Set up your wordpress site on dokku

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This is mostly cribbed from Jasmine Tracey’s excellent post at There were a couple things that needed to be added and some local tweaks for me, so I put this here for my own reference. The most critical thing is the need for SSL settings in wp-config.php. I have enough sites that I should move to this model, that I may script it to save steps (I tried, but I don’t think I have enough sites to make it worth solving all the problems that scripting this generates). To speed re-use, I have put the commands/steps needed for re-deployments of existing sites in red.

Creating or migrating a WordPress site to Dokku

DNS prep

We need to prep for the ssl cert and final move by ensuring the DNS has a short TTL to allow for a quick dns change at the end.

Create the app and database

In your dokku terminal run the following command to create your app. I will be using testapp as my app name feel free to use another name. If you will be creating an app at a specific FQDN (, use that as the app name. Otherwise the web address will be a subdomain of the server address.

Additionally, add other domains that might be used to access the website.

dokku apps:create testapp.tld
dokku domains:add testapp.tld domain.tld
dokku domains:add testapp.tld add.domain.tld

If you run dokku apps:list you should see your newly created application.

Now will install the mariadb plugin, create a database and link it to our app so that it has access to it. I found that the default Mariadb settings would hang forever on ‘waiting for container to be ready‘ and so I used the instructions here to add a specific, known working, mariadb version. Probably worth trying the mariadb:create command without the -i flag and everything following to see what happens.

# Install app
sudo dokku plugin:install mariadb

# Create database
dokku mariadb:create testappdb -i mariadb -I 10.4.17

# Link database to app
dokku mariadb:link testappdb testapp.tld

Setting up application storage on dokku server

I trimmed this down from the three directories that Jasmine used (themes, plugins, uploads). Maybe that’s a bad call, but I think it works.

# Create the folders (might require sudo)
sudo mkdir -p /var/lib/dokku/data/storage/testapp.tld/wp-content

# Change the permission (might require sudo)
# it's 32767 because that's what dokku needs. Not sure why
sudo chown 32767:32767 /var/lib/dokku/data/storage/testapp.tld/wp-content

# Mount the storage to the container
dokku storage:mount /var/lib/dokku/data/storage/testapp.tld/wp-content:/app/wp-content

# if the container has already been deployed, then it'll have to be restarted
dokku ps:restart

If we are migrating a site, we’ll need to inject the sql dump file into the new db:

dokku mariadb:import testappdb < testapp.dump.sql

Creating a local wordpress instance (or moving an existing one)
and pushing it to dokku

On your local machine clone the wordpress github project. Or fetch your archive of an existing site.

# Download and unzip wordpress files
curl -LO
rsync user@servername.tld:
ssh user@servername.tld
mkdir working_directory
cd working_directory

# Change directory to downloaded project
cd wordpress

# Download wordpress gitignore file
curl > .gitignore

# Initialize repository and make initial commit 
git init
git add .
git commit -m "Initial commit of wordpress files"

We are going to update the values of our config file so it knows to look for the dokku environment variables. Edit wp-config.php. Then update the following sections. This is slick, thanks, Jasmine.

// ** MySQL settings - You can get this info from your web host ** //
$url = parse_url(getenv("DATABASE_URL"));

$host = $url["host"];
$username = $url["user"];
$password = $url["pass"];
$database = substr($url["path"], 1);

/** The name of the database for WordPress */
define( 'DB_NAME', $database );

/** MySQL database username */
define( 'DB_USER', $username );

/** MySQL database password */
define( 'DB_PASSWORD', $password );

/** MySQL hostname */
define( 'DB_HOST', $host );

We also want to change authentication keys and salts so go to copy and paste the generated salts in the wp-config.php file replacing the following:

define( 'AUTH_KEY',         'put your unique phrase here' );
define( 'SECURE_AUTH_KEY',  'put your unique phrase here' );
define( 'LOGGED_IN_KEY',    'put your unique phrase here' );
define( 'NONCE_KEY',        'put your unique phrase here' );
define( 'AUTH_SALT',        'put your unique phrase here' );
define( 'SECURE_AUTH_SALT', 'put your unique phrase here' );
define( 'LOGGED_IN_SALT',   'put your unique phrase here' );
define( 'NONCE_SALT',       'put your unique phrase here' );

One more change to wp-config.php and we’ll save it. This ensures that when we go SSL, the site doesn’t just immediately break. More details of why at

/** Ensure ssl is detected and responded to appropriately */
    $_SERVER['HTTPS'] = 'on';

We also need to create a custom_php.ini file to improve some settings

upload_max_filesize = 128M
post_max_size = 128M
max_execution_time = 60
memory_limit = 512M

Now we need to tell dokku to use those settings when running the project to do that we will create a Procfile in the root of the project. Jasmine used Nginx, but I’m an old Apache guy.

web: vendor/bin/heroku-php-apache2 -i custom_php.ini

Commit and Push

Now we will commit and push our changes to our dokku server

# commit changes
git add .
git commit -m "updated config to work with dokku url"

# Add the dokku url to the downloaded project
# If your server is and your app is going to be 
# reached at this would be:
git remote add dokku dokku@servername.tld:testapp.tld

# push changes
git push dokku master

Copy local files

This is why we created that mount earlier, so we can have persistent storage and a place to do updates as needed.

sudo rsync -avz wp-content/ /var/lib/dokku/data/storage/testapp.tld/wp-content/
sudo chown -R 32767:32767 /var/lib/dokku/data/storage/testapp.tld/wp-content

DNS switch

Change your website’s DNS A record to point at your dokku server.

Enable SSL

We are almost finished. To ensure we have a secure site, we will add https using lets encrypt

# Install plugin
sudo dokku plugin:install

# Set the global email
dokku config:set --global DOKKU_LETSENCRYPT_EMAIL=your@email.tld

# Setup cronjob to auto-renew certificates when they expire
dokku letsencrypt:cron-job --add

# Add https to site
dokku letsencrypt:enable testapp.tld


Go to your url application url in your browser you should see the installation page of your wordpress site. OR better still your migrated site.