Make a shoe-organizer planter

All that and a bag of dirt: Plant expert Neil Mendeloff shows us how to turn a plastic shoe organizer into living wall art.

After 34 years of doing business in lower Manhattan, Neil Mendeloff, owner of Plantworks (28 E 4th St between Lafayette St and Bowery; 212-674-8111,, knows a thing or three about botany. So when we were looking for a crafty new way to add some life to our sad little apartment, we turned to him. The resulting project is easy to re-create, and equally perfect for both eco-freaks and black thumbs.

1 Pick up a clear vinyl 24-pocket overdoor shoe bag (The Container Store, 629 Sixth Ave between 18th and 19th Sts, 212-366-4200,; $14.99) and hang it on a sturdy wall (with three nails) or door (using the included hooks). “Make sure it’s near light but away from drafty windows and radiators,” Mendeloff says.

2 Fill each compartment with potting soil ($8.99 for an eight-quart bag at Plantworks) until it’s about two thirds full.

3 Remove a plant ($4–$6 each at Plantworks) from its container and bury it in the soil of one compartment. Add soil to the top as needed to cover the roots. Spacing out the variety of plants, repeat until all 24 pockets are full.

4 “Water them sparingly,” Mendeloff strongly recommends. Avoid overwatering by testing the middle of the soil (near the roots) with your finger; if it’s damp, it doesn’t require more water. “Depending on the amount of surrounding sunlight, it’ll probably need six to eight ounces of water a week, or less.”

What to plant

“You’ll want to use smaller plants,” Mendeloff says, “because breaking up the roots of a larger plant will increase the risk of it going into shock and dying.” For year-round evergreens, Mendeloff suggests using varieties like snake plants, pothos and dracaeanas. Flowering plants such as petunias, mums, marigolds, impatiens and begonias add color, but be warned: They tend to die out around October—it must be nice not to deal with New York winters!

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