How to Make Concrete Leaves – Natural Decor for Your Garden

Have you seen large concrete leaves decorating fountains and gardens? Photos of these unusual sculptural accents are showing up in all the gardening magazines. You may have wondered how they’re made. We (Pete and Dianne Havekost) are now providing an illustrated tutorial to show you exactly how to make your own concrete leaves. They are quite expensive if you buy them at a garden store, but it isn’t difficult to make your own.

Gunnera Leaf Made With Concrete

Gunnera Leaf Made With Concrete

Pete has been working with concrete for years, and Dianne is an interior designer who’s design skills really shine in the garden as well as in the home. It was natural for us to go home and start making their own concrete leaves after we saw one on a friend’s deck. We had no instructions to go by, so we “did it by feel.” We’ve sold concrete leaves locally to be used as garden accents and in fountains. We have also donated several concrete leaves to fundraising auctions presented by the Young Ambassadors gymnastic group in Tacoma, WA, where the leaves were a big hit. Others have been given to family and friends as gifts.

Throughout the site you’ll find ideas for using concrete leaves in your garden decor. Be sure to visit our other pages.

How to Make a Concrete Leaf for Your Garden

To make your own concrete leaf, follow the instructions below:

1. 

You will need a table at a comfortable working
level. You can build a temporary table out of sawhorses and a piece of plywood. Be sure to set it up in the shade, in order to prevent the concrete from drying out too much in the sun.

Choose a leaf with nice vein patterns in the size you want. You can use a small leaf or a huge leaf – It’s up to you.

On your table, build a sand mound about the size and shape of the leaf you’ve chosen.

sand pile for casting concrete leaves
2. 

Cover the sand with thin plastic to keep the sand out of your work.

cover sand with plastic
3. 

Cut chicken wire the approximate shape and size of your leaf.

cut chicken wire to fit
4. 

Lay the chosen leaf face down (back side of leaf should be up)

place leafe face down on plastic
5

Put a fairly thin layer of concrete on the leaf. Then fit a precut piece of chicken wire to the back of the leaf.

add concrete to leaf
6

Put another thin layer of concrete on and finish
the edges.

Cover with plastic and allow to cure slowly. If the concrete dries too quickly, it may crack or be less strong. If it is very hot outside, you can mist the concrete before covering it with plastic.

cover wire with concrete
7. 

When cured, peal leaf off concrete – and it’s done!

cured leaf removed from mold

 

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131 thoughts on “How to Make Concrete Leaves – Natural Decor for Your Garden

      1. Janet

        Thank you for this tutorial – it looks like a lot of fun. If you want to add more shape by turning up the ends of the leaves, do you do that by shaping the sand pile or at some point between pouring the cement onto the leaf shape and final covering with the cement? Also, how do you mount the leaves onto something that will support them off the ground?

        Reply
        1. Pete Post author

          Hi Janet. Yes, you shape the leaf by changing the mound of sand. You can put blocks under a large leaf, or maybe use a piece of Styrofoam. You can also make custom supports with concrete, but I don’t have any photos showing how to do that.

          Reply
  1. Beth Carroll

    Absolutely gorgeous! What do you add to make them different colors? Can you use groute instead of concrete? Thank you for the tutorial!

    Reply
  2. Pingback: Making Concrete Leaves

  3. Ladyblug

    I have done this and it is great fun. But I would like to know which concrete you used, as mine were “rough”.

    Reply
    1. Grampa Pete

      Hi Ladyblug;
      We use the bagged concrete from Lowes and add about 5 or 6 pounds of Portland cement to add strength and workability. Thank you for your interest and sorry it took so long to get back to you.
      Grampa Pete

      Reply
  4. Cookie

    I love it…..I would have never thought that it would look so natural and be so detailed, I want to try this with a Gunnera leaf….I think it would make a great bench in my water garden, thank you for the insperation.

    Reply
  5. Carole

    Thank you so much for this wonderful project. I live out in the country on a small plot of wooded land of 17 acres. I wanted natural elements to put in my gardens around the house. This is perfect! Thank you.

    Reply
  6. Christine

    Thank you!! These instructions are great. I found my way here from your video on You Tube. These are obviously decorative, have you made any you have used as stepping stones? If so, what part of the process is different?

    Thanks so much!

    Reply
  7. Pamela

    I saw on another page where they had painted them this shiny glean…any idea what kind of paint to use on these? Loved the tutorial?

