gardening, you have to fill the boxes with potting soil, which adds to the overall price.

15 Ideas for Trough Planters in Home Gardens

Trough planters can be used in many different ways, allowing you to bring your gardening ideas to life.

Wooden design planters are beautiful and clean

Beyond the standard vegetables or annual flowers, you can always try any of the following fun ideas.

  1. Herb garden containing rosemary, lavender, mint, and your other favorite herbs.
  2. Salsa garden with tomatoes, peppers, and cilantro.
  3. Rose garden to display your favorite color.
  4. Succulent garden mixing plants of different heights, textures, sizes, and colors.
  5. Salad garden with lettuces, carrots, radishes, and a tomato plant.
  6. Wildflower garden with black-eyed susans, purple coneflower, and asters.
  7. Butterfly garden with milkweed, phlox, blazing star, and salvia.
  8. Tropical citrus garden with a Meyer lemon tree, lemongrass, pineapple sage, and orange mint.
  9. Pizza garden with Roma tomatoes, bell peppers, basil, oregano, and chives.
  10. Tea garden with chamomile, lavender, lemon verbena, and mint.
  11. Cutting garden with iris, daylilies, and mums.
  12. Moon garden with evening primrose, night phlox, moonflower, and angel’s trumpet.
  13. Perfume garden with jasmine, wisteria, plumeria, and mock orange.
  14. Cottage garden with hollyhocks, peonies, phlox, and dianthus.
  15. Shade garden with hostas, bleeding heart, and ferns.
Carley Miller
Carley Miller is a horticultural expert at Bustling Nest. She previously owned a landscaping business for 25 years and worked at a local garden center for 10 years.
More ArticlesGeneral Guides