Making Hypertufa Containers

On Friday, I showed you my hypertufa containers and I promised that I’d show you how I made them. And since I am a woman of her word (most of the time), here it goes.

Items Needed:

Sphagnum Peat Moss
Portland Cement
Cooking Spray (Pam works for me, since it has my name in its name)
Large bucket or something to mix your ingredients in
Rubber gloves
Particle mask
Safety glasses
Various plastic or cardboard containers to use as molds

I purchased my bags of perlite and sphagnum peat moss from the gardening section of Walmart (they were approximately $5 a piece). The bag of Portland cement was purchased from the construction area of Home Depot (this small bag was approximately $5 also).

You do need Portland cement and not the quick drying cement for this recipe. Don’t let the Quikrete name confuse you though. Quikrete happens to make this Portland cement, although they do make the quick setting version of cement also. Just look for the Portland title (which has nothing to do with Portland, Oregon, BTW).

Gather some containers that you want to put the hypertufa into. You’ll need an outer container and an inner container. The mixture will go between the two containers. Some ideas for molds are two bowls of different sizes,

milk cartons, juice containers and cups.  I love my Timmy’s.

Even two boxes of different sizes can be used. They make nice trough type planters.

Spray the sides of the containers with cooking spray, so that the molds will slide out easily later. If you are going to use the cardboard boxes, use garbage bags to line them, so the moisture doesn’t make the cardboard all mushy.

Get your containers ready and set to go before you start mixing the hypertufa. The containers must nest in each other, leaving at least 1/2 inch between the sides.

Don your particle mask, gloves and safety glasses and mix equal parts of perlite, peat moss and Portland cement in a container that you never ever want to use again. This is a messy project. I used a plastic cup I had on hand to scoop out about 8 cups of each into my large bucket for mixing. I then added enough water to make a cottage cheese like consistency.

And please don’t forget to wear a mask and gloves! You don’t want to inhale cement unless you want rock hard lungs. And cement can be very caustic to your skin. I forgot my safety glasses, so I just shut my eyes while scooping out the dry cement, but I’m pretty sure that’s about the same as closing your eyes while you’re welding on the sun.

Now, I had planned on showing a ton of photos doing all these steps, but my gloved hands were wet with cement and I didn’t want to get my camera all gritty.

When it’s all nice and mixed together, press the mixture into the bottom of the outer container to a depth of about 1″ (this will make the bottom), put the inner container on top of that and press more mixture into the sides.

Wrap your items in a large plastic garbage bag and learn how to be patient.

Concrete needs to dry slowly, so keep it in the bag for roughly 24 hours. After 24 hours you can check and see if it’s setting up. If so, you can remove the molds and let the piece air dry for a few more days (don’t forget to wear your gloves for this step). I found it took mine at least 4 days to completely and thoroughly dry.

Mine came out a little bumpier on the top than I was imagining, but I sort of like the rusticness of them that way.

I also made a sphere.

I used a child’s play ball and put it in a container filled with sand, so it would hold its shape and not have a huge flat spot on the bottom. Then I cut a small hole in the top of the ball and filled it up with the hypertufa mix.

More detailed instructions can be found on this post by Fairegarden. She does an excellent job of showing you how to make them.

I also tried to do a hand with the stuff, using a rubber glove as a form.

I lost a few fingers though. They popped off when I was cutting the glove off.

The great thing about these planters is that the hypertufa is so much lighter than you would think by just glancing at them. So you get the look of stone without the weight of stone.

How to make lightweight hypertufa planters for your garden and patio.  They look like concrete, but are much lighter!

UPDATE: Since this post first appeared, I have successfully created a hand! OK, that vaguely sounds like something Dr. Frankenstein would say, but you can see it on this post – HERE.

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  1. says

    “I lost some fingers.” I am glad you did not loose some fingers or get rocks in your lungs. Seems the entire process is fraught with danger. But they are entirely lovely.

  2. says

    Isn’t this fun?!! I made a few a couple of summers ago, and even made some leaf casts too. Yours are beautiful! For my sphere I poured the cement in a fish bowl and then broke the bowl when it dried. The hand and fingers cracked(ha) me up! You’re great with tutorials, Pam. Best, Vicki

  3. says

    Pam, OMGosh, I just did a post on hypertufa containers that I had seen in Lowe’s Creative Ideas, and wondered if anyone had made ever made any. I love the ones you made. Great job and great tutorial.

  4. says

    Now you’ve got me worried that I’ve inhaled cement dust when mixing quickrete for fence posts! I guess not since I don’t have any problems breathing. The hand would be a very fun Halloween prop! Oh, just imagine what you could do with that stuff. And probably will, right?

