Weekly Crafty: Taking Ceramic Paint For A Spin

Sorry to anyone looking for Weekly Crafty posts on Tuesdays, it seems that they’ve shifted to Thursdays for the past two weeks! Since my hands are still recovering from staple pulling, more wallpaper peeling, and more painting (we’re doing our stair risers today so we can hopefully install the runner this weekend and have that post for you on Monday), I wanted to pick something fun & easy for this week’s crafty little endeavor. And here’s where I ended up: with a big ol’ hand-painted planter full of succulents and colorful cacti.

You know I like sharing house plants that we’re adding/loving/killing every once in a while (like this and this), and this project all started when I found some glass/ceramic paint on clearance at JoAnn for $1.97…

I don’t think I’ve ever used specifically formulated glass or ceramic paint, so a maiden voyage like this is thrilling for a gal like me (seriously, it falls somewhere between finding a five dollar bill in my coat pocket and a new episode of The Walking Dead on my DVR). At first I gave a few other project ideas some consideration – like painting mugs, a vase, or some ceramic candlesticks – and then I saw this amazing planter and said “boom, I’m going planter.” Just like that. Out loud and everything.

The reason for a planter was two-fold. Clara had showed some interest in the colorful cacti at Home Depot the last time we walked by, and I’d been meaning to grab her one or two so we could care for them together. The second reason was that about a week ago I was going through our serving bowls and noticed there were some big winners we use all the time, and one shallow bowl that we hardly touched. But when I saw that inspiration planter, I realized the shape of my poor abandoned bowl was similar. And it was nice and big (around 17″ wide) so I thought it would make for a sweet centerpiece at the kitchen table when it was all said and done.

So Clara and I took a trip to Home Depot, where we got a little carried away. We stared at everything, discussed their merits and shortcomings (“I like this one because it’s extra pokey!” “I like this one because it’s yellow like a lemon!”) and ended up grabbing 10 plants. Five of them were colorful cacti and the other five were smaller/cheaper succulents to fill things in. All told, it was around $30 in plants (I told you we got carried away) so I’m pretty dang invested in this project now – but Clara is so excited. Begging: please share your cactus care tips if you have any! I don’t want to kill these guys.

As we were checking out the cashier sweetly told me to mix some sand into the soil when I potted them because they like that and dropped the fact that they actually sell Cactus Sand for a few bucks if I don’t have sand on hand to mix. After embracing her with tears in my eyes thanking her profusely, Clara and I grabbed a bag (when you put $30 into plants, $3 for the dirt they like best felt like a nice insurance policy for a black thumb like me).

Once home with our haul, the first step was ceramic painting, which had me torn. If I wanted to be literal about it, I could paint the entire outside of the bowl like the one that inspired me, but I liked the idea of some white with a fun slice of blue around those colorful cacti, so I decided to paint the inner lip of the planter with my teal ceramic paint. The best of both worlds. Kinda like Two Face. Except less gruesome and eye-ball-y.

Applying the paint inside the lip was easy enough…

I just followed the instructions: wiping down the part I was going to paint with alcohol, letting it dry, and painting a nice even coat with a small craft brush. I did my best to keep the line around the lip of the bowl even, and since the paint was really slow to dry, if I messed up and got a blob up on the lip, just wiping it with a paper towel left me with a nice clean edge once again. The paint was non-toxic so I could have done it with Clara (I did it right in front of her) but she said “call me when it’s time to touch the dirt!” Funny kid.

Oh and the reason I didn’t bother painting the entire inside of the bowl was because I figured I’d rather conserve my paint for another project instead of using it on a large part of the planter that wouldn’t be seen once the dirt was added.

To cure the paint on ceramic and glass surfaces, you can either let it air dry for a while, or you can speed things up by baking it in the oven. Although this was a serving dish, it was only microwave and dishwasher safe – not oven safe – so I skipped that step and just opted for the air drying approach. After a few days it was no longer tacky, so I decided the lip could continue to cure even after the pot was in use and Clara and I could commence the much anticipated Adding Of The Dirt.

The plants were spikey so we had to be careful, but she had a lot of fun dumping cups of dirt into the bowl and digging little holes for me to drop the plants into.

