Terracotta pots are the most recognizable and common plant containers. But are terracotta pots good for plants?
You have probably seen these rust-colored clay pots in almost every patio, entryway, and outdoor garden. These traditional, beautiful earthenware pots are inexpensive and readily available.
Are you considering terra cotta pots for your plants, but wondering, are they good for the plants? I have covered the prominent benefits and problems for terra cotta pots in this article.
Gardeners love terracotta pots, as many plants do well in them. They are great for indoor and outdoor container gardening.
Terracotta pots can help prevent soil diseases as the porous walls allow air and water to move easily, which can be both an advantage or disadvantage depending on the plant’s needs. They are an eco-friendly choice for gardening; they help control moisture.
Your choice of plant pot is essential because it will impact plant growth and maintenance. Terracotta pots come in a large variety of sizes, shapes, styles, and designs.
This article has the necessary information to help you decide whether terracotta is suitable for your gardening needs.
- 1 Are Terracotta Pots Good For Plants?
- 2 Benefits of Terracotta Pots
- 3 Terracotta Pots Problems
- 4 CLEANING TERRACOTTA POTS
- 5 PREPARING TERRACOTTA POTS FOR PLANTING
- 6 TIPS FOR TERRACOTTA POTS
- 7 Frequently Asked Questions About Terracotta Pots
- 7.1 How can I prevent cracks in terracotta pots?
- 7.2 What is the difference between terracotta and ceramic pots?
- 7.3 How can I remove the black mold on my terracotta pots?
- 7.4 Are terracotta pots safe for growing vegetables?
- 7.5 Are terracotta pots better than plastic pots for outdoor planting?
- 7.6 What is the proper way to store terracotta pots?
- 7.7 What is winter cracking?
- 7.8 Which plants do well in terracotta pots?
- 8 Conclusion
Are Terracotta Pots Good For Plants?
The versatile, affordable, and reusable nature of terracotta clay pots makes them a favorite among gardeners. Terracotta has many benefits for gardeners and flower growers; since these baked clay pots are natural, porous, and have specific thermal properties.
The terracotta is an ancient material and a better planter choice if you tend to overwater your plants.
The porous nature of clay conditions the pot, which makes it difficult to over water plants, and the roots can easily breathe.
These pots reduce the risk of root rot and other overwatering diseases. The color of the pot also indicates if the plant needs to be watered, the color is darker if moisture is present.
The unglazed pots allow for water and oxygen exchange, which improves soil aeration and protects your plant from staying wet for too long.
The majority of houseplants are better off too dry than too wet, and these pots are designed to keep the roots from sitting in standing water.
Excessive watering can damage plants since it clogs and blocks the roots from breathing leading to root rot. The porosity of clay allows air and moisture to penetrate the sides of the pot.
This moisture and air are utilized by the fine roots located at the edge root system.
Air movement stimulates root growth, which results in healthier plants. Terracotta pots absorb and release moisture, which naturally creates humidity for plants.
For this reason, plants that prefer dry soils thrive well in terracotta pots.
The rusty brown/orange color of the terracotta pot is compatible with almost any flower and foliage color.
The rusted look of the pot adds an organic touch and improves with age. Terracotta pots are effective in households with children or pets because they are heavier, thus difficult to tip over.
Terracotta pots are more durable as compared to plastic or any other type of pot.
These pots come with saucers and have drainage holes at the bottom to prevent soggy soil as the water smoothly flows through the holes. The drainage helps in preventing overwatering.
If you live in a colder region, you can use terracotta plants for your house plants.
The thick walls of the terracotta pot will drain the water quickly in case of low evaporation at the same time, insulate the plant from extreme temperature changes.
You can easily order terracotta pots online or get them from the local plant nursery. Check out our article about the best places to buy planters and pots online.
So to answer the question “are terracotta pots good for plants?” depends on many factors such as where you live, what conditions you are in, and what plants you are keeping in terracotta pots.
Lets now have a look at the biggest benefits of terracotta pots.