    Reply
  8. Hollen COunts

    Thanks so much for the instructions! Your work is beautiful. I want to try to make one sometime soon. You mentioned that you just need to “turn” the ends of the leaf up to make variations…how do you do that? Do you do it by making curves and and high and low spotts in you sand underneith everything? I would love to try and make a large leaf like your but I dont want it to be flat. I would love the edges to be rippled like yours. How do you make that effect?

    Reply
    1. Grampa Pete

      Hollen;
      Sounds like you are on the right course. The weight of the concrete will push the leaf down to the sand so if you want the ends to turn up make the sand to fit.
      Grampa Pete

      Reply
  9. Nanette Hicks

    Thank you so much for your detailed instructions. I’ve wanted to do these for some time now and with your easy instructions I can get it done. Thank you , thank you!

    Reply
      1. Carolyn

        I have made about 60 of these leaves in the past couple of years. I figured this out by myself and also thought of the chicken wire which is truly essential for strength. I paint my leaves. I have seen some that were blended colors, but I don’t blend, I use artist brushes or old brushes and just a few bristles and work in layers with color. They are very beautiful. I use bronze, gold, silver, for highlight and patio acrylic paint and regular acrylic’s in all different colors. I then seal them with a spray sealer of choice. With my leaves the key is not to blend into one smooth color. I am wanting to make a special leaf now and put the cremated remains of our beloved pet cat in it with his name and picture. Do you know if the remains will weaken the cement and how much can I put in the entire leaf itself safely. Also how can I in cooperate a picture into the leaf permanently?

        Reply
        1. Pete Post author

          Patti said: re: putting cat remains and picture in the leaf…..I think you could get a frame that was plastic front and back that is sort of enclosed. seal the open end and put it in the leaf.
          You might buy two and try it first as a dry run. Or you might even laminate the picture where you could cut it out and have the form of the cat rather than the square picture. I’m not sure if that would get condensation inside tho. Good luck

          Reply
  10. LILIAN

    Hi Grampa Pete,

    I noticed you posted that you used quickrete from lowes and add about 4 pounds of portland cement to an 80 pound bag, but and 80 pound bag of what type of quickrete? The man at Lowes said that quickrete is a name brand and you don’t specify which type of quickrete. Please list the exact types and amount of each item.

    Also, any chance you can reply by tomorrow or tonight, as I am in a time crunch and just found your site.

    Thank you sooooo much.

    Reply
    1. Anyta

      Iv’e used the yellow bag of quickrete from Lowes , sifted some of the stones out to have a smoother mixture . I did not use any chicken wire or anything else , and they have held together very well ( 1 got cracked in half – but I didnt use as much concrete on that one ) . I used acrylic pain to paint them in layers , and sealed it when dry with concrete sealer . They color has faded a little , but they still look beautiful . This is a fun project that doesnt take long . Thanks for your tips on making the concrete stronger .

      Reply
  11. Sharon L. Hilton

    Hi Grandpa Pete
    I made my first leaf and so excited, but I used 1/2 inch wire which was
    really hard to bend. Will screen work or the larger chicken wire that
    is one and half inches better to use because that is really pliable. I
    dont want to make them to thick but I want them to hold together.
    What should I do.
    Thanks, Sharon

    Reply
  12. Pete Post author

    Hi Sharon,

    The one inch chicken wire would be easier to use. Lately, I’ve been using plastic mesh, like the kind they sell to keep deer out of the garden. It works just fine for smaller leaves. On really small leaves, like hostas, you don’t need any reinforcing at all.

    I hope this helps,
    Grampa Pete

    Reply
  13. Kathy

    Howdy There Grandpa Pete!
    What is the liquid additive (it is yellow, about 1 ounce) you pour in the mixer after you have added water, and where can I get it? It looks like it thins the cement. Thank you for your talent and patience with this wonderful project. Take care, Kathy

    Reply
  14. Pete Post author

    The product is called Adva. I think they sell it in 50 gallon containers, which would last you for many years – but you might be able to talk the guys at your local pre-mix company to sell you a small container.

    You might be able to find another brand of “super plasticizer” at a pre-mix company if they don’t have that brand. You don’t actually have to use the product – it just makes it easier to make a thin mix without adding more water that would weaken the mix.

