Last week  I promised to share some tips that might help if you decide to plant succulents in your Tonka truck. The main thing needed when planting in a Tonka truck is to add a tailgate. For some reason these trucks come without a tailgate, like the real thing would have, so you have to add one to keep the dirt and plants from slipping out the back of the truck.

As is my wont to do, I forgot to take pictures from the start as we added the tailgates, but I think you can get the idea. We turned each truck on its end over the piece of metal to become the tailgate and marked the shape of the end of the truck. Bill used a scrap of sheet steel, but you could use other kinds of scraps as well. Bill then cut the piece of steel following the pattern we marked on it. He clamped the new tailgate to the truck to keep it still. He then secured the tailgate around its edges with a strip of silicone, leaving a small space or two on the bottom seam to allow for drainage. We considered drilling a hole or two in the bottom of the bed, but this seemed less invasive to the truck and works just fine. I did think to get a shot of my friend Hellen’s truck that we added the tailgate to before she painted it yellow, so you can see what I have tried to describe.

IMG_0733Hellen's tonka trucktailgate

And painting is the next step. I used two or three coats of bright yellow paint on this tailgate, adding a few drops of white to lighten it. I added some streaks of brown on the other trucks to blend in with the rust and scratches on each truck, each truck being a slightly different color thanks to aging, fading, rusting, and wear and tear. And a real Tonka truck will rust, you know, since that is what makes them special, the fact that they are made of steel and not plastic. This is the truck I bought from the antique store, and it was in good shape and had not been left outside to rust much.


After the paint looks to suit you and is dry,  it is time to add the plants. Like planting all succulents and cactus, add a layer of gravel in the bottom. But you knew that.


Then comes the dirt.


And then of course start adding your plants. I would suggest starting with rooted plants, arranging as you wish, or make it a mass planting, filling to the point you see no dirt. If you do that, it is sometimes easier to fill in with cuttings that you have let scab over and are ready to plant. Some of the cuttings may have already started showing roots, and that’s good. I have used both recent cuttings and rooted cuttings successfully.


I would put taller plants to the front and trailing plants in the back, but there is no right or wrong way to arrange; do what looks good to you. Do try for a variety of colors and shapes. Add rocks and trinkets if you like.



I used a coyote skull in this truck, but Porche Dog saw fit to relocate it for a chew toy, and I had to fill in later with another plant.


But over time you will lose some plants or will want to replant anyway, so have fun with it. The Tonka trucks will enjoy their new lease on life, and you will have an interesting container to enjoy.