Why I LOVE terra cotta pots, they may have fallen out of popularity for various reasons but I have a new found appreciation for these wonderful bits of clay. Now with minimizing our use of plastics in the garden they are an earth friendly choice.
Terra cotta pots have been around for ages and I mean ages but they have come in and out of popular use.
I haven’t always loved them. I had read of the cons associated with using terra cotta for your plants. Believing them, I went with plastic instead.
There is no explanation as to why I started using terra cotta pots again. I just did and I have fallen in love.
The cons that I read about, like they dry out too fast, become heavy when planted, discolor over time, are actually all the things I found to be pros.
Here is the many ways I use terra cotta pots and why.
Great for my house plants.
My house plants actually perform better in terra cotta. I contribute this to the fact that terra cotta is porous and actually breathes, so even if I should over water a bit the roots don’t drown like they can in plastic pots.
Another plus is I can tell by the color of the pot if the plant actually does need to be watered, terra cotta is is moist and darker in color when there is moisture still present in the soil.
In the past I have tried to overwinter geraniums inside my home and was never quite successful. They would live but were spindly and unattractive. Then I tried it using terra cotta pots and it was a game changer for me. The plants not only lived through the winter in an east facing window but they thrived. I did not get blooms but I was just happy they were so healthy that by the time they went outside they bloomed in short order.
I actually enjoy how they weather and discolor.
The way terra cotta weathers adds a patina that just works for me. So many try to get this with faux finishes but really those are unnecessary. Terra cotta pots will start this process immediately. Both of these pots are relatively new, within weeks they starts to get the white crustiness and a mossy tint. Especially if you have harder water will you get a crusty white discoloration. It is just the minerals in the water.
Also you can get a white fuzzy looking mold. It is harmless and will not hurt your plants. Just let the plant dry out a bit more between waterings. It is a natural occurring thing not a death sentence, it is a fungi. You mix dirt and moisture you will get fungi.
If you have a tendency to be allergic to all molds then spray the pot with some hydrogen peroxide and scrub it off when a tooth brush. Rinse well. Most of my pots I have indoors are easily handled and not too large so this works. It is not a one time operation though. To keep the mold at bay you will need to repeat this process. I only have a few pots that do this and I cut back on watering or put in a sunnier window, the direct sunlight also kills the mold. (I only put some of my plants in windows that get direct sunlight in the winter, in the summer the sun is too strong and will cook your plants)
Terra Cotta comes in all shapes and sizes.
I enjoy creating miniature gardens in the shallower pots. Typically I don’t leave them outside all winter as the extreme cold can break or make the terra cotta crumble but this one did not make it to the inside of my greenhouse for some reason and it has fared well so far. It has succulents in it that are kind of dormant for the winter. Succulents do very well in terra cotta.
Reusable no matter what+ better for the environment
Terra cotta pots are breakable, not really a plus but you can do fun things with the broken pots. This one is being used in the larger pot as part of the miniature garden and it has succulents in it. They fill in and spill out in the warmer, dryer months, right now they are semi dormant and rather sparse looking. I need to find a photo from last summer with it filled. I do have another post with making a mini garden with a broken terra cotta pot. CLICK HERE to view it.
Terra Cotta make great pots for rooting cuttings
Again, I figure this is because the terra cotta breathes. This past Fall I pruned several of my roses. I stuck the cuttings into well draining soil mix in terra cotta pots. I also put some in plastic pots. The ones in the terra cotta are still thriving while the ones in the plastic all succumbed to mildew. (this is in winter, not usually a time you try to start cuttings but I was experimenting, mildew is less of a problem for me in summer) That may seem like a paradox since mold will grow on terra cotta pots when damp but I can only think that it is a different mold than what attacks plants. Though many of these cuttings how growth they have not actually rooted yet. The ones that did have roots I have already potted up into their own individual pots. Rose canes can store energy from when they were cut and show growth before rooting. So don’t be fooled if you try to start some yourself.
There is an entire post dedicated to rooting roses during the ideal time to do so. CLICK HERE.
I love to get a head start on potted beauty
In Fall I pot up my tulip bulbs. We get late heavy snows. Like May, right when my tulips are at their peak. It slaps them right to the ground so I have decided to pot up any new ones I buy to enjoy in Spring and if we get a late snow storm I can move the potted tulips under cover and keep right on enjoying them. Something I mentioned before but it bears repeating. I can keep an eye on the moisture content of the pot by seeing how damp the side of the pot is, which tells me if I need to water or not.
I also plant up dahlias in the greenhouse. Not only do they get a head start but I can propagate them too.
One of the big pluses for me with terra cotta is their weight. Plants that can tend to be top heavy won’t topple over like they can with lighter weight pots. This has been a trouble for me. I don’t have huge pots so lifting and moving has not been a problem but if it were they do have plant dollies that work great. Move It Plant Dolly
My pet flamingos would topple a plastic pot but even in a relatively medium sized pot they share with some rosemary they stay upright.
Terra Cotta pots organic feel and look are perfect for the herb plants that I use to make fun topiaries. Two of my favorites are lavender and rosemary but topiaries can become top heavy, having pots with good bottom weight is the fix.
Have you tried testing out whether terra cotta works better for you?
Trial and error have been the best way I have found in all my gardening adventures. I did not even try using terra cotta because of reading so much about how superior plastic was. I even sold a wood crate filled with terra cotta pots because I was just not going to use them when I had so much plastic. head slap
Give terra cotta a try. You may find it works for you too. I have found them also to be inexpensive. The smaller pots that fit on a window sill are about $1 to $2 at garden centers.