Benefits of Terracotta Pots
Affordability: Terracotta pots are available in a wide variety of shapes and sizes with affordable prices compared to other types of planters and containers.
You can even utilize used terracotta pots; you can buy old pots from recycling centers, thrift shops, or garage sales. Simply clean and disinfect them, they are good to go.
Insulation: Using a terracotta pot will slow down the heat transfer between soil and the external environment to avoid a sudden temperature change.
Terracotta pots provide warmth during cold months and reduce heat during the summer months. Therefore they provide protection for your plants throughout the year.
Terracotta pots are made of baked clay which possesses excellent heat retention and repellent properties.
Weight: They are heavier than plastic pots but lighter and more comfortable to move as compared to concrete or stone pots.
Their weight makes them useful for hardening off seedlings outdoors on windy sites where wind might overturn lightweight pots.
Recycling: The broken pieces of the pot can be reused as a filter to improve drainage, for edging, and as mulch. When you dispose of terracotta pots, you are not adding any harmful impact on the environment.
Terracotta Pots Problems
Terracotta is widely used for gardening. However, it isn’t necessarily the perfect living condition for all plants.
Since terracotta pots drain quickly, plants that require moist soil for growth may need to be watered more if planted in these pots.
You have to adjust your watering habits according to the nature of the pot and water needs of the plant.
The biggest concern regarding terracotta pots is their susceptibility to frost damage.
Terracotta pots are vulnerable to changes in temperature and freezing snow. If you are using terracotta for outdoor gardening in cold temperatures, the pot may break or crack due to weather.
Try the following solutions to improve terracotta pot protection against frost damage:
Frost resistant pots: The most practical solution is to buy a frost-resistant terracotta pot. The frost resistance of the pot is based on the type of clay used and the temperature at which the pots are fired.
Frost resistant pots offer next-level protection as they are fired at a higher temperature. It makes them less porous as compared to regular terracotta pots.
Frostproof pots: They are designed to help terracotta pots survive any amount of frost. These pots are made by drying the pots naturally and then firing them to high temperatures.
It reduces the porosity to prevent water from soaking into the pot. This type of pot guarantees ten years lifetime against frost damage.
Waterproofing: You can waterproof old and new pots to stop water penetration. You can spray or paint waterproofing products on pots to prevent frost damage.
Prepare a solution of glue and water with 10:1 water and PVA glue ratio.
Submerge the pot in the solution for 30 seconds. Now allow the pot to dry for 24 hours. The pot is sealed against water penetration.
Protective plant covers: Another feasible alternative to the chemical solution is wrapping. You can wrap the plant and the pot with horticultural fleece or polythene bubblewrap.
A standard garden grade fleece will protect down to 27 degrees Fahrenheit (-3 degrees Celcius). You can also use zip up frost covers that protect the roots, foliage, and pot against frost damage.
Improve drainage: Frost damage for terracotta pots occurs when water soaks, freezes, and eventually causes cracks.
Improving the drainage to keep the pot as dry as possible will reduce the risk of cracks. However, this can also cause the soil to dry out quickly, which means more watering.
Use well-drained potting compost for the winter months. Add potting grit to the potting compost to improve drainage and keep the pot drier. Raise the base of terracotta pots from the ground using pot feet.
Doing this will help the pot drain freely.
If you are going to leave the terracotta pots outside all winter because plants are still growing in them, consider shifting them onto a concrete surface.
Else, rain can cause the pots to stick to the ground in freezing weather.
CLEANING TERRACOTTA POTS
Terracotta pots ensure better plant care and provide a healthy environment for plants. But they need to be correctly cleaned and maintained for that.
Clean garden pots and containers indicate a healthy start for your precious plants.
I recommend cleaning and sterilizing the pots at the end of each season to reduce the threat of spreading fungus or mold that can infect new plants and damage the pots.
Terracotta pots do not need regular cleaning unless you notice some white residue or fungus growth. You need to deep clean your terracotta pots to prevent fungus and algae growth.
