Pyramid Planter

Want to add a garden but have limited space? This pyramid-shaped planter provides 36 linear feet of planting area, yet its base is compact enough to sit nicely on a deck or patio. Fill it with flowers, herbs or vegetables--its unique tiered design allows for easy access and lets light reach all of your plants.

The pyramid planter offers gardeners, especially urban gardeners, a chance to plant quick-to-pick flowers, herbs and vegetables in a limited space. A special feature of the three-sided pyramid is it allows sunlight to reach all your plants when you aim one of the triangle points north.

I made the pyramid planter from cedar, using 2x4s for the center frame and the feet parts and 6-in. deck boards for the base slats and to skirt each tier. Exterior wood glue and 2-in. deck screws secure all miter joints.

These plans are for a five-tier pyramid, which is 37-1/2 in. tall from feet to top of center frame. To build a three-tier planter, change the length of the center-frame sections to 26-1/4 in., and build the top three tiers to the dimensions given. Also, size the base slats to fit the base frame.

shopping list

  • 2x6x10 ft. cedar deck boards (8)
  • 2x4x10 ft. cedar (2)
  • 3-in. galvanized finish nails (1 box)
  • 2-in. deck screws (1 box)
  • Exterior wood glue

Regarding tools, the compound-miter saw was invented for this type of project. If you don't own one, you can rent from your local tool-rental store for about $30. You can cut all parts with a circular saw; you'll have to draw all the cut lines on the material and then carefully cut all the miters, bevels and compound angles. But again, the project is easier if you use a compound-miter saw.

Click here to view a labeled illustration of all parts of the Pyramid Planter.

make a jig

Despite all of the multiple, compound angles, there's only one difficult cut—and you can simplify that by using an easy-to-make jig. The jig allows you to safely and accurately cut the 60-degree angle needed on the top of the three center-frame sections. Your jig doesn't have to be fancy, but I suggest building it to last. Reason: After friends, neighbors and family see your pyramid planter, you'll get lots of requests to build more.

Use a 1- x 2-ft. rectangle of 3/4-in. plywood for the base of the jig, which is also made up of two, 22-in. 2x4s. Cut a 30-degree angle at one end of each 2x4. Line up the angled cut along the short side of the plywood. With the point 1-1/4 in. from the plywood corner, nail or screw this 2x4 in place. Use one of the center-frame 2x4 sections as a spacer (photo 1), and nail or screw the bottom 2x4 in place.

Photo 1. Use two 2x4 cutoffs to make this simple jig to safely cut the 60-degree angles required at the top of the center-frame sections. Don't worry about cutting the overhanging corners of these 2x4s; you'll get to that later using the jig.

If you use a circular saw, modify the jig by nailing a strip of plywood on top of the jig to guide the base of your saw. Secure the strip so that it's parallel to the long edge of the jig and at a distance equal to the width of your saw's base plate plus the edge of the blade. With this modification, clamp your center-frame section in place and make your cuts.

build the frame

Cut the three center-frame sections to length, and make the 30-degree miter cut on the ends of each (see illustration, center frame detail and photo 2).

Photo 2. Cut complementary 30-degree angles on each end of the center-frame sections.

Next, set the saw's miter gauge at 90 degrees, and use the jig to cut the 60-degree angles on the upper ends of the center-frame sections. Position your jig so its top edge is tight against the miter-saw fence and its long edge lines up with the blade edge. Put a center-frame section in the jig between the two fixed 2x4s, and line up the top 30-degree angle with the top of the jig. Clamp in place and make the cut (photo 3). Repeat this cut on the top ends of the other two frame sections.

Photo 3. Use the jig to make a cut that is at a right angle to the top 30-degree cut. This results in the 60-degree cut that attaches to the center hub.

A center hub provides attachment points for the three center-frame sections. The center hub is a 4-1/4-in.-long by 1-1/2-in.-wide equilateral triangle (three equal sides at 60-degree angles). Rip this out of a 2x4 that's at least 2-ft. long; the longer the board, the safer the cut. With the piece that remains, you'll have extra center-hub stock for future pyramids.

A table saw is the easiest, safest way to cut the center hub. If you don't have a table saw, you can secure the 2x4 to a bench with one end overhanging the edge. Using your circular saw with the bevel set to 30 degrees (photo 4), rip straight down the board as far as you can before reaching your bench. Then flip the board end-for-end, clamp and rip again.

Photo 4. If you do not have a table saw, you can cut the center hub with a circular saw by angling the base at 30 degrees and ripping down a 2x4. Your second rip, from the opposite direction of the first cut, creates the third side of the triangle.

