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DIY Sand Cast Concrete Leaf Shaped Bird Bath
It's really easy to make a decorative and unique lightweight leaf shaped concrete bird bath for your backyard garden. All you need to make this unique craft for your garden are a pile of clean sand, a bucket of water, rubber gloves, plastic trash bags, a bag of acrylic concrete patch mix, and a large leaf with decorative veins and ribs.
I made a rustic leaf-embossed sand cast concrete bird bath for my garden last summer. It only took me about an hour to mix and colorize the concrete, mold it on the leaf, shape the edges and cover the concrete. The resulting bird bath blends into my garden décor beautifully. The birds and butterflies like the shallow water and broad edges of the leaf shape. It's light enough to lift up and dump, even though it's made from a thin concrete slab.
Oh, if you'd rather use this sand cast concrete leaf project to make a bird feeder or (cast thicker and flatter) as a lovely garden stepping stone, it works nicely for those garden features, too.
Photo: my DIY garden art leaf design birdbath, molded from sunflower leaf.
Preparing the Leaf Pattern Stamper - Best results come from an elephant ear leaf, or a sunflower leaf
Use a Large Live Leaf or a High Quality Artificial
You'll be using a living leaf to create a "stamper" or mold for the embossed design on the surface of your bird bath. Select a large, broad leaf with strong vein patterns and few or no defects or holes.
I used a large leaf from a giant sunflower growing in my garden for this casting. Another time I used leaves from elephant ear plants we had growing in our summer garden. I may try a casting using the big, textured leaves of my rhubarb plant next time. Any large leaf will do, or if you want to make a smaller concrete casting, you can try nasturtium or squash leaves. I've used the smaller leaves to make cast dishes and seed feeders for the birds.
Trim the stem end away from the leaf and patch any holes with small bits of waterproof masking tape or duct tape.
Giant Sunflower Leaves Make the Perfect Birdbath Models - I grow sunflowers in my garden every summer.
I plant a few giant sunflowers in my garden every summer. It's fun to see how tall they'll grow and I love to save the seed heads to share with the birds in the winter. One year a picture of my sunflowers appeared in the local newspaper because they were so tall and had such beautiful flowers along a busy street.
I use the leaves from giant sunflowers in my to create my leaf design sand cast concrete garden art. Here's a photo of one from my garden last summer.
Concrete Crafts - Making Garden Art with Concrete
Learn to work with concrete mixtures to create durable and beautiful garden planters and art that is weather resistant and needs no firing.
Materials and Tools to Make Sand Cast Garden Crafts
- Small pile of sand, or bag of play sand
- Small bucket of water
- Plastic dishpan or wheelbarrow to mix up concrete
- Garden trowel to mix and blend concrete with water
- 3 large plastic trash bags, or 3 pieces of thin plastic sheeting (painter's drop cloths will work fine) each one about 3 feet square
- 1 bag of acrylic concrete patch mix
- 1 large plant leaf with prominent ribs and veins (Sunflower, Elephant Ear, Caladium, etc)
- Concrete colorant, if desired (I used a bit of terra cotta colorant for my bird bath concrete mixture)
Protective Gear: Dust mask, rubber gloves, safety glasses
Elephant Ear Plant Leaf Embossing Pattern - This garden craft sand casting used a single giant leaf from an Elephant Ear plant.
Here's the leaf I used to make my mother's concrete birdbath, all set up on the sand and plastic, ready for concrete!
Preparing The Sand Cast Mold
Pour a mound of play sand onto a plastic sheet, or dump it into a child's small plastic pool or large waterproof tub. I spread a sheet of drop cloth plastic in the back yard, right on the lawn. You'll need just enough sand so that the mound will be slightly larger than the leaf you will use for the stamp pattern template. The pile should be about 4 inches deep at the top/center to begin.
Mound the sand slightly (about 3 inches high) in the center, slightly larger all around than the size of the leaf shape.
Smooth out and curve the mound down so that the edges are about at ground level with a bit of sand around the outside of where the leaf will fit.
