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How to Make a Bold and Beautiful Rain Gutter Garden

Two level gutter garden, painted green and blue, filled with a variety of small succulents mounted on a fence.

Learn how to brighten up a plain fence with this colorful DIY rain gutter garden created from an inexpensive vinyl gutter or repurposed old gutters.

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A Room with a Much Improved View

After a year of staring out my home office window at a plain fence, I decided to brighten up the space (and clean the window too – lol). I didn’t have much space at ground level in my side yard for a traditional garden. Therefore, I knew I would have to take advantage of the vertical spaces if I wanted to plant a garden. I decided to plant a rain gutter garden. Gutter gardens are a great way to make use of small spaces.

I finished this vertical garden project over a weekend. When I sat down at my desk Monday morning I was rewarded with this much improved, uplifting view. This was my first time making a gutter garden. I think it was a great idea because it turned my boring fence into a work of art!

As many have noticed, the gutters themselves are horizontal. However, the overall garden is supported to grow on a vertical surface (the fence) rather than along the ground, which is why they are also called vertical gardens. 

View of a dull, empty fence through dirty windows.
Before 😢
View out a window showing the rain gutter garden. Two gutter pieces painted blue and green and filled with succulents are installed on a fence.
After 🥰

Vertical Gutter Garden Project Overview

The main materials for a rain gutter garden are (you guessed it), a rain gutter and plants. You could repurpose old rain gutters if you have one available or pick up a new one at your local home improvement store. I purchased mine at the Home Depot. In a nutshell, this simple project entail cutting the gutter into two smaller segments, adding paint and drainage holes, mounting the planters to the fence, adding plants and then sitting back to enjoy your garden. I’ve described the materials and steps in more detail below.

How to Make a Rain Gutter Garden

Here’s What I Used

Materials

Stain/Paint

  • Spray paint in desired colors

Tools

  • Measuring tape
  • Saw (such as Fine Tooth Hack Saw)
  • Fine grit sand paper
  • Garden hose
  • Respirator
  • Safety Glasses (mine contain readers so I don’t need to wear my reading glasses and safety glasses)
  • Tarp to protect your space when painting
  • Drill
  • Large-size drill bit for making drainage holes
  • Mounting screws appropriate for your fence and bracket
  • Smaller-size drill bit for drilling pilot holes for the mounting screws
  • Drill bit for screwing in the mounting screws
  • Level

Project Steps

1 – Obtain Gutter, End Caps, and Hanging Brackets

To make the garden I purchased the gutter at my local Home Depot. I also bought end caps to cover the sides of the gutter and mounting brackets to attach the gutter to a fence. Since there are different styles of gutters, make sure you purchase end caps and mounting brackets that are appropriate for your specific type of gutter.

I selected a vinyl U-style gutter from Amerimax. Because I planned to split the long single gutter into two shorter length gutter sections, I needed a total of 4 end caps that fit on my U-style gutter. To attach the gutter to the fence, I picked up 10 exterior hooks (I actually purchased 12, but only needed 10). I couldn’t find the specific mounting brackets I used on the Home Depot website to display here, but I did find them on the Lowe’s website. As you can see from the prices below, this project didn’t require much money to complete.

Close up the SKU and $4.62 price for the 10 foot vinyl u-style gutter at Home Depot.
10′ Vinyl U-Style Gutter
Close up the SKU and $4.13 price for the vinyl end caps for the u-style gutter at Home Depot.
End Caps for the U-Style Gutter
Close up the SKU and $2.47 price for the vinyl u-style external hooks at Home Depot for mounting the u-style gutter.
Contemporary Exterior Hooks
for the U-Style Gutter

2 – Cut Gutter to Length

The 10-foot rain gutter did not fit in my car. Fortunately, I was able to cut the gutter to size right in Home Depot (that option was not available at my other local home improvement store). Using the Moulding Cutting Station at Home Depot, I sawed the gutter into two 5-foot sections (which fit in my car!). The store had a regular hand saw for the customers to use at the cutting station.

I wish I would have carefully measured and marked the center point before I started cutting. Because I only estimated the center point the two segments were not the same length and I had to trim one of the gutter segments with my jig saw when I got home. If you plan to cut your gutter at home, a fine-tooth hack saw might give a cleaner cut than a regular saw.

Using a hand saw to cut the 10 foot piece of gutter in half at the moulding cutting station in Home Depot.
Using a hand saw at the Home Depot to cut the 10 foot piece of gutter in half at the store.

3 – Clean Gutters (if Needed) and Prep Your Space

If your gutter is dirty, wash it down with hose and wait for the water to dry before painting. The dirt could impact the paint adherence. Also, prepare your space for spray painting. I placed a tarp down on my grass to protect the area from over spray.

10 foot length of vinyl gutter material cut into two shorter segments.