Once you have cut all the angles on the center hub and three center-frame sections, you're ready to join all four parts together to make the center frame. To help with assembly, drill pilot holes in the hub, two through each of the three edges; drill straight through to the center of the opposite flat side. Then apply exterior rated glue and line up the hub on one of the center-frame sections (photo 5).

Photo 5. Glue and nail the hub to the first of the three center-frame sections.

Hammer 3-in. galvanized finish nails through the pilot holes and into the frame; use a nail set to drive the heads beneath the surface. (You could use exterior screws or a nail gun if you have one.) Glue a second flat side of the hub and hammer nails through the pilot holes to the second center-frame section. Attach the third frame section to the hub (photo 6).

Photo 6. When attaching the third center frame section, it's easiest to work with the frame in its standing position (right photo).

make the tiers

Each tier has three angled skirt boards mitered together to form an equilateral triangle. Only the base tier has a bottom. For each tier, cut the three skirt boards to length (see cut list). Set the saw to cut a 45-degree bevel with a miter of 45 degrees (photo 7).

Photo 7. Cut compound miters at each end of the skirt boards to form the equilateral triangle that makes up each tier. Using a compound-miter saw makes it easy to get consistent results.

Assemble the three same-sized skirt boards to form an equilateral triangle. It's easier to work with the skirt boards upside down (photo 8).

Photo 8. Work with the frames upside down on a flat surface, and use plenty of glue. Tape holds the joints of the equilateral triangle tight while you secure them with screws.

Apply glue to the miters, and tape the miter joints together while you drill pilot holes and screw the joints tight. Use 2-in. deck screws. Repeat for each tier.

Next, add a bottom to your base frame. Cut base slats to length (see cut list). You may have to make size adjustments if deck boards have slightly different widths. Install longest to shortest, and cut to fit the final piece, the small triangle at the end. When cutting the slat ends, set the bevel to 35 degrees—which matches the angle of the assembled skirt boards—and cut a 30-degree miter. For the long edge of the starter slat, you can get a good fit against the angled skirt board by ripping on a table saw or using a hand plane to achieve a 35-degree bevel (see illustration). Remember, these slats don't have to be "pretty" because they'll always be under the soil.

Note: If you plan to place the pyramid planter in your garden, you can eliminate the base slats and the feet by setting the bottom tier on the ground, positioning the center frame within the bottom frame and adding soil as you add tiers.

Set the slats in the base frame with 1/4-in. spacers between them, to allow for drainage and nail in place (photo 9). I used a nail gun, but if you don't have one, secure the base slats with 3-in. galvanized finish nails hammered into pre-drilled holes.

Photo 9. Place spacers between the base slats to permit drainage. Drive two nails into each slat end to hold the slats in place. Drill pilot holes if you're driving nails with a hammer.

assemble the planter

You're ready to add the center frame and the feet. Position the center frame on the bottom with the base of each center-frame section in each corner of the triangle. Mark the position on the base slats by penciling the perimeter of each center-frame base. Remove the center frame, and drill two 1/8-in. holes inside each of those penciled rectangles (photo 10).

Photo 10. After you mark the location of the three lower ends of the center-frame sections, drill inside the marked area through the base slat so you'll know precisely where to place your screws when attaching the center frame.

Lift the base so it rests on edge, hold the center frame in position and from the bottom up, drive 2-in. deck screws through the pre-drilled holes (photo 11).

Photo 11. Hold the center frame in place and drive 2-in. deck screws up through the bottom, securing the center frame to the base.

After securing the center frame, keep the planter on edge and hold the feet in the corners while attaching with 2-in. deck screws driven down through the bottom; drive screws along each side of the back legs of the center frame. Attach the long foot with a 2-in. screw in the middle of each base slat (photo 12). You can leave the top of the center frame as is, or you can secure a small shelf on top to hold a potted plant, a garden gnome or a gazing ball.

Photo 12. With the planter on its side, position the feet and hold them in place while you drive 2-in. deck screws through the bottom and into the feet.

With the construction finished, put away your carpentry tools and grab your gardening tools. It's time to add soil and start planting.

add soil and plants

Pick a spot for the pyramid planter, and position the base tier with one pyramid corner pointed north. Add potting soil, and pack the base soil before setting the next tier. Fill each tier before adding the next section (photo 13).

Photo 13. My daughter spreads potting soil as I pour. Working up from the base section, fill each tier before adding the next tier. With one point of the triangle aimed toward the north, your pyramid planter captures sunlight on all three sides.

The five-tier planter holds about 7 cu. ft. of potting soil. The only task left is filling your pyramid planter with plants and enjoying the bounty of your labor.

To read and print a PDF of a version of this Planter Pryamid article as it appeared in the magazine, click here.

Handyman Club Member Vern Grassel is a woodworking designer in Elk River, Minnesota.