Cover the smooth sand with a plastic bag or sheet of thin plastic drop cloth.
Place the leaf on top of the plastic, face down, centered on the sand mound.
Safety First With Concrete and Cement Mix
Concrete is caustic and can irritate skin, eyes and mucous membranes.
Always wear eye protection, dust mask and rubber gloves when working with concrete mix.
Before opening concrete mix, read instructions and safety information.
Prepare the Concrete Mix - Wear rubber gloves, safety glasses and a particle mask when working with powdered concrete patch mix
Following directions on the package, add water to the concrete powder mix starting with the minimum amount. If you want to add colorant to the concrete mix, add a small amount and mix in thoroughly with the water. Use a small trowel or planting shovel to blend the mix, water and colorant together.
Mix well until the concrete mix is the consistency of stiff cookie dough.
The mix should not be watery; it should be workable like play clay or craft modeling dough.
I like to use this concrete mix, and I add my own colorant to get a terra cotta look, but you could leave it natural and paint it later on.
Shaping the Bird Bath Concrete Mold
To form the birdbath, place handsful of concrete mix on top of the leaf, beginning in the center. Gently pat down to about 1" thickness as if you were making mud pies or rolled cookies. Continue to add more concrete mix, patting and smoothing and working toward the outer edges.
When you have completely covered the leaf, gently press the concrete between your fingers to form a smooth rolled edge all along the outside border. Take care not to add sand to the mix; keep the leaf snuggly against the concrete.
Concrete Craft Tools and Supplies - Molds, Stamps, Tinting Dyes for Light Weight Cast Concrete
You can really add some artful embellishment to lightweight cast concrete garden crafts with custom molds, stamping patterns and powdered tints to color your sculpting mix. I used a leaf as my birdbath mold, and I tinted the acrylic concrete mix using terra cotta powder tint.
Curing Sand Cast Concrete Crafts
After you've finished molding and shaping the concrete on top of leaf, carefully drape with another plastic bag or sheet of thin plastic to seal out rain or dust while the concrete dries and sets. Weight down the sides to prevent wind from blowing off the cover.
Your concrete needs to dry slowly to cure and not crack, so keeping it covered lets the moisture evaporate slowly. It can take up to 2 days for your cast concrete project to completely dry and cure.
Drying and Cleaning Concrete Garden Crafts
Your sand cast concrete project must dry completely before you remove the plastic cover. Drying can take up to two days; I start checking after 24 hours.
When the piece feels dry to touch, remove the plastic, turn over the birdbath, and carefully peel off the remaining bits of leaf. You many need to use a sharp tool to scrape off tiny bits, or wait a day or two and scrub with a wire brush to remove stubborn bits.
DIY Garden Décor - Simple Garden Crafts
- Garden Crafts - Make a Leaf Shaped Bird Bath
DIY sand cast concrete garden ornaments. How to make a leaf shaped bird bath from lightweight concrete using a large leaf from your garden as the pattern for the sand cast acrylic concrete garden art.
- Summer Luau Party Decorations - Make Your Own Tiki Torches
How to make your own Tiki torches for luau party decorations and citronella insect protection.
- Home Made Citronella Candles | Alphamom
Don't let the pesty bugs ruin your barbecue this year. Here is a quick and easy recipe for homemade citronella candles that actually work and look pretty too! Recycle old jars and crayons and make this a green garden craft.
Sealing the Project to Protect It From Weather - Clear Sealer Makes Your Cast Leaf Easy to Clean
Concrete Garden Crafts - Planters, Ornaments, Tiles and More
The simple how to instructions that will guide you in making beautiful garden art and functional garden planters with concrete. You can find many more interesting garden concrete crafts in this book available at Amazon:
Concrete casting project durability
Cast concrete garden crafts are generally weatherproof after they dry and cure. You can decorate cured concrete with acrylic paints to add more color interest, or simply coat the finished project with a concrete sealer to make it easier to clean and add a glossy finish.