    Grampa Pete

    Reply
  15. Vicki

    Just found this site. Awesome possum. Is there a recipe for just mixing up a small amount of Quickcrete or do you have to use the whole bag all at once?

    Reply
  16. Pingback: Pete’s Concrete Pothead | Ultimate Paper Mache

  17. Lisa

    These are beautiful! I have been making them for about 2 years. All sizes, shapes, and colors:) I have yet to make one with a tile insert inside of that has turned outnicely. I have seen many done and they look lovely. Do you or anyone else have any suggestions for me?

    Reply
    1. Pete Post author

      I’m not sure we know what you mean by a tile insert inside. Can you add a link to a photo of one, so we can see what it looks like?

      Reply
        1. Pete Post author

          Just send us a link to a photo on someone’s site. If you’ve seen it somewhere, you can give us the link so we can see it, too.

          Reply
  18. Lilian

    Hi Grandpa Pete,

    How on earth did you make the concrete head, pots? I would love to learn how to do that.

    Thank you very much.

    Lilian

    Reply
  19. Val

    Hello, I love your video and instructional on making the concrete leaves. You are so kind to share this information. I think I might have to have a go and improvise with brands we have over here in the UK. Love it ! A brilliant inspiring share x Val x =0)

    Reply
  20. Kim

    LOVE THIS!! And I can’t wait to try it! I am also going to try your “potheads” AH-May-Zing!

    Thank you for sharing!!

    Reply
  21. Patt Butti

    re: putting cat remains and picture in the leaf…..I think you could get a frame that was plastic front and back that is sort of enclosed. seal the open end and put it in the leaf.
    You might buy two and try it first as a dry run. Or you might even laminate the picture where you could cut it out and have the form of the cat rather than the square picture. I’m not sure if that would get condensation inside tho. Good luck

    Reply
  22. Nelda

    Carolyn wanted to add the CREMATED cat ashes to her concrete mix. It should make very little difference in the finished leaf provide it was at least 12-14 inches long and not a huge cat. It sounds like a beautiful way to remember a loved pet.

    Reply
  23. tami

    I’ve done this before and the leaf is hard to peal off. I put plastic wrap over the leaf and sprayed the plastic with cooking spray oil then applied the concrete. It worked great with no hassle of removing the leaf

    Reply
  24. Carolyn

    That is a great idea. Should work as long as you don’t lose the detain in the leaves. Thanks for the tip! Sometimes its easy to get off and sometimes not.

    Reply
  25. Grampa Pete

    Hi Tami,
    It seems you would lose some detail if you put plastic between leaf and concrete. I spray the leaf with Pam. It’s not perfect but it works pretty good.
    Grampa Pete

    Reply
  26. sabine algosaibi

    I am making concrete totems. Would like to know what to do with a piece which I left too long to dry. It’s already two days old and I would still like to add more cement to create features… would the cement still stick onto the already dry piece??

    Reply
  27. Cheri

    I just Love your leaf project was very interesting, you remind me of my dad …you touch my heart. Learning was fun there are beautiful leaves in Kauai. When I make one will send you a pic. Thank you

    Reply
  28. Ledesa B.

    Hi guys! Thanks so much for sharing and the easy to follow tutorial. Your instructions are so straight forward. I too was going to make a leaf just by “feeling it” then I thought I better check it out online first. I’m so glad I found you.

    Reply
  29. Pico

    I mde my first one in fall, using a large rhubarb leaf. I had no idea how to find a Gunnera leaf, so this was the only large leaf that I could get my hands on! It turned out really well and I love it. It will take two people to place it in the garden in spring, as it is very heavy.

    Reply
    1. Pete Post author

      If you want a gunnera leaf, the best way is to grow one. They grow well in Bellingham, but they do take a lot of water, and they take up a very large amount of space.

      Reply
  30. Nancy Foti

    This was a real find!! My husband and I are retired and wanting to get in touch with our creative side….I’ve chosen Polymer Clay as a medium and I think my husband will love this . Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  31. Envar

    Hello Dear Pete! Huge request ! Please tell me the recipe )) on the concrete, which is placed in part with reinforcement rods and trimmed with a trowel for graphics imitating natural stone in the construction of curbs, as well as in the construction of the waterfalls and the other … . Thank you!
    Envar .
     Russia !