The pores of the clay pot can retain the fungus and transfer them on to the plants. I would suggest thoroughly cleaning old pots before replanting to avoid the spread of any disease or fungus.
The first step is to remove the plant carefully, let the residual soil dry before scraping it off.
Use a stiff cleaning brush to remove all of the dry dirt. Avoid using harsh chemicals to kill the fungus, as these chemicals may remain in the pores and get into plants when you replant.
You can follow any of the methods below to disinfect and clean the terracotta pots properly.
Vinegar – Mix 1 part vinegar by volume to 3 parts water. You can use regular white vinegar or cleaning vinegar.
Cleaning vinegar has a higher percentage of acidity, which will help to break up the crusty buildup. Soak the terracotta pots entirely in the white vinegar solution for 30 minutes.
Later use the pot brush to remove any residue that has been loosened up.
Bleach – Another approach follows the same procedure but uses bleach instead of white vinegar. But be careful as bleach can damage the terracotta pots.
Use a ratio of 1:10 for bleach and water. Soak the pots in the mixture for 30 minutes. Soaking it in bleach will remove any fungus or dirt layers on the pot.
Now use a baking soda and water mixture to complete the cleaning process. Create a paste using both and rub it on the pot with a toothbrush.
It will further remove any residue or dirt from the pot. Finally, rub the pot with dish soap and water to get rid of any remaining bacteria or chemicals. Rinse thoroughly.
Whichever method you opt for deep cleaning, make sure to place the pots in open-air for a few days. It allows the pot to completely dry and get rid of the leftover chemicals.
If you are going to store the cleaned pots for future use, place them in a garage, shed, or any other area that stays dry and above freezing.
When you plant in terracotta pots, after some time, you will notice a white residue starts appearing on the terracotta pots. It is because the terracotta pot begins to absorb the minerals in the soil.
The hard white crust also builds up from hard or salty water deposits. This process causes the discoloration on the pot surface.
The white residue is not toxic or harmful to plants, but you should remove it as it can serve as a host for fungus, pests, or diseases.
Spray the terracotta pot with hydrogen peroxide and remove the white crust with a toothbrush or fine steel wool. To prevent white residue, repeat the process occasionally.
You can also reduce watering and place the pot in direct sunlight.
PREPARING TERRACOTTA POTS FOR PLANTING
It is crucial to prepare terracotta pots carefully before planting to minimize the risk of plant disease and create a healthy environment for your flowers, vegetables, and herbs.
Start by thoroughly cleaning the interior and exterior of the pot using white vinegar or bleach.
- If you are using an old pot, you can improve the look of the stained pot using linseed oil or commercial sealer. Remove any residue or mineral deposit from the pot by scrubbing. Use a sponge or cloth rag to cover the exterior of the pot with oil.
- Fill up a sink and soak your terracotta pot in lukewarm water overnight or at least for 30 minutes before potting your plant in them. These pots are made out of clay, so soaking them beforehand will retain moisture and prevent the pot from taking up the plant water.
- Now position your pot on the pot feet, bricks, rocks, or pieces of wood to raise them off the ground. It will improve air circulation under the pot. It also protects the pot from over-heating and drying due to direct contact with cement or gravel surfaces.
- Fill the terracotta pot with potting soil up to within 1/2 inch of the edge. Deeply soak the soil to prepare for planting using a water hose or water can. The top 1-2 inches of the soil should be moist.
TIPS FOR TERRACOTTA POTS
Terracotta pot care is quite easy and direct. Growing your favorite plants in them is an easy task.
Gardeners agree that it is difficult to overwater your houseplants in terracotta, versus plastic or some other types of pots. I would recommend the following pro tips to enhance your gardening experience with terracotta pots:
- Use an organic fertilizer instead of a chemical fertilizer for your plants. Chemical fertilizer salts will accumulate in terracotta pots with time and cause white residue.
- Terracotta pots are quick-drying, mulch the soil to help retain water. You can use gravel, pine needles, wood chips, or cocoa hulls.