I let my leaf pattern bird bath cure for a few months outdoors in the sun and rain, then I painted on a clear acrylic sealer. It added more depth to the color and made the vein pattern stand out nicely. After sealing, the bird bath is stain resistant and easier to keep clean, plus water cannot be absorbed into the concrete. This coating only lasts a single season. We scrub our cast leaf at the end of the summer, then after it's dry we apply a new coat or two of acrylic sealer and put it away out of the weather for the winter.
My sister uses her molded leaf sand cast craft tray as a serving platter for summer barbeques (she lines it with a napkin) ... and my mother keeps the sand-cast leaf I made for her in the house so it won't get dirty. She uses it as her mail basket. A sand cast concrete leaf made from this lightweight craft medium makes a wonderful mother's day gift or housewarming present.
Have you made a sand cast concrete garden project? Did this tutorial inspire you to design one? (It's EASY. My leaf shape bird bath took me about an hour to prepare and mold!).
© 2008 Lee Hansen
Garden Artists - Share Your Comments Here - Did you enjoy this project?
Merry Citarella from Oregon's Southern Coast on April 02, 2014:
Beautiful and clever! The bird bath is so sweet shaped like a giant leaf! And the photos are spectacular!
Paula Hite from Virginia on March 28, 2014:
What a fun idea! Your lens was featured on our NEW G+ page today! Come and join the group!
Art Inspired on February 28, 2014:
Thanks for the tutorial. This looks like a great and creative project. Make it a creative day!
anonymous on August 31, 2013:
Garden Scooter is a lovely idea as well as the bird bath too just lovely.
Northerntrials on August 26, 2013:
I made something similar when I was still at home. Instead of premixed concrete I used regular concrete that you mixed with sand. BUT instead of sand I used dry peat moss. The long fibrous peat moss made for a lighter end product and it also acted like rebar to strengthen the mix but if I did another this year I would put in a piece of old window screening or something for strength. Good job.
mel-kav on August 25, 2013:
I love the finished product - beautiful!
ireneporter on August 25, 2013:
Looks incredible. Unfortunately I have a small apartment in the city, not ideal for bird baths or growing sunflowers, but dreaming's always nice...
manyenglishes on August 24, 2013:
Thanks for the great idea! I have a garden with native plants and lots of wildlife, but I usually just have an old plate with water outside... This is a much lovelier way to provide a water source for birds and insects..
Rock Artist on August 22, 2013:
Oh my gosh, this is soooo cool! I love it, and will have to try it, thanks for sharing this amazing craft! I will pin it on my Fun Crafts board on Pinterest as well. :)
jura on August 21, 2013:
It is very useful lens it give me some great ideas,TX .
vanthang012 on August 21, 2013:
writerkath on August 21, 2013:
Good morning Pastiche! I loved seeing this lens featured on the home page. This is a REALLY good instructional lens. I've wanted to try this project myself - and so I now know where to come to get the type of step-by-step instructions that I need. Excellent page! :) Kath
anonymous on August 20, 2013:
anonymous on August 19, 2013:
This is a really useful lens, Thanks for this information.
anonymous on August 19, 2013:
This is a really useful lens, Thanks for this information.
April McMichael from Texas on August 19, 2013:
This is so cool! My mom has been wanting a unique bird bath! This just might be the ticket. :)
Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on August 19, 2013:
I see birds always enjoying water so this is a great idea.
NuttSoRuff on August 18, 2013:
Very cool! Thanks for sharing!
anonymous on August 18, 2013:
awesome idea!! thank you for sharing!
Ellen Gregory from Connecticut, USA on August 17, 2013:
This is beautiful and so reflective of nature. What a great craft idea.
Kathy McGraw from California on August 17, 2013:
I had never thought to make anything like this, but a very cool idea.
Renaissance Woman from Colorado on August 17, 2013:
I thought about this project last night when I saw some large leaves along a stream near my mountain property. I've wanted to make this birdbath since I first visited this page many moons ago. Now that I have a source of leaves, I just need to pick up some of that concrete mix. Thanks again for a great project idea. Appreciated!
