Wooden Downspout Planters
What is a downspout planter?
Downspout planters are decorative landscaped planters specially designed to absorb and filter stormwater before it enters the storm sewer system.
The downspout planters are filled with a base layer of gravel to allow for drainage, a stormwater-friendly soil mix, and native perennial vegetation that comes back every spring.
Participant cost: $100. This includes the installation of the planter with complementary plants.
Philadelphia Water Department downspout planter. Photo credit: Mark Kane
About wood downspout planters:
Downspout planters are available in 4 sizes: 2’ x 2’, 2’ x 4’, 1.5’ x 3’, and 1.5’ x 4’.
Each planter has a top trim assembly that extends an extra 1.5” on all sides.
All of the planters are about 27” high. Although the final height may vary slightly once planter is leveled on a base of cinderblocks.
Materials: The planters are constructed from pressure-treated lumber and have an expected lifetime of 20 years or more. Planters are lined with a thick rubber pond liner material to ensure that your planter will not leak.
All planters come with complementary, low maintenance plants. We use drought-tolerant perennials with an emphasis on native species.These plants will come back every spring and have deep, extensive root systems that absorb and filter stormwater runoff.
View this list to see what plant species are suitable for a downspout planter. Please note that plants are complementary and specific plant selections are not guaranteed.
Each planter is pre-fabricated with two drains – an overflow drain and an underdrain. The overflow drain is made from 3” PVC pipe topped with an atrium-style grate. This drain prevents the planter from overflowing onto your patio or walkway even during the heaviest of storms. The underdrain is made from 1” PVC pipe (partially perforated) and allows water to drain slowly over time, preventing the planter from becoming waterlogged. The underdrain outlet connects to a garden hose.
Downspout planters can drain to one of three places: 1) directly back into the storm sewer pipe, 2) into a nearby area drain, or 3) into a pervious surface area down slope of the planter, such as a lawn or garden.
Install Location: Downspout planters are very heavy when saturated so all installations must be at ground-level. We cannot install a planter on a deck or porch.
Wood downspout planter maintenance:
Water: Right after the installation, water the plants (once per week for the first month or more if the soil in the planter seems dry). After the plants’ root systems are established, they will only need to be watered during heat waves or long periods without rain.
Prune: Prune plants and remove dead material from your downspout planter as you would with your garden. Ensure that floatable materials do not clog the overflow device.
Clear debris: Keep the overflow pipe free and clear of debris, checking it periodically after rainstorms.
Check connections: Keep the downspout connected and directed to the planter.
Planting: If you need recommendations for what to plant in your planter, view this list to see what plant species are suitable for a downspout planter. Do not plant edible food in a downspout planter. Stormwater running into the planter may carry dirt and debris not suitable for edible plants.
Keep gutters clean: Maintain your roof gutters and downspouts to ensure that they function properly and convey stormwater to your planter.
Protect: Use exterior-grade paint, sealer, or wood stain to extend the life of your planter.
Winter: Snow and ice are okay in the downspout planter, but be wary of any ice extending up your downspout. If your downspout freezes, this may indicate a clog in the planter. Check to see if the overflow or underdrain in the planter are clogged.
Please sign up for a workshop (attendance is required before installation).
Video credit: Philadelphia Water Department