- If you are planning to place the pots on wooden surfaces such as tables or dressers, use a plastic (or any other material) saucer instead of the clay saucer to protect the surfaces. A typical terracotta saucer is very porous, so water can leak through and ruin any wooden furniture. You can also use a glazed terracotta saucer so that water doesn’t seep through.
- Usually, terracotta pots have drainage holes at the bottom. You can use coffee filters for pots with drainage holes. Pour the soil over the filter. Putting a filter will keep the soil in the pot but allow the water to drain easily.
- Be careful and gentle while moving your pots or handling them in cold weather as they are vulnerable to cracks in such weather. Changes in the temperature, freezing, rain, or snow can lead to cracks as the clay expands and contracts.
- Instead of watering your plants with tap water, use rainwater. Tap water is full of minerals and salts, which will clog the pores and cause white residue.
- When you water your plants in terracotta pots, allow them to drain completely before placing them in the saucer or dish to avoid soggy soil.
- Terracotta pots are porous; they absorb moisture like a sponge. For plants that require wet soil conditions, you can customize the permeability of the pot by pre-treating the interior with a breathable latex sealant or adding a nonporous lining to the pot.
Frequently Asked Questions About Terracotta Pots
How can I prevent cracks in terracotta pots?
The cracks on the pot cannot be repaired; you can prevent them by handling the pots with care while relocating or replanting. Do not overstuff the pot with soil as it will expand with watering and ensure the pot size is large enough for the root system of the plant you’re going to add.
What is the difference between terracotta and ceramic pots?
Ceramic pots may look like terracotta, but they are glazed with a coat of lacquer, which prevents the soil from drying out at the same rate as it would in a terracotta pot. Ceramic pots retain more moisture than the regular unglazed terracotta pots.
How can I remove the black mold on my terracotta pots?
Wash the pot and saucer with hot, soapy water to get rid of the mold. Frequently spray the pot with hydrogen peroxide to keep the mold from coming back. If the mold regrows despite the care, you may have to dispose of the pot.
Are terracotta pots safe for growing vegetables?
Yes, terracotta pots are safe and suitable for vegetable gardening but thoroughly sterilize the pots before planting. Since terracotta is porous, it tends to absorb harmful chemicals or moisture. This way, it can contaminate the soil and present food safety issues.
Are terracotta pots better than plastic pots for outdoor planting?
Outdoor pots are mostly located in direct sunlight. Sunlight gradually degrades the plastic pots and makes them brittle unless you are using durable, thicker plastic pots. Terracotta is a better option for outdoor planting compared to plastic pots due to its insulation and heat retention properties.
What is the proper way to store terracotta pots?
You can store terracotta pots in a shed or garage for winterizing or simply to reuse them in the future. The first step is to clean and dry the pots thoroughly. Now store them upside-down, avoid stacking them. Use newspaper or old towels between the pots to keep them from sticking.
What is winter cracking?
It is the most common reason for outdoor terracotta pot cracks. During winter months, the water in terracotta pot traps and freezes, which causes cracks. You can prevent this by ensuring proper drainage and moving the pot from the ground to a shelf or concrete surface. You may have to move the pots indoor.
Which plants do well in terracotta pots?
Succulents, Cacti, Mediterranean herbs, Moth Orchids, Snake plants, Aloe Vera, Monstera varieties, Syngonium varieties, Peperomia varieties are some of the plants that thrive well in terracotta pots.
Terracotta pots are timeless, as they go with any indoor or outdoor setting. The durability of the pot depends on several factors.
But while choosing a terracotta pot that will last for years, look for an even, reddish-brown colored pot with thick walls.
Terracotta is an excellent choice for several indoor plants that prefer dry soil conditions. They are suitable for many houseplants such as Cacti and Succulents.
They can even be used as tablescape for indoor decorations.
Terracotta pots are an aesthetic choice to show off your favorite plants.
The critical point is if you are going to plant moisture-loving plants in terracotta, you need to take care of water due to the quick-drying nature of the terracotta pot.
Terracotta pots are proven to be the right choice for plants that prefer average to dry soil conditions.