Mary Stephenson from California on August 16, 2013:
Love your bird bath leaf. That would be so cool in a garden.
mina009 on August 16, 2013:
Such a creative idea!
Mommy-Bear on August 04, 2013:
What a fantastic project. I love it!
estella8309 on July 25, 2013:
A Fantastic idea
anonymous on July 03, 2013:
Have you seen any concrete cloth anywhere in small quantities? I was thinking that it might be easier for me to use that then just wet it. Any sources, please let me know. I love those leaf designs..
Lee Hansen (author) from Vermont on July 03, 2013:
@Kailua-KonaGirl: So glad you're inspire! I'm planning to make toad homes with hypertufa this summer.
KonaGirl from New York on May 17, 2013:
I totally love this! Combining it with hypertufa; well, my imagination is runny with ideas for yard art. *Squid Angel Blessed* and I've pinned it to my "The Garden" board.
Lee Hansen (author) from Vermont on April 16, 2013:
@moonlitta: I've used two home grown leaves to make mine: a giant sunflower leaf that grew most of the summer and a leaf from a tropical elephant ear bulb that we planted in the garden in spring. I've made smaller castings from other leaves including a large nasturtium leaf.
gottaloveit2 on April 15, 2013:
What a very cool idea. I love it!
moonlitta on April 11, 2013:
This is amazingly beautiful- and apparently easy to make. Just wondering where to find a leaf that big...maybe you've got some;)
anonymous on March 26, 2013:
This looks like great fun! The possibilities for designs and imprinting are endless. Thanks for the simple, clear directions.
anonymous on March 01, 2013:
how do you attach the pole that holds up the leaf?
meganst on February 14, 2013:
Amazing idea... I would surely give it a try at home, and I will write about the results :)
EmmaCooper LM on February 07, 2013:
This is a really useful lens, thank you! Blessed by a SquidAngel :)
acreativethinker on January 29, 2013:
Wow, this looks so amazing and cool! A great craft project and very creative. Thanks for sharing.
Take Care :)
Johann The Dog from Northeast Georgia on December 27, 2012:
Oh that's a super cool bird bath. We have tons of birds here on our mountain that would love it!
Lee Hansen (author) from Vermont on November 05, 2012:
@creationsbyjudy: I applied my sealer over tinted concrete after several weeks of curing.
creationsbyjudy on November 04, 2012:
Are you applying the sealant over a painted leaf or straight concrete? The problems I'm talking about occur with 2 days, not at the end of a season.
Lee Hansen (author) from Vermont on November 04, 2012:
@anonymous: We also clean and recoat with sealer at the end of each gardening season. We have cold winters and don't leave our sand cast concrete garden decor items outdoors when the temperatures go below freezing (32 degrees F).
Lee Hansen (author) from Vermont on November 04, 2012:
@creationsbyjudy: I've responded to this several times and am sorry you're having a problem. My recommendation to use a sealer is for short term durability. I used clear acrylic purchased at Lowes. I don't expect it to be highly durable outdoors, and in fact we need to clean and recoat at the end of each summer. If you need a coating that's more durable, I suggest a sidewalk or cellar floor sealer, but I've never used those.
creationsbyjudy on November 03, 2012:
I have used every sealer top coat that is sold in Lowes, Home Depot with no
True tough coat. I normally would use the Krylon clear coat acrylic with probably at least 5 coats. sometimes where the water sits, the top coat starts to turn white and may peal or chip off. Ive had the same problem on acrylic painted leaves, stained leaves, and also natural leaves. Not always but I jet hate for that to happen. Could you give us the exact product and how you applied it along with how many coats - on leaves that have been painted. Ty
Lee Hansen (author) from Vermont on November 03, 2012:
@anonymous: I use an acrylic outdoor concrete sealer for my cast concrete projects. It goes on looking milky white and dries clear. I don't leave my concrete outside in cold weather ...
anonymous on November 01, 2012:
What kind of concrete sealer do you use?
