FIU@Home: Create soup can planters

Home is the first learning laboratory. This series brings opportunities to discover, explore and create to life-long learners everywhere. Through books, experiments, adventures and digital journeys, FIU@Home engages the whole family with fun, curated educational experiences.

The season of giving can simultaneously spark joy and create stress as the pressure to purchase gifts to show appreciation is intense. This mindset, coupled with our click-it and ship-it culture, creates an annual environmental impact. The U.S. generates about 7 million pounds of waste between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day – which is filling landfills faster than the planet can sustain.

This holiday season get back to the basics with upcycling – the age old tradition of turning something old into something new. While recycling happens at a facility, the classic and eco-friendly gifting strategy of upcycling happens at home.

One idea that’ll lower your carbon footprint? A soup can planter. It gives new life to both leftover cans and food scraps from your culinary preparations.

Each year, about 2.4 tons of aluminum ends up in landfills. That number continues to increase along with the staggering amount of food waste around the country. Propagate is another cost friendly option that’s good for the environment. From herbs to succulents, you don’t have to buy new. Look around at what you already have and go from there.

Follow the guide below to create holiday planters that you can gift to friends, family and coworkers.


There are many ways to decorate your planter. Supplies listed are suggested for different types of decorations. Pick and choose what materials work best for your personal style. Keep in mind, some items will hold up better outdoors, so your planter’s intended location may dictate the type of materials you use.

  • Cans  
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Paper
  • Crayons
  • Markers
  • Acrylic Paints – recommended for outdoor use
  • String/Ribbon
  • Fabric
  • Potting


  1. Research which plants are going into the can. Act like a scientist and ask questions. How much sunlight, space and water do they need? What type of soil should be used?
  2. Find cans around the house that will fit the plant’s needs as well as the space where the plant will live.
  3. Make sure the can is clean, the label is removed and there are no sharp edges left from the lid. If available, low-grade sandpaper can help smooth rough edges.
  4. If the plant needs to have drainage, use a nail and hammer or a drill to create holes in the bottom of the can. If using drainage holes, be sure to place a saucer or tray underneath to catch excess water if your plant will be living indoors.
  5. Decorate the can! Some ideas:
    1. Paint the outside with a design or fun color.
    2. Wrap the can with fabric and tie it up with a bow or string.
    3. Cut a piece of paper to the size of the can, then wrap it and decorate with markers or crayons.
    4. Make labels for the different plants so there can be a distinction between those that may look alike.
    5. Combine techniques or come up with another creative way to decorate it.
  6. Fill the can with potting soil ~3/4 of the way to the top.
  7. Place the seeds or plant in the soil.
  8. Cover with potting soil to the top of the can. 
  9. Gift your plant so it can be placed in its new home!
  10. Create a card to share your research with the recipient so they know how to care for it.

The opportunities to upcycle are endless. Can you think of other gifts that you can make out of items commonly discarded around the house? Hint: use materials like straws, bags or bottles to help reduce some of the most commonly found plastics in our oceans and coastlines. Use our plarn activity to upcycle plastic bags into bracelets for friends and family.

Or join us on a virtual field trip to the Florida Keys to identify other items found in our South Florida backyard that can be upcycled. Save the planet while sharing your holiday spirit and be sure to tag @FIUCASE on social media to inspire others.

The challenge to create something new is enthusiastically accepted by artists and scientists alike. Whether repurposed, recycled or reimagined – there are many ways to make something unique to solve a problem or enhance the world. Follow FIU@Home for more ways to create something new.