DIY Outdoor Holiday Lanterns

Every year I fill our outdoor planters with a variety of natural evergreens and lighted branches.  It always looks so festive and welcoming. Thanks to the constant freeze and thaw that happens in our neck of the woods, by Christmas Day one strike of a match and they'd light up like a roman candle.

As any of you who use fresh greens know, it isn't easy on the pocketbook if you don't have an abundant supply in your own yard.  So this year I decided we needed to take a budget friendly approach to filling our planters but still have high impact when welcoming guests during the holidays.

The challenge was to figure out how we could fill our flower planters for the holidays with the goal that they cost next to nothing. That is when we came up with the idea to build large DIY Outdoor Holiday Lanterns.

DIY Outdoor Holiday Lanterns

I've been admiring the tall metal lanterns for a few years but unfortunately spending upwards of $100 does not meet our budget. Being someone who doesn't let a tight budget hold me back from getting what I want, we decided to put our DIY savvy skills to the test and build our own out of scraps we already had in the workshop (see photo below).

Large Outdoor Lantern made from scraps

I love how they look nestled in our large flower pots flanking the front door to welcome guests during the holidays. Although, by removing the holiday ribbon, they can be used throughout the winter.

DIY Wooden Flower Planter Holiday Lanterns

Materials List

  • 2" x 2" x 8' lumber - leftover from our DIY Patio Water Wall
  • 2 fence post caps 
  • trim leftover from our 80's Wall Unit Hack
  • wooden pulls leftover from a furniture makeover
  • 1 piano hinge leftover from the Master Bedroom Built-In Window Seat
  • 1 sheet of 2' x 4' Acrylic Clear Prisma Square Lighting Lens Panels
  • 2 cans Rust-oleum Hammered Metal Black Spray Paint 
  • 2 sets Lighted Branches we already had
  • 2 rolls of wired holiday ribbon salvaged from our Christmas Tree
  • 1 strand of faux pine garland
  • 2 strands of frosted berry garland at 50% off with coupon
Glass panels would have cost approximately $60 and Plexiglass would have cost $80, so we needed a more cost effective alternative. That's when we found the next best thing at a cost of $7.50. It's called Acrylic Clear Prisma Square Lighting Lens Panels used for overhead fluorescent light fixtures and comes in 2' x 4' sheets.

How To Build Large Wooden Outdoor Lanterns For The Holidays

Step 1 - Dado cuts to accommodate the acrylic panels

Dado Cuts To Build Large Wooden Lanterns
  • 2" x 2" lumber cut 24-inches long
  • 1/2" deep dado cuts to accommodate 6-inches wide acrylic panels
  • Dados cut 1/2" from the outside edge with a table saw 

Step 2 - Attaching the base

Securing Base Of Large DIY Wooden Lanterns
  • The base is 3/4" plywood cut into an 8-inch square (we made one for the top as well)
  • Uprights attached to the base with wood screws

Step 3 - Building a decorative top

Building Lids For Large DIY Wooden Lanterns
  • Salvaged wood pulls screwed from the bottom onto each post cap
  • 7-inch square piece of 3/4" plywood screwed from the bottom onto the post caps
  • 8-inch square piece of 3/4" plywood screwed from the bottom onto the 7-inch piece of plywood
  • Salvaged trim cut at a 45° angle using a miter saw
  • To allow clearance for the top to open, cut away the bottom half of the trim on the back side only
  • Trim attached to the 8-inch base using wood glue and 1 1/2" brad nails
  • Gaps filled with wood filler and sanded smooth once dry 
  • Piano hinge cut with a hack saw approximately 7-inches long
  • Drill new holes into the piano hinge to line up with uprights
  • The piano hinge was attached to the bottom of the lid first and then to the uprights

Securing Lid Onto DIY Outdoor Lanterns

Step 4 - Drilling a hole for lighted branches

Base of DIY Outdoor Lanterns

Using a 2-inch hole drill bit, cut a hole in the center of each lantern base to accommodate the lighted branches

Step 5 -  Painting the lanterns

Painted DIY Wooden Holiday Lanterns

Spray three coats of Rust-oleum Hammered Metal Black spray paint.  The wood was very porous and used more paint than we had anticipated.

Step 6 - Installing the lights

Lighted Branches Inside DIY Outdoor Holiday Lanterns

Tip for planting and decorating large flower pots and urns

Fill outdoor plant pots 2/3 full with pea gravel.  Use plastic pots filled with dirt as inserts for the planters. If you live in a cold climate like ours, the dirt will be frozen this time of year, making decorating impossible if they are too heavy to bring indoors to thaw.

Inserts can be easily brought indoors so you can decorate in the comfort of your home. Inserts also make it convenient to plant flowers in the Spring because you can plant them on a table or potting bench and carry them to the large flower pots.

Electrical Cord For Lights Inside Large Outdoor Holiday Lanterns
  • Push stems of the lighted trees firmly into the dirt of the insert.
  • Pull the electrical cord underneath the lantern and outside of the plastic insert.

Step 7 - Adding Acrylic Panels

I have to apologize for having no pictures of this step.  I was sure I took some but can't find them on any of my devices.
  • Use a straight edge and Exacto knife to cut the panels to fit inside the dados (6" x 24").
  • Slide each acrylic panel into the dados.

Step 8 - Securing the lantern to the plastic insert

Securing Outdoor Holiday Lanterns Onto Flower Pots
  • Using #6, 3/4" wood screws, secured the base of the lantern under the lip of the plastic insert.
  • Repeat this step on all four corners to firmly secure the lantern so it doesn't topple over during strong winds

Step 9 - Adding festive bows to the handles

Bows On Handles Of DIY Outdoor Holiday Lanterns
  • Make bows for each handle. I used salvaged wired holiday ribbon from our Christmas Tree that we no longer use.
  • I'm all thumbs when it comes to making bows so I used an EZ Deluxe Bow Making Tool that I purchased at Michaels.
  • I found a great bow tutorial on YouTube by The Creative Goddess that you may find helpful.  

Step 10 - Decorating the base with faux evergreens

Faux Evergreens Around Base Of Outdoor Holiday Lanterns
  • Cut a strand of pine garland in half using wire cutters.
  • Wrap a strand of frosted berry garland onto each half and secured with floral wire.
DIY Outdoor Holiday Lantern
  • Insert the lanterns with plastic pot base into large garden pots or urns.
  • Wrap the pine garland around each base and tie two branches together in the back to secure.

This is what the lanterns look like during the daylight hours. If you look closely at the photo you can see snowflakes as it just started snowing as I was taking the photos.

Large Outdoor Holiday Lanterns during daylight

What a difference a few hours makes, pictured below are the lanterns at night after a layer of freshly fallen snow.

Large DIY Outdoor Holiday Lanterns At Night

Close up of a lantern during the day.

DIY Outdoor Holiday Lantern During Daylight

Close up of the same lantern at night, after a snowfall.

Large DIY Outdoor Holiday Lantern At Night

I'm really pleased with how unique our lanterns look and they've certainly been getting attention in the neighborhood and I'm thrilled about the price.

If you like our DIY Outdoor Holiday Lanterns, please share them with a friend and/or save it on Pinterest.

Large DIY Outdoor Holiday Lanterns

You may also like how we turned patio candle holders into Large Lighted Hanging Ornaments.

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