    Reply
  32. beth taylor

    if you are using very large hosta leaves or elephant ears or maybe banana leaves or rubarb leaves how many will one bag of concrete make

    Reply
  33. Laura

    Hello Pete,
    I just found your directions on how to make the cement leaves. This is an awesome work of art! I watched the video and read thru the comments and I have a question. How do you join the leaves together to form the bowl effect and what does the whole thing sit on?

    Thank you soo much .

    Reply
    1. Dianne

      John, where do you get the glass fiber? I have asked at home depot & lowes & they have no idea what I am talking about. Thanks

      Reply
  34. Envar

    Envar February 18, 2013 at 6:46 pm
    Hello Dear Pete! Huge request ! Please tell me the recipe )) on the concrete, which is placed in part with reinforcement rods and trimmed with a trowel for graphics imitating natural stone in the construction of curbs, as well as in the construction of the waterfalls and the other … . Thank you!
    Envar .
    Russia !

    Reply
  35. Carol Reinboll

    Grandpa Pete
    You used a cement mixer for mixing. Can I simply use a 5 gallon bucket?
    I can’t wait to try this. Thank you so much for teaching this online.

    Reply
    1. Grampa Pete

      A mixer is much better but you can mix in anything you like. Rember that the more water you add the less strength you will have. Only put enough water to make your mix workable. Have fun.
      Grampa Pete

      Reply
  36. Bear

    Hi, this is awesome. Just wondering about the part where you say you peel the leaf off the cement? In the description, it looks like you only put the cement on the back of the leaf, so does the cement bleed through the leaf to the front side? Trying to visualize how the front is reinforced. And also if you peel the leaf off does that mean that the chicken wire you used is just temporary and doesn’t actually end up on the backside of the leaf? Thanks in advance

    Reply
  37. MARY

    I WANT TO TRY THESE !!! THEY ARE JUST BEAUTIFUL ! I WILL START SMALL AND THEN I THINK THE BIGGEST I WILL TRY IS A RHUBARB LEAF. THANKS FOR SHARING !

    Reply
  38. Amanda

    Thanks Grampa. Im working from home doing all kinds of things for the garden and then sell it to the nursery. this was an excellent idea! i love it! Sure going to try this as soon as i have the time. If the “leave” is deep enough it can also go through as a bird feeder or bird bath! Have any more ideas for me on garden things thats quick and easy? will appreciate it. Just keep in mind im a woman and larger things I cant move would not do. Thanks alot for this great idea

    Reply
  39. Katie L'Ecluse

    Thank you so much for your instructions for concrete leaves. I am so excited to try it myself. I have a Secret Garden area here is SE Arizona. I love to have water features, as it doesn’t rain often here, and it will be fun to incorporate the concrete into the landscape. Many Thanks, Katie

    Reply
  40. Nettsiebaby

    Love your work… I plan to try it. The picture on facebook that I saw had a multicolored almost iridescent sheen of blues greens and coppers? how did you achieve that color effect? Airbrush? Paintbrush? and what did you use in terms of paint?

    Reply
  41. Phil

    My wife loves these leaves. We had one at our house that was made by a previous homeowner but it was recently broken by a contractor working at the house. Do you sell leaves? Thanks!

    Reply
  42. Wendy Eros

    Thanks for the great instructions on how to make concrete leaves. I have made a few myself and even hosted a girls night where we all were able to make these great garden additions. My question is how does one paint these leaves with the Pearl Ex powder pigment, what medium is best used, and did you air brush them?

    Thanks

    Wendy

    Reply
    1. Pete Post author

      Hi Wendy. I’ve never used the Pearl Ex powder pigment, so I can’t help you with the painting question. My daughter painted one with acrylic paints and a brush, but I actually like the plain concrete color, myself. The people who make the pigments should be able to help you with your questions.

      Reply
  43. Rick

    Help, how do you protect pigment paint from sun and water
    Destroying the sparkle and beauty
    I have tried gloss acrylic clear spray

    Reply
    1. Pete Post author

      You could try an outdoor varnish with UV protection. You need to read the labels carefully, since some Spar varnishes will protect a piece from rain, but not sun, and it’s the sun that causes paint to fade. You would also need to reapply the varnish every few years. If possible, you might also want to keep a painted piece out of direct sunlight, to slow down the damage.