Now every night at dinner Clara and I talk about our favorite plants (they all have names) and check to make sure nothing’s giving up on us. So far, so good! Maybe the bean will grow up to be a botanist. Or a paleontologist. The dirt was definitely her favorite part…

In the end, this project only took about thirty minutes to gather my supplies, and another twenty spent painting that lip, followed by around 15 minutes to pot things with Clara in our special cactus sand, but I hope it’s a kitchen centerpiece that lasts for years and makes us smile. I actually really like the bright pot + succulents thing, so I’m thinking I might make a bunch more as holiday gifts and even some little ones for the neighbors (one small cactus and a little brightly painted pot should only be around $7 total – and I can try stripes and dots and a dipped bottom, etc).

Is anyone else out there painting ceramic or glass items? Or planting something inside to add a little life to the house as we head into the colder months? How about homemade holiday gift ideas? I’m flirting with the concept of trying to DIY all of them this year, but it might lead to final-hour hyperventilation, so I’m not sure yet.

Psst – Can’t shake the crafty? Check out nearly 50 other craft projects here.


  1. Laura says

    I hope your cacti last longer than ours! I bought a colorful one similar to those you bought and it lasted almost 6 months before it died on me. I followed the planting and light instructions to a T. Would love for an update later in their lives :-)


    • says

      Oh no! Will keep you posted for sure. It has only been a few days but these guys seem happy in their kitchen spot (it gets sun but not too much). I’m planning only to add water (with the help of my splashy assistant) when the dirt is dry dry dry (one person said once a month isn’t even a bad call) so I think my hurdle will be resisting the whole over-watering thing. Here’s hoping…


    • Hillary says

      I definitely bought one of those plants last month (the very bottom right one in your last picture) to plant in a teacup that was my great-grandma’s so I could see it on a daily basis next to my kitchen sink. I actually have a pretty green-ish thumb and I definitely killed it by over-watering. The leaves (?) got soggy and then would fall off layer by layer until the whole thing went kaput. I think the lack of watering they require freaked me out! So resist the urge (unlike me!) and hopefully yours will have a happily ever after…

    • says

      I’m somewhat hit or miss on indoor plants. But I do have a few succulents that are totally thriving. Two are on a bathroom windowsill, two on my kitchen windowsill. The second secret it to forget about them, a lot. Hah. It’s pretty easy to over water a cactus or succulent! So put it somewhere you’ll forget it, like your powder room, hah!

    • Arely says

      Maybe that’s what I’m doing to mine? Overwatering? We water them once a week or so, but at first my husband was just spraying them, and they’ve been shriveling since we got them.. Totally dieing one leaf at a time :( They are planted in regular potting soil but also in one of those special bowls that have a second compartment for water to drain into and then be absorbed if necessary? If anyone knows how I can save the poor things, do let me know… i’d really appreciate it!!

    • a says


      succulents/cacti like very dry, gritty soil. Succulents/cacti do NOT like “normal” potting soil. They retain moisture in their plump leaves and stems and when they get too much water they become too heavy and burst/break off OR become waterlogged and rot. If leaves fall off your succulent you can let them dry out on a bed of pebbles and they will eventually start to sprout roots and become new plants.

      I actually plant mine outside in well-drained pea gravel/rock garden where they thrive. I bring the tender ones in before the first frost, but some are even considered perennials able to withstand zone 5 winters.

      I don’t have the best lighting conditions for them inside so they tend to get leggy trying to reach for the sun, but they still make it through the winters and enjoy being outside again in the summers.

      I got into building terrariums last winter and discovered the secret to planting in containers without drainage holes is using “horticultural charcoal” layered at the bottom of the soil to absorb excess moisture. One thing I learned about terrariums is that they work best with plants that like humid environments–a succulent would rot and die off quickly–because having a lid on the terrarium keeps things moist and creates a little atmosphere.

      So, all those pretty examples you see on Pinterest of combinations of moss and succulents in a charming glass container? Those are just for show and will quickly die off if left together since they require different watering habits. My terrariums are still going strong since last January and I MAYBE misted them 2 or 3 times in the last 11 months since they retain their moisture so well.

      So, if you truly are gardening-challenged, I would recommend a LIDDED terrarium as a way to enjoy a tiny garden with minimal need for interference.

      (I also played around with non-lidded terrariums, but found they dried out faster, struggled more, and were more likely to have plants trying to creep out of the opening)

    • Melanie P says

      Oh I love the idea of using a teacup! I have my Great Grandmother’s China and want to do this right away!! Thanks for the idea!