  5. says

    You did a great job on those. One of these days I am going to try this- I actually have the stuff to do it and have never got at it- ugh- Thanks for the tutorial, Pam. xo Diana

  6. says

    Very cool. I’m definitely showing this to Chris. He needs to do this project for me…tee hee. Thanks for the awesome tutorial.

  7. says

    One more thing I’ve been saying I was going to do! After the rude guy at the Rural Society Show gave me grief, I decided I would never pay for them again! So, so good to see ya on Saturday.

  8. says

    Mine has sat out in the elements (rain and snow) all year and they’ve held up perfectly, so I don’t think using them as a birdbath would make them crumbly. They are somewhat porous though, so they wouldn’t be absolutely watertight, but you could certainly put water in them in the garden.

  9. says

    To make the drainage holes in the bottoms of your planters, use a toilet paper or paper towel roll. Works great.

    Fingers: Make the mixture a little heavier on the cement. Let it sit longer in the glove. You can also use a couple of pairs of latex gloves. To make the fingers curl, set them in sand.

    You’ve done a great job!

  10. says

    For the hand, you could also lay the fingers on a tennis ball if you wanted them to be more curly. You would obviously have to let it dry on the other side. Just an idea.

    Love your tutorial.

  11. martha mckenzie says

    I am doing this right now. Well, yesterday I made a few – took molds off today – tell me why mine are not the same light color as yours?
    Do they have to ‘cure’ for a few weeks to get to that color? I used Portland cement, peat moss & perlite. Plus outside is very smooth & shiny – do I need to sand them a little ( would like them to be rougher)?

    • says

      It will take them a few days to cure completely, Martha and they should lighten up in color when dried.

      Wonder if you had more Portland cement in the mixture and that’s what is making them shinier though? When I tried my hand one again last year I doubled the cement in the mixture, because I was trying to make it extra strong (since I had broken fingers when I tried it on this post) and that one did come out much shinier and smoother. Plus no broken fingers this time :)

  12. says

    I love this! May I ask a couple questions? How many pots can be made from the single bags of the ingredients? I’d like to invite a few friends over for a crafty day.
    Also, how long do they hold up outside? Forever? Do they need sealing or anything?

    • says

      I’m so glad you enjoyed them!

      I think you could get about 10-12 pots out of a bag easily. I’ve done two large ones, three smaller ones and then a bowling ball looking one and a couple of hands and I still have half a bag left.

      And mine have held up really well. I do bring them inside in the dead of winter when there’s a lot of snow, but they’re normally outside for at least 8 months out of the year. I did not seal them. I suppose you could use a concrete/sidewalk sealer if you wanted though.

  13. says

    Pam, I love these – the rusticness is absolutely perfect and with succulants they are awesome… I am now adding this to my to do list that keeps on growing…. thank you for sharing… pinning and stumbling…

  14. says

    I have always wanted to give this project a go at it, on a large scale. Need to put on my thinking cap for a large base form…. thanks for sharing your steps Pam!

  15. says

    Pam to Pam – Great job!! Do you think these might need a hole in the bottom, or does the water soak through? Also, were you able to reuse the plastic bowl molds?
    Thank you for sharing!

    • says

      I did not put holes in the bottom, but you could. The water does tend to leach out a bit, so it’s not been a problem so far. And yes you can reuse the plastic bowl molds – for more molds, not eating stuff out of :). Just make sure you coat them with a cooking spray so they slide off easily.

  16. Anonymous says

    I love this project and will make some this summer. I had to laugh thou at your Items Needed list.
    You had: Cooking Spray (Spam works for me, since it has my name in its name) Isn’t Spam a canned meat and Pam is a cooking spray? I could picture myself rubbing the glob of meat all over the mold. LOL!
    I have so many ideas and can’t wait till better weather to make some. Thank you!

    • says

      You just made me spit my orange juice out onto my computer screen! Yes, I have never noticed that before! You are so right, please don’t spread meat on your mold :) I’ll change it now so I don’t confuse anyone. Thank you!!!

  17. Anonymous says

    I didn’t have containers so I mounded a pile of sand and put the hypertufa over the sand in a bowl shape. When dry drill holes with a diamond bit. They turned out great!

  18. Anonymous says

    Isn’t Spam a meat product? I think you mean PAM, Pam…..and I can’t believe I am the first person to spot that, but I didn’t read ALL the posts. BTW, love your sense of humor and your projects.

  19. Carmen says

    I tried this using a different recipe and it was a complete bust! (No pun intended…) I am determined to make this work. (!!!)

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