      Reply
      1. ricki

        HI,
        I have made litterally 50 leaves for my friends,family and myself.
        i will send pictures of them to you.
        But as I said, It has just rained here, I have put a varnish and I have used even a cement sealer over the paint.
        It just rained here and the water sitting in them, turns these sealers white??
        darn.
        any other ideas would be great!

        Reply
        1. Pete Post author

          Ricki, do you mean you used a cement sealer on top of your paint? I think it’s normally used to seal the concrete before painting. Let us know the brand you used, and if it stays white after it dries. It might not.

          Reply
          1. Ricki

            I seal after it has been painted..it dries clear
            But when it gets wet down the road? It discolors with a ring where water was
            Oh boy, so frustrating

  44. Sandy

    Love these leaves. I am just now learning to be one with the cement. My question is this…has anyone tried this with artificial leaves? I live in a very arid climate, and there is a real dearth of large leaves. I’ve seen a few fakes that are at least large enough to try. Any input on this idea?

    Reply
    1. Pete Post author

      It might work, but you’ll need to make sure the concrete won’t stick to the artificial leaf. Use a release of some kind, and do a little test first, if you can.

      Reply
  45. Teresa

    Pete….great video .I finally found Portland cement in a 47pound bag that I can carry at Ace
    Hardware.What is my Ratio for portland to quickcrete?…( two
    eaves) .To both of these I just add water?
    The consistency of brownie mix ?
    This is also good for Stepping stones?
    Sorry or all the questions
    thank
    Terry

    Reply
  46. Lisa

    I have made MANY concrete leaves. I would send some photos of some but cannot figure out how to attach a photo to this blog:(

    Reply
    1. Pete Post author

      Hi Lisa. We can’t add photos to comments, but you could put your photos on Flickr or another photo sharing site and give us the URL.

      Reply
  47. Lilian

    I have painted mine, using patio paints, from the craft store. They blend very nicely and you can also water them down for nice shading. After they are done completely dry, I use a clear sealer. Be sure to paint the underneath part also, even if you use a different color, where it can’t be seen, as long as you put clear sealer on All of it. Have fun!! Lilian

    Reply
  48. Lilian

    To Sandy,

    I have heard of people using vegetable or corn oil as a release on leaves. I would just give it a try for the artificial leaf. Maybe it might work there too.
    Lilian

    Reply
  49. Lisa Zuleger

    Hello, I have a few photos on a facebook page called Sticks and Stones. I make them due to a disability called RSD/CRPS. If you “like” the page you can read about it and see some of the many (hundreds) of stones I have made.

    Reply
  50. shelly

    hey – wanted to say thanks for posting the video. I think your leaves are very nice! I would like to try some time.

    Reply
    1. Pete Post author

      You could sculpt one by hand, I suppose. Or find a mold – you might be able to get a latex mold online. Do a Google search.

      Reply
  51. Pingback: Re-post: Concrete leaf casting | Garden Muse

    1. Pete Post author

      When my dad uses them in a pond, he just props them up on rocks or blocks, and then lets water flow over them.

      Reply
  52. dorothi clarke

    Hi just found your website on your leaves can you please tell us how you made the flower pot heads you mention as I am interested in trying to make some . Thank you . Dot Clarke Australia.

    Reply
    1. Pete Post author

      Hi Dorothi. The heads start out as a clay sculpture, and then we make a mold using silicone. (We like Rebound 25, from Smooth-on). Before the concrete is poured into the mold, a plastic flower pot is put into it to create the space for plants.

      The process is a bit complicated. If you’d like to know more about casting concrete, the Smooth-on website has a good tutorial that shows how to make a sculpted planter. They use a slightly different technique, but their two-part mold might actually be easier.

      Reply
    1. Pete Post author

      You’ll need to leave the concrete to cure, and not take it off the leaf too soon. If you start one morning, the project should be done the next morning, although the concrete will continue to get harder over the course of a month.

      Reply
  53. sandy

    I used quickset and mixed in a large plastic tub but the mixture didn’t hold together Did I not let it “Cure ” long enough or mix incorrectly or not stir it enough Help I think they are so beautiful Thanks Sandy

    Reply
  54. Pete Post author

    Sandy, when you mention you used Quick Set, do you mean you used a sack of fast-setting joint compound? If so, it won’t work with a project like this. You need a bag of actual concrete mix. The kind with sand and gravel already in the bag with the Portland cement. Quikrete is one brand. They’ll have it at your local Lowes or Home Depot.

    Reply

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