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Sweet summer grow guide
January 1, 2022
Get the best from your Bougainvillea
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DIY – Living chessboard

Take your gardening skills to new heights with this creative DIY living chessboard! With plants as chess pieces and striking black and white colours, your garden is guaranteed to grab attention, invite engagement, and spark plenty of conversation. In addition, you’ll get to add a couple of really special beauties to your collection that you otherwise may not have considered.

Let’s talk tiles

Get your hands on some large black and white tiles, available at your GCA Garden Centre and local home depo stores. When choosing tile slabs, go for ones that are nice and big as they will need to stand out when your pot plants are placed on top of them. You may also want to consider tiles with a protective layer to prevent scratches or go for concrete slabs and simply paint them yourself using good quality water and weather-resistant paint.

Top tip: While you’re out, grab an easy clean mop or broom to keep near your chess set to ensure it’s always play-ready and looking neat.

Try this: If you’re strapped on space, you could always create a mini version of this game with tiny pots and succulents. Play on a table or transform the courtyard. 

Pots and pawns

Your traditional chess pieces will be pot plants, of course! Go for containers with good drainage made from lightweight materials that won’t be too heavy to move. A lovely selection of pots is available at your GCA Garden Centre with treated compost and potting soil to go with them. If you’re on a budget, you could always go for inexpensive plastic containers and paint them instead. Don’t forget your saucers to avoid messy spillages during watering. 

Top tip: To keep track of which plant represents which chess piece, don’t move the pot saucers from their original placement when playing. Instead, use a marker to label the saucer and i’s matching plant on the board. This way, you’ll never forget which plant is being played as which piece and where to return it to after playing.

Try this: To easily distinguish your pawns from royalty, choose smaller and larger pots to make the pieces stand out easier. This will also add height to the space while emphasising your most prized plants.

Plant players

We used the following plants for our living chessboard. There are many other white and black beauties available at nurseries, so ask a friendly assistant to help you gather your collection.


  • Pawns: black petunia
  • Rook: croton
  • Knight: pepperomia (caperata)
  • Bishop: ficus Abidjan
  • King: aeonium
  • Queen: colocasia black magic


  • Pawns: petunia shock wave white
  • Rook: echinacea
  • Knight: osteospermum
  • Bishop: Gautama belleza white improved
  • King: salvia faranacea white
  • Queen: pelargonium (summer twist white)

Remember to position your chessboard in a sun to semi-shade location that will suit the sunlight needs of all your plants. To ensure their individual needs are being met, create a little fertiliser and maintenance schedule according to each plant’s preferences. Once you’ve done the initial admin and set up, this living chessboard game is sure to serve you with timeless décor and constant fun in the garden! Life is a Garden, so play a little!

Source: Life is a Garden