SuperZoe LM on September 22, 2012:
It's beautiful! You are super creative!
seegreen on September 20, 2012:
What a very clever idea. I had to leave my last bird bath overseas because it was so heavy and I didn't want to pay the exorbitant fee if our household goods weighed too much. I haven't found another birdbath that I like but this one looks gorgeous. Since it is spring in Australia I am doing quite a bit of gardening and I may just make this. Thanks for the great idea.
Zienna1 on September 20, 2012:
I haven't tried anything like this. It look so easy to make but I'm sure I won't be able to full this one by myself. Thnak you for the step -by-step instructions.
Lee Hansen (author) from Vermont on September 19, 2012:
@anonymous: I think you can probably use Portland cement. I like the acrylic topping mix because it won't crack as easily when you make a thin casting.
Lee Hansen (author) from Vermont on September 19, 2012:
@anonymous: I support my sand cast leaf birdbaths with rocks, wood or small plant stands.
anonymous on September 08, 2012:
In the picture it looks like the leaf is on some sort of pole. What is that?
anonymous on September 07, 2012:
I use portland cement to make stepping stones - can portland be used for the leaf bird bath project too? I notice w/ the portland that it seems to also be "moldable". Is there a difference as far as being safe for the birds? Thank you for the step-by-step pictures - very helpful!
Lee Hansen (author) from Vermont on August 14, 2012:
@anonymous: Maybe the concrete mix, thickness or extreme weather. I haven't had one crack but I am very careful to follow mixing and curing directions and never leave them out in freezing weather.
anonymous on August 13, 2012:
Mine cracked any thoughs
Lee Hansen (author) from Vermont on August 03, 2012:
@anonymous: I let mine cure longer than a week before i added sealer. You may need to use more than a single coating. Mine holds water even a couple years later, except in HOT weather of if the birds get rambunctious.
anonymous on August 02, 2012:
i tried the leaf birdbath using quikrete. I waited a week and then used a concrete sealer. it looks lovely but its not waterproof! the water disappears in a few hours. any suggestions?
Anthony Altorenna from Connecticut on July 13, 2012:
Great step-by-step instructions for a very interesting DIY project. I'll bet that the birds in your garden really appreciate your efforts.
anonymous on July 03, 2012:
Wonderfull - thank you
Lee Hansen (author) from Vermont on June 04, 2012:
@anonymous: This shallow birdbath has no formal stand. I place mine on a ring of flat topped stones or an overturned large clay flower pot in the garden. Sometimes I position the concrete leaf on a large stump.
anonymous on May 24, 2012:
How did you do the legs or the stand for the concret bird baths?
stylishimo1 on May 24, 2012:
Wow! What a great idea, love your leaf birdbath!
lesliesinclair on May 19, 2012:
I've made them in my mind, and this lens is a showy reminder about my intentions. Your planter is beautiful, as are your photographs.
hginsightideas on May 16, 2012:
I love this idea!! Thanks for sharing!
anonymous on May 05, 2012:
Thank you so much for these directions for a leaf bird bath!!! I'm sooo happy now...I plan on getting my girlfriends together for afternoon lunch and summer craft THIS IS IT* again thank you...These LEAF garden decorations are soo AWESOME*
DARdreams on April 21, 2012:
I've wanted to make my own garden art for a long time... You have inspired me to do it!
siobhanryan on April 06, 2012:
You made this look very simple-I have saved the page-we will see;;;;;;
Stephanie from DeFuniak Springs on March 24, 2012:
Awesome! Love the way it creates the realistic texture in the bird bath itself! Very unique!
Lee Hansen (author) from Vermont on March 13, 2012:
@anonymous: The sealer is fine for a birdbath. It protects the concrete to make it easier to clean. It isn't soluble, and is designed for outdoor use.