    • Liz E. says

      Just a tip for most plants (but especially so with cacti, succulents, and other low-water plants): they need a pot that drains. Some containers are super cute for planting, but if there’s no drainage hole the water will just collect in the bottom and stagnate. This leads to root rot and eventual plant death. Some try to get around this by putting layer of small rocks/pebbles in the bottom, but this honestly only makes it worse as the water collects there and has no place to go. If you have a plant in a non-draining container (like a bowl or a teacup) be careful to only water in small quantities–the goal would be to give the plant(s) just enough water to feed them without soaking the soil too much. You can also buy a ceramic bit for a drill and make drainage holes, but that can be tricky and possibly break the glass (sometimes no matter how extremely careful you are) so take heed with a family heirloom! Non-draining containers aren’t going to kill plants 100% of the time, but they do require extra care to not soak the soil too much.

      Just my two cents :) the cacti are adorable Sherry!

    • Arely says

      Just wanted to say thanks for the tips. I guess I’ll have to move the little guys out of that soil… Wish me luck ;)
      Also, thanks to Sherry and John for making this space available for us readers to “talk” to you and each other :)

    • says

      Aw thanks for asking Rachael! I’m still dealing with that pesky all-day sickness stuff, so I’m waiting to pass that hurdle (it’s lasting longer than the 16/17 week mark, which is when it ended with Clara, but I’m keeping the faith that relief is just around the corner. All is going well at checkups though (so grateful!) and Clara is so excited about being a big sister. Life is good.


    • Melly says

      I’ve meant to ask how you’re feeling as well. I too had all day nausea with both pregnancies and it lasted a couple of weeks longer with the second. Hope it passes for you very soon!

  2. Liz O says

    I really like this! I have a similar sized clear glass bowl and it might be fun to experiment with it.. We have a Joann opening up around the corner (i’m still not sure if this is a good thing!) so I will have to check out the glass paint!

    Thanks for the idea! I think my 4 yo might also be excited about the dirt.

  3. says

    Good luck with your party platter of succulents! They’re all very colourful and cute. Maybe even throw in some gravel over the dirt? As long as they get lots of direct sun, though, they’ll be happy.

  4. Marie says

    Great little gift! I’ll be stealing this little personal touch for my babe’s daycare teacher’s! Over at the just the bees knees…she made a little note that said, “thanks for helping me grow” Together!!! This will be perfect!!!

  5. Heather says

    Love this! Especially how well the colors pop (blue, red, yellow)… Clara certainly has her parents eye for color!

    PS – I think the link to your inspiration is not working correctly.

  6. Julie says

    Very cute! I love the blue with the reds and greens.

    And yes, be VERY careful of watering! Water only when the soil seems dry about one inch down. The plumper, fatter plants (like the cacti) needs somewhat less water than the thinner plants, like your little hen and chicks. They also need a lot of light. You can watch the hens and chicks for signs that they aren’t getting enough light. If they start stretching upwards and getting a lot of space in between the layers, they need more light. (I now have a sempurvium similar to your hen and chick that is about 7 inches tall because it did NOT get nearly enough light.)

  7. says

    I didn’t know this paint existed, but now that I know it does my mind is brimming with ideas! I may make a pattern on a ceramic vase for my sister’s birthday coming up. I’m thinking irregular colourful blotches, kind of like watercolour.

  8. Anela says

    I think that cute pop of blue is perfect! I never would’ve thought to paint the inside like that. Fingers crossed they stay all pokey for ya!

  9. rachael says

    PRETTY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What a great idea!!! It’s also probably a good idea that you didn’t paint the entire inside b/c I’m wondering if the paint would leech into the soil and kill the plants. Anyways, I’m pinning this! Are you guys just leaving it on the kitchen table as a centerpiece?

    • says

      That’s what I wondered too! It said non-toxic on the paint but I wondered if adding soil and watering it would degrade the paint into the dirt or something strange. As for the centerpiece thing, it’s just sitting on the kitchen table, which is cute because we get to chat about it over dinner and Clara checks in to make sure nothing’s giving up the ghost.


  10. Tracey Bradshaw says

    My cacti seriously thrive on neglect – the worst thing you can do is over water them. I bought a heap of small cacti and succulents at a yardsale for $1.00 each, to replant into a number of upcycled containers – i put them on my workbench (outdoors undercover) and forgot about them for 3 months over winter (winter is pretty mild here) – i watered them at the end of winter (end of August Downunder) and once again since and they are growing and very healthy. Which reminds me – it’s about time I replanted them like I intended to, almost 6 months ago!

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