When whiskey barrels aren’t at work serving their main purpose – aging whiskey – they make really nice planters and garden accessories. They look great no matter what and can fit into a variety of themes, but they're a particularly fun addition for those who are true whiskey fans. They’re common in country gardens or those going for a more rustic, old-fashioned theme or an antique look. For a real whiskey connoisseur, it could even be fun to try and get your hands on an old barrel that used to age some of your personal favorite whiskey! Though, that could be a real mission and a half depending on what distillery we’re talking about.
The problem is that if you’re not an experienced gardener, whiskey barrels may be a little difficult to work with. It’s a learning curve for sure, and that’s why it’s important to find the best plants for whiskey barrels that fit your skill level, first and foremost. If you’re an expert, then your options are pretty wide. For beginners, it’s best to start with simple, hearty, durable plants.
The options listed here are a good starting point based on style and skill, but if the specific plants don’t fit the look you’re after, at least go for something else in the same category.
The Best Plants For Whiskey Barrels
Pansies are simple, beautiful, versatile little flowers. They come in many bright colors that all share the same dark center. Because there are so many color options, they can be made to go with just about any look or theme. Bright, warm colors offer a bold, intense look while the softer, lighter, more pastel-like shades offer a softer look.
Pansies are an annual plant, meaning they’ll grow and bloom for one season, but once they die, that’s it. You’ll have to get new seeds for the next season if you want to grow them again. While this may seem disappointing, it also means that they tend to be fairly easy to care for and are quite beginner-friendly. It also means that if you do accidentally kill them early, at least you didn’t lose a plant that could have lasted so much longer.
The fact that there are so many colors also means you have plenty of design choices. You can fill your barrel with one color or do a huge mix and match. Or, have several barrels all with a different color of their own.
Whatever you choose, pansies are a beautiful flower and they’ll brighten your garden up throughout spring and summer. To care for pansies, simply water and feed them regularly and watch for dead stems and blooms. Make a habit of trimming any flowers that have died or faded to keep the rest alive and healthy. You may be able to extend their life a little by placing some straw around their roots to keep them warm as the weather cools. A little extra fertilizer as winter approaches is a good idea, too.
2. Dusty Miller
The dusty miller is another versatile and beginner-friendly annual plant. Dusty miller isn't as bright and colorful as the pansies, but the plant is still a beautiful filler or accent plant. You can use it to fill in empty spots, put it in the corners of your garden, or intersperse dusty miller with plants of different colors.
Or, if you really love their look, you can give them their own section in your garden. It’s all up to you. While you may see some slight shade variations, their color remains more or less the same across the board – a lovely, neutral silver color. That’s the great thumb about annuals, too. In addition to being easier to care for, they don’t return year after year, therefore requiring much less of a commitment on your part. If you don’t love something, you can switch it out next year! It also lets you change up the style from year to year – perhaps you do something different with the dusty miller next year!
Perhaps the best thing about this plant, other than its great versatility, is how easy it is to take care of. Plant it nicely in your chosen whiskey barrel, place it where you want, and watch it grow. It needs to be watered, of course, but not nearly as much as other flowers and plants. It’s an easy one to take care of and it’s pretty hard to kill.
Lastly, although it is an annual and won’t last forever, sometimes you’ll get a wave of new growth in the spring, extending your enjoyment of the plant just a little bit.
For those with a little more experience and/or know-how, you may be able to take on some perennials in your whiskey barrels. Also known simply as “mums,” chrysanthemums offer a bright and beautiful display that will return year after year if you care for them properly.
Chrysanthemums and other perennials are harder to care for not only because they’re often more delicate but because you must set them up properly for the winter. This includes leaving lots of room for their roots to survive and stay strong and ensuring they’re kept in a safe, at least somewhat protected area for the winter.
If you’re confident you can care for them, chrysanthemums are such a wonderful choice because there are so many options. Not only do colors vary widely but so does size! There are small, modest mums all the way up to actual giant varieties. There are also varieties that bloom at different times. For example, some bloom in late summer while others are at their best in October. These are fantastic choices to have depending on the rest of your garden, when it blooms, and what it looks like.
4. Water Lilly
If you want to try something a little different from colorful flowers, try water plants! While these do require some effort and setup, they're not quite as complicated as they may seem, and they add a super cute, fun touch to any garden. Water plants go especially well with those striving for a more rustic, country feel.
Water lilies are a classic, beautiful choice and are among the easier ones to put in a small water garden. To make a water garden work, you’ll need either a water pump or a fountain set up, as you’ll need to maintain a running water source at all times. This is the toughest part of keeping something like water lilies, but once it’s done, you’re good to go.
The running water source keeps algae from growing and allows for the proper flow of oxygen to the plants. It’s well worth the effort because it doesn’t get much better than a cozy little water garden in a whiskey barrel.
5. Moss and Tree
If water plants aren’t your thing, you can go yet another direction and try the moss and tree look. This requires a good-sized whiskey barrel and a small tree – once you get the ratios right, the finished product offers a super cool, dynamic look. The moss is planted so that it sits around the base of the tree, which will grow out of the middle of the barrel.
This is a nice way to accent your garden or decorate a patio or porch. These do well on your front porch or back patio as they add a nice full, lush feel to an empty area with lots of concrete.
If you don’t love the look of moss, you can always plant something else around the base of your little tree, such as small flowers or other leafy foliage. The idea is just to give your tree a base of something nice. The combination options here are endless so feel free to be creative or keep it nice and simple with the classic look of green moss.
Whiskey Barrels as Decoration
While repurposed whiskey barrels look amazing and so charming filled with flowers in your garden, this isn’t the only way you can re-use an old whiskey barrel to add some appreciation for the spirit to your home and life! Use one of these great ideas or let them inspire your own creativity:
- Wine bottle holder. Every wine enthusiast needs one of these in their home. A whiskey barrel can be cut in half. Add shelves and racks of all sizes to hold bottles horizontally and/or a few glasses. This would look amazing tucked into the corner of your basement.
- Bed for your pet. This is a super fun and subtle way to add some whiskey love to your house. Ideally, the barrel would be cut down to about a third and a little dip would need to be added to allow your dog or cat to get into it. It’ll be a bit of work if you plan to do it yourself, but it’s probably the cutest idea on the list.
- Storage chest. Instead of a regular old trunk or bin to store your linens and blankets, use a repurposed whiskey barrel! Made correctly, this can double as a coffee table for the living room.