I Collect Antique Bird Planters, But Not for Plants. Do You Use Them?

by | Mar 23, 2022 | 6 comments

As I was watering this week, I realized I have a large number of antique bird planters. The top one below is from my Grandma Eldred and she had an opuntia growing in it on her south kitchen windowsill for as long as I can remember. I inherited it and immediately removed the cactus, which I still have, but I placed it in a different container. I feel that antique plant pots really shouldn‘t have plants in them, but of course, that’s just my opinion. Putting dirt and water in them really hinders keeping them in pristine condition. I don’t plan on selling them, so I guess it really doesn’t matter. The little bird from my Grandma was my second bird planter and I’ve been collecting them since inheriting it. The hanging parrot below was my first antique bird planter and was my great-grandma Baldwin’s given to me by my mom. I love birds and plants, so why not collect something that combines both?

parrot planter

This parrot planter was my great-grandma Baldwin’s and mom gave it to me.

Brands of antique planters

My grandmas had such great containers to choose from. We have them also, but the colors from the 40s and even earlier are so muted and soft. McCoy, Shawnee, Royal Copley, Hull, and Red Wing are just some of the names one might find on the bottom of a container and some have no names at all.  I have many antique pots that have the common shape of a pot and saucer, but by far, my favorites are the planters with a little whimsy, birds being my first choice

Tropical birds

Who doesn’t love tropical birds? They fit in perfectly with our plants.  

Antique Swan Planters

I really like swan planters, too….

And Roosters….

I found this rooster at a yard sale in 2016 and after drilling a hole in the bottom, I planted a Scindapsusu (silver satin pothos) ‘Jade’ in it. There is a picture of it in my first book, Houseplants and it’s still going strong. 

rooster planter

This planter was in my first book and the pothos ‘Jade’ is still going strong.

Antique Wall Pocket Planters

Another popular planter was the wall pocket and my collection is shown below. Wall planters are definitely “in” again and you can find many modern takes on the wall pocket. 

Pottery History

McCoy Pottery

Nelson McCoy Sanitary Stoneware Co. was founded in April 1910 by J.W. McCoy and his son Nelson in Roseville, OH. In the late ’20s and 30s, berry and leaf motifs dominated and Mr. Bauer was the head designer. In the mid-’30s Mr. Cope came to the company,  became the head designer and his designs included many of the quirky planters. In 1990, McCoy pottery ceased operation but you can still find many affordable pieces today.

Shawnee Pottery

The Shawnee Pottery Company was in existence from 1937 to 1961 and was named after the Shawnee Indian Tribe.  A lot of their pottery was sold in “five and dimes” such as Woolworth, Kresge, and Ben Franklin and Sears also had them make a line for them.

Royal Copley 

Royal Copley was around from 1930 to 1960. I’ve found in my search, that most of my planters are Royal Copley. They were based in Sebring, OH. Birds were the most popular figure and over 500 dozen were made each day. Most were made to hold plants and soil, so many are stained, crazed, and have spider webbing.

bird planter

A bird planter with an antique bird book

More sentimental antique planters

As the bird planters from my grandmas are my favorite planters, I also have a couple of other planters I love that are special to me. The red-winged blackbird planter is something I’ve had for a while but added the picture last year. I found it in an antique shop and had to have it. My mom and I called each other every year when we first heard a red-winged blackbird, always hoping to be the first to call. Since I lost her in 2020 the last two springs have been a bit sad, but it makes me happy at the same time. Every time I come up the stairs, I see this picture and think of her. 

Red-wing blackbird

The redwing blackbird matches the picture

My oldest brother is a hunter and he knows I love pheasants and I always have. So when it is hunting season, I usually get a picture of one no longer with us. Hunting isn’t my thing, but I respect it is his, and I know he loves wildlife, as well so I think of him when I see this pheasant. . 

pheasant planter

This pheasant reminds me of my brother. I love pheasants and so does he (to hunt and eat)

Antique Planter Drainage….

The unfortunate problem with all of these planters is the lack of a drainage hole. One would have to be a very good judge of the water needs of their plants to avoid drowning the plant. If you don’t mind changing the value of your piece, a masonry or diamond-tipped (my favorite) drill bit and a drill will solve that problem.

Even if birds aren’t your thing, there are many types of containers out there that you might be interested in. Go to your local antique shop or eBay to find the ones that talk to you and start your collection.

Do you collect any antique planters? Do you plant plants in them? Drill drainage holes? Tell me about them in the comments!

Have a great week, plant friends!

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  1. Beth

    Hi Lisa, are you familiar with a planter with the parrot as the handle and it also has 2 single parrots with it? It was my mothers. I have looked and looked. Any advice where I could find the value?
    Thank you, Beth

    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Hi Beth,
      I have not seen a planter with a parrot as a handle. I wish I had. I would check eBay often and Etsy. If I ever see one, I will try to contact you.

  2. Julie Kelly

    Hi Lisa! I’ve been trying for quite awhile to identify the maker of a bird planter I have…..we’ll I stumbled upon your site when BAM! There it was the yellow finch on log & its Royal Copley! And then……here’s another bird planter I had read was McCoy, but no…..Royal Copley!! Thank you for unknowingly helping a stranger. Oh,….& to answer your question, “To use vintage ceramics as planters or not.” I say ” NOT” & like you, I won’t plant anything in them.

    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Hi Julie,
      I’m so glad I could help! I love my birds! I got another tropical bird statue this weekend, but not a wall planter. No, nothing planted in them for sure! lol

  3. Jodi Hepler

    I have no idea how many vintage planters I have. I love planters, ceramic vases and wall pockets. That rooster you have is amazing. I will never drill a hole in them. Only have succulents and an aloe in a no hole planters and they are nothing fantastic. I put rocks in the bottom and used the cactus soil for these. I plan on trying to make paper flowers to put in them. No promises.

    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Hi Jodi,
      I don’t drill holes in many of them, but this was froma garage sale and not too old, I don’t think. Thanks for your comments.


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