SquidooRocks55 on March 04, 2012:
Really neat! I'm going to try some of these for my backyard.
anonymous on March 02, 2012:
these look wonderful for the garden, are they safe for birds after you put protectant on cement?
anonymous on February 18, 2012:
Pangionedevelopers on February 09, 2012:
great stuff here
been looking for this
Ellen Gregory from Connecticut, USA on February 08, 2012:
This is a great idea for a craft. Now, I'll try and figure out how I could make leaf stepping stones -- maybe just a little thicker. Hmmm.
JoshK47 on January 30, 2012:
What a cool idea! Thanks for sharing! Blessed by a SquidAngel!
Shorebirdie from San Diego, CA on January 27, 2012:
That's a great idea, something I will pass along.
wolfie10 on November 06, 2011:
I'm still learning this. I would love to do something like this. Didn't know what you can do with concrete. I made some pots and some pavers and look on how to improve the results.
I featured this lens on my lens too, if that is ok.
Mamaboo LM on October 10, 2011:
Thank You soooo much for sharing this with all of us!!!
Anthony Altorenna from Connecticut on September 27, 2011:
This is a great idea, and your photos make it easy to follow the process from Start to Finish. Very well done!
bead at home mom on September 19, 2011:
I'm always inspired by other's creativity! Congrats!
dahlia369 on September 02, 2011:
Great idea and instructions. How-to pages are the best. Blessed! :)
Carol Fisher from Warminster, Wiltshire, UK on August 30, 2011:
Wow, I wish I still had a garden so I could follow your instructions and make my own bird bath. Congratulations on the purple star. Blessed.
Tony Payne from Southampton, UK on August 29, 2011:
Congratulations on your Purple Star, this is a really cool lens. Blessed.
Mary Beth Granger from O'Fallon, Missouri, USA on August 29, 2011:
Really cool...congratulations on the Purple Star.
Ann from Yorkshire, England on August 26, 2011:
that looks great _ i'm going to try it, if I can find a big enough leaf! blessed
Cynthia Sylvestermouse from United States on August 26, 2011:
This is truly fabulous! I love the idea and the instructions. Really, really creative!
gardencentreman on August 24, 2011:
This is awesome, thank you!
KarenCookieJar on July 03, 2011:
I absolute love this!
Lee Hansen (author) from Vermont on June 24, 2011:
@Lee Hansen: The easier one to use is Krylon crystal clear spray. It's moisture resistant so it will only last for a single season. The more permanent type is the kind for sealing concrete floors. I am not sure we used that for this project, but it should dry clear as well.
Lee Hansen (author) from Vermont on June 20, 2011:
@creationsbyjudy: We used an outdoor sealer. It only lasts one season but makes it easier to keep clean. It's for concrete.
creationsbyjudy on June 20, 2011:
What clear acrylic sealer did you use....who's it made by. Everything I find say's not to use where there will be standing water.
Jack-in-the-Box on June 05, 2011:
What a great idea! I am really going to try this. Thanks for sharing.
justholidays on May 29, 2011:
Wow! I love this leaf project! I just need to find such a gigantic leaf, lol.
Blessed by an angel on SQuidoo.
Gayle Dowell from Kansas on May 07, 2011:
I love this idea! Will have to try it this spring for my garden!
TapIn2U on May 03, 2011:
Wow! thanks for these ideas. It's perfect in creating bird ideas.
Lisa-Marie-Mary on May 03, 2011:
That is so cool - I absolutely love it!!! :-D
Sara Valor from Breezy Hills on April 26, 2011:
Oh wow, this is beautiful and so creative!
Tony Payne from Southampton, UK on April 13, 2011:
This is a really cool project, you make it look so easy. Blessings coming your way.
Anahid LM on April 07, 2011:
Hi yes i want to make one of those bird baths, thank you for sharing, I love the picture of the concrete leave. Good job, thanks. Anna
imolaK on March 31, 2011:
What a great idea! Thank you for sharing these tips with us. Blessed by an Angel!
Renaissance Woman from Colorado on March 15, 2011:
I want one of these! Guess I'll add it to my DIY project list. :-) I know just the place to get one of those lovely giant sunflower leaves. Thanks for sharing this awesome idea.