When it comes to choosing a container in which to house plants, flowers and other flora in your back garden, you can’t go wrong with a half-barrel planter.
These ubiquitous receptacles are found all over the country, from garden centres and country pubs to town squares and village greens.
What makes this particular style of planter so popular? Well, the rustic appearance of the wood alongside the careworn appeal of the metal bindings which hold it together recall simpler times and invoke connotations of a bucolic setting, while the bulging shape of a half barrel is the perfect form for filling with greenery. What’s more, they can appeal to the environmentalist in all of us as well, since splitting a barrel in half can give a new lease of life to an item no longer useful for the purpose for which it was originally created.
Best of all, half barrel planters are incredibly versatile. You can place them in pairs at doors and windows, you can scatter them willy-nilly around your back yard or you can use them sparingly to draw attention to a particular feature of your garden. You can get creative with how you deploy them; using the compacted soil within them to hold down a parasol stand, for example, or adding other features such as a birdhouse, lantern or even a fountain into the mix. The possibilities are endless.
The same could be said for the commercial options on the market when it comes to choosing a half barrel planter for your garden. Generally speaking, most of the varieties available will have much in common: they will likely all take the same or a similar form and are normally constructed from the same two staple materials: timber and metal. Of course, the type of timber and the type of metal could influence your decision, while there are also a range of imitation options which substitute wood for plastic in order to create a more lightweight alternative which offers the same aesthetic advantages.
Other than that, practical considerations such as the size of the planter and the price tag which comes with it are likely to be key concerns. Finally, however, the decision is likely to come down to a mere matter of personal taste. If one barrel catches your eye over another, that may well be the one to go for. After all, the heart wants what the heart wants.
Last update on 2021-09-16 / All Pricing & Imagery from Amazon Product Advertising API
We’ve scoured the market to compile a shortlist of the six best half barrel planters available in the UK, doing all the legwork so you don’t have to. Take a look at our choices, alongside a quick rundown of their various benefits of drawbacks, to equip yourself with the knowledge to make an informed decision when picking out the right planters for your back yard.
Sturdy and sizable half barrel brings style (and smell!) of whisky distillery to your home.
Have you ever visited a whisky distillery? If you have, you’ll know just how generous the proportions of a whisky cask actually are in person. When ordering one of these half barrels from Cheeky Chicks, what you see is what you get: a sizable and sturdy planter that brings it with the distinctively heady aroma of Scottish single malt.
Those looking for an authentic looking product will not be disappointed, since the half barrels appear to have had very little treatment between fulfilling their role in the whisky cask vault and landing on your doorstep. This can be interpreted as a plus or a minus depending on your outlook; the barrels do epitomise rusticity, with a charred interior and rusty metal hoops holding it together, while the aroma they carry is unmistakable. On the other hand, the timber is untreated, so you may wish to finish it with a coat of linseed oil or some other protective layer.
One step which the manufacturers do take to make the barrel ready for use in the garden is to drill a series of holes in its base, allowing for easy drainage. Alternatively, if you wish to use the planter indoors or adapt it into a water feature, a simple email before it is dispatched will suffice in obtaining a barrel with its bottom intact.
One thing that buyers should beware of is the sheer size of the planter: with a diameter of approximately 65cm and a height of 45cm, it’s quite a behemoth. That also makes it impossible to move when filled, so it’s imperative you move it into position before getting your hands dirty.
- Strong, stable and very generously proportioned
- Looks (and smells!) authentic
- Comes with drainage holes pre-drilled, though that can be easily avoided if need be
- Comes untreated with varnish, protective coating or any other finish
- Very heavy when full
Set of four half wine barrels offer versatility and unbeatable value.
Cost: Price not available
Whereas the previous option utilised whisky barrels that evoked the atmosphere of the Scottish Highlands, this set of four half barrel planters from GOLDBEARUK brings the charm of a Mediterranean winery.
Being from a vineyard rather than a distillery, the barrels are necessarily smaller than their whisky counterparts. Having said that, they come in a range of sizes to suit all purposes, including small (19 x 26cm), medium (26 x 32cm), large (30 x 38cm) and extra-large (34 x 44cm). This allows you to create a multi-layered effect in your garden and lends itself as a solution to a variety of purposes. The half barrels are also available individually.
Though not quite as authentic looking as the Cheeky Chicks option, that does mean that this collection comes off as more polished and pristine. The planters are constructed from high-quality timber that is weather-resistant and bounded together with black metal hoops, with matching handles attached for ease of movement. They also come with pre-drilled holes for easy drainage, although they can be a little on the large side and could lead to soil displacement. As such, they’re better suited to an outdoor location – unless you plan to line the interior yourself.
Finally, they provide excellent value for what they are. The set might comprise the most expensive option on this list, but it must be remembered that you’re getting four planters for that price. When purchased individually, they’re among the most affordable items available of their class and quality.
- Set of four offers great versatility in how they are used
- Sleek and stylish finish with handles to facilitate mobility
- Great price for four planters
- Large pre-drilled holes can cause soil to fall out
Plastic half barrel planter is lightweight but durable.
This imitation wooden half barrel planter is different from the two previous options on this list, in that it’s constructed from high-grade plastics but finished to look like aged timber, with a copper effect on the hooping (pewter effect is also available).