4 – Paint the Gutter Segments, End Caps and Hangers

I didn’t sand my gutter segments before painting and did not have any issues with my paint and vinyl combination (other than not letting it dry long enough). However, you may want to test your spray paint with your plastic gutters to make sure the paint adheres correctly. If it looks like the paint will not adhere to your gutter, lightly sand the plastic with a fine grit sandpaper (~220 grit).

I chose two bright colors for my rain gutter garden planters: Brilliant Blue and Spring Green. I used Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch 2x UltraCover Paint + Primer and I love how the colors turned out.

Two cans of Rust-Oleum Painter's Touch 2X UltraCover Paint + Primer in Brilliant Blue (Gloss) and Spring Green (Gloss). These colors were used for the gutter garden.

Before applying the spray paint, I shook the spray can vigorously for 1 to 2 minutes, per the instructions on my can. Next, I held the can about 10″ – 16″ away from the surface of the gutter material (the distance recommended on this specific paint can) and covered the sides with a thin coat of paint using an even side-to-side motion.

I applied 3 coats of paint to the gutters, end caps and hangers. This particular spray paint indicates that it should be recoated within 1 hour or after 48 hours (I added the next coat within an hour of applying the prior coat). The paint I used indicates that maximum paint adhesion and durability on plastic is achieved in 5-7 days.

Gutter end caps and hanging brackets spray painted blue.
Gutter end caps and hanging brackets spray painted green.

5 – Put on End Caps

After the paint dries, attach the end caps to the ends of the gutter segments. Mine fit securely, but you could glue them if they feel like they might come loose.

Painted end cap on the end of the painted vinyl gutter.

6 – Add Drainage Holes 

To allow excess water to drain from the planters, drainage holes need to be inserted in the bottom of the gutter. I did this step after painting the gutters, but I could have done so before painting. To make the drainage holes, I flipped the gutter upside down and drilled large (approximately pencil-sized) drainage holes in the bottom. I used a larger drill bit and spaced them about every 8 inches down the length of the gutter to help ensure good drainage. Make sure to wear your safety glasses when drilling!

Drilling holes into the bottom of the vinyl gutter with a larger bit to provide drainage for the plants.
Two vinyl gutters painted green and blue with holes drilled in the bottom to allow for gutter garden drainage.

7 – Attach the Gutter Planters to Fence

Determine where you want to hang your rain gutter garden on your fence. Using a level and a straight edge/measuring tape, mark where you want to place the hangers. I started by drilling small pilot holes into the fence where the hangers would be screwed into the fence. To make sure I didn’t drill straight through the fence, I wrapped a piece of painter’s tape on the drill bit to indicate where to stop drilling these small holes.  

Drilling a hole in the fence for the gutter garden installation. Drill bit has a piece of painters tape to indicate when to stop drilling.

Next, I attached the brackets to the fence by screwing wood screws through the brackets into the pilot holes. I chose a screw length shorter than the thickness of a fence board to prevent the screws from coming out the other side of the fence.

One gutter garden mounted on a fence and a series of hanging brackets screwed into the fence awaiting addition of the second planter.

8 – Snap Gutter to the Gutter Hangers

Since I did not wait until the paint was fully dry, I scratched a bit of the paint off with this step. I should have minimized sliding the gutter around in the brackets when trying to secure it into place. By using a paint brush and paint sprayed into a cup, I was able to touch up the scratches. I used a paint brush to avoid accidentally spray painting the fence blue and green!

Two empty gutter planters mounted on the fence prior to adding the plants. Image also shows the scratches in the paint from applying the mounting hooks.
Two empty gutter planters mounted on the fence prior to adding the plants. Image also shows the scratches in the paint from applying the mounting hooks.

9 – Add Plants

I am on a succulent kick this year. I built this rain gutter garden with the intention of filling it with succulent plants, primarily because I wanted a low maintenance garden. In addition, succulents can create a beautiful garden. Since I was planting succulents, my local nursery recommended a Palm, Cactus & Citrus Planting Mix that also worked with succulents. 

A bag of G&B Organics Palm, Cactus, & Citrus Planting Mix which is also great for succulents.

To increase visual interest, I selected succulents of various shapes and colors from Home Depot, Lowe’s and a local nursery. This was easy because there is such a wide choice of plants with succulents. These small plants work well in the gutter planter. An herb garden would do well too. Select plants with shallow roots that prefer shallow containers. I was so pleased with my new gutter garden. I love the succulents and the bold, bright colors of my rain gutter planter. My family thought I did a great job too!

Two level rain gutter garden, painted green and blue, filled with a variety of small succulents mounted on a fence.
Two level rain gutter garden filled with succulents mounted on a fence.

Other Types of Gutter Gardening

Gutter gardens are not limited to fences. Some people have placed them on a porch railing or deck railing, made hanging gutter gardens, and even turned them into a privacy screen or stylish space divider by attaching a series of gutters between two wooden posts. 

Do you have other gutter garden ideas? Have you created a gutter garden? If yes, what tips do you have for gutter gardeners?

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