The main advantage of this substitution of materials is that the planter is lightweight and easy to move around the garden, although obviously less so after it has been filled. The plastic itself is robust, frost-proof and UV-resistant, meaning it can stand up to all seasons, while its shock-proof properties make it a durable option engineered to last the test of time.
On the downside, the fact that it isn’t made from real timber will be apparent to a discerning eye, but the quality of the imitation will fool casual glances and the oak- and copper-effects have been managed impressively. Unlike some plastic products of this kind, it does not look cheap or tacky in the slightest.
The planters are available in two different sizes (with a diameter of 40cm or 61cm) and do not come with drainage holes pre-drilled. This makes them ideal for use indoors or as housing for a water feature, though it’s easy enough to drill the holes yourself if you want to use them for more conventional purposes.
- Plastic construction makes them lightweight but still long-lasting
- Choice of two colours and two sizes
- An impressive imitation, but not quite as authentic as the real thing
- No drainage holes on arrival
Set of two plastic imitation planters are equally suitable for indoor or outdoor use.
Another plastic alternative to wood, these brown half barrel planters from Simpa bring the attraction of a rural country farmhouse to your garden. Again, the imitation job is achieved admirably, with their plastic construction only noticeable if given close inspection or touched by hand.
As with the Stewart Blenheim products above, these Simpa planters are incredibly lightweight when not filled, making them easy as pie to move around your home or garden. That doesn’t mean that they’re not solidly constructed, however; the plastics involved of are durable quality and they have been specifically designed to hold up as well in an al fresco environment as an indoor one.
The lack of drainage holes in the bottom again makes them immediately more suitable for use inside, but a two-minute job with a power drill can prepare them for external use if you prefer.
The set featured above comes with two “large” planters of 40cm diameter. While not the biggest option on this list, that’s still enough to accommodate plants of most kinds, including smaller varieties of tree. What’s more, the manufacturer also stocks three different sizes (with 40cm diameter being the largest) and allows customers to mix and match when buying, affording you the opportunity to create the effect that you desire.
- Impressive imitation of wood using plastic substitute
- Lightweight construction doesn’t sacrifice longevity
- Plastic doesn’t quite achieve the same effect as real wood
- Not the largest option on the list
- No drainage holes
Another genuine Scottish whisky planter offering both style and substance.
This solid half barrel planter from Round Wood is surely a relative of the Cheeky Chicks option mentioned above. Cut from the same cloth of solid oak, the barrels arrive direct from the distillery without too much in the way of preparatory treatment.
In fact, some of them may even turn up with a bung hole in the bottom – so be sure to specify that you’d prefer an intact base if you plan to use the barrel as a water feature! The manufacturers are also equally accommodating with regard to requests for drainage holes to be drilled prior to arrival, while the price for the product is very competitive in comparison to alternatives of similar appearance, size and provenance.
As with the initial item on our list, the main draw of this product is that authentic style and ample dimensions. At 45cm in height and with a diameter of 65cm at the top, the planter can hold up to 75 litres of soil, making it ideal for housing larger specimens, or even trees and parasols. The manufacturers do specify that due to the nature of their source (i.e. a working distillery), the barrels do vary in height and diameter by up to 15%, so it may beneficial to bear this in mind when placing your order.
Apart from concerns over the size of the barrels, some buyers have also complained that the hoops holding the barrel together had fallen away, which can happen as the wood expands and contracts in different temperatures. They should be easy enough to replace and the insertion of screws or nails beneath the hoops can preclude that problem in the future – but it’s something to consider.
- Solid whisky barrel comes almost directly from the distillery, bringing air of authenticity
- Very large dimensions and robust construction
- Manufacturer is flexible on including drainage holes or not
- Actual size of product may vary by 15% either way due to nature of source
- Hoops have a tendency to slip off in drier weather, though that can be easily addressed
Innovative imitation barrel planters are attractive and lightweight.
These plastic barrel pots are slightly different from the two imitation products mentioned above – and, indeed, from all the others on this list. That’s because instead of slicing the barrel in half horizontally, the manufacturer’s have done so vertically, leading to a planter that resembles a half barrel laid on its side.
It’s a pretty design which is guaranteed to catch the eye, while the imitation work is again managed to a high standard. While resembling wood, they’re actually made from tough polyurethane, which makes them suitable for use in all weathers and durable enough to adorn your garden for many years to come. They are also, of course, very lightweight in comparison to real timber alternatives.
At 41cm in length, 30cm in width and 18.5cm in depth, they’re a stretch smaller than the other items mentioned so far, but there is still ample room to place herbs, flowers or plants, while their watertight construction also makes them appropriate for housing a water feature. The planters do come with a single drainage hole already in place, so they are not suitable for use indoors unless you make modifications yourself.
The twin set of planters are very affordable and arrive with assembly taken care of – all that’s required is to fit the interior drainage plate in place, which is the most straightforward of tasks.
- Innovative design is guaranteed to catch the eye
- Plastic construction makes for lightweight product that replicates aesthetic allure of timber
- Affordable and easy to use
- Despite the impressiveness of imitation, it’s still not the same as the real thing
- Smaller than other alternatives
Jonny is an avid writer with a background in tourism, film and literature, but has a penchant for penning articles on all kinds of topics. He's always considered himself an environmentalist to some degree, but in recent times he has found himself shining a greater spotlight on his daily lifestyle choices and how the tiny changes he can make to his routine can have a cumulatively significant impact on the planet.