Simple terracotta pots, you have seen them everywhere from lying around in your grandparent’s tool shed to a museum of ancient artifacts.
Terracotta pots have a long and storied history and remain popular today because they are crafted from material that works well in homes and gardens. Further, they are inexpensive, durable if handled in the correct way, and versatile for many styles.
What Are Terracotta Pots?
The term “terra-cotta”, also called earthenware, means baked earth in Italian. Therefore, it makes sense that this pottery comes from clay in the earth and then formed in molds to create the shape. Then, they are fired and glazed or left unglazed depending on the desired look.
The color of these pots ranges from ochre yellow to warm pink and brown to bright orange. Terracotta pots work well in some contexts and not as well in others.
Pros of Terracotta Pots
- These pots have a porous composition that allows air and moisture to pass through that prevents rot and disease for certain plants.
- They work in both indoor and outdoor spaces.
- These pots are inexpensive.
- They can be personalized with paint and glaze.
- Clay pots develop a beautiful patina the longer you have them.
- These pots are lighter than comparable pots of stone.
Cons of Terracotta Pots
- These pots crack in the cold or if mishandled.
- Plants in these pots need more water than plants in pots of other materials.
- These pots are heavier than pots that are plastic or metal.
Consider the history of terracotta pots and you will understand why this material has such a devoted following.
History and Popularity of Terracotta
Terracotta pots have been much loved over the centuries. Pottery made from terracotta was a common feature of the ancient world from the west in Greece and Rome to the east in China. Terracotta was even used to craft sculpture and figures in the ancient world. In 1974, seven Chinese farmers accidentally discovered 8,000 life-size terracotta warriors in the tomb of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China who died in 211 BCE.
The clay composition was also used in ancient buildings for decorative purposes. Architects of the ancient world used terracotta for tile roofing in Chinese and Indian temples. Even modern architects value clay for buildings because it is lightweight, fire-resistant, and can be mass-produced.
It remains popular today for pots and decorative figures. Depending on the quality of the clay, terracotta pots have a long life that can be extended with the proper care.
The Care of Terracotta Pots
For all their long history, the material of these pots is not indestructible and must be cared for in order to last. First, make sure that you look at your pots from time to time to see if they are developing any algae or fungus spots. If you see this, empty the pot and clean any residual soil from the interior. You can disinfect it by baking it at 220 degrees Fahrenheit for an hour, cleaning it with a 1:10 ratio of bleach to water, or using a solution of 1:10 vinegar to water.
If you use either of the last two methods, make sure to let the pot dry out over a couple of days before you use it again. Next, make sure to winterize the pots during the cold months by storing them dry, unstacked, and face down. Last, prevent cracks by handling the pots with care and not overfilling them with soil to prevent over-expansion from water.
Choosing the Right Plant for the Pot
Some plants do well in terracotta and some need pots of another material to thrive. In general, plants that prefer drier conditions tend to do well in earthenware pots. Here is a quick list of plants that love terracotta:
- Monstera species
- Snake Plants (Dracaena trifasciata)
- Moth Orchids
- Mediterranean Herbs like Thyme, Rosemary, and Oregano
Pots made with terracotta look great with many styles because it is so universal. Humble terracotta flower pots blend well with bohemian, eclectic, and farmhouse styles. However, more sophisticated terracotta can be found in formal and traditional style too. Further, these pots make perfect gifts because they are easy to decorate and personalize by painting or with tape and markers. Decorated pots make wonderful gifts and are a great kid’s craft too!
Terracotta Pots Ideas
As you will see, clay pots are versatile in style and in how they can be used for crafts and styled in the garden and home spaces. Let’s take a look at some great ideas that we have pulled together for ways that you can incorporate them into your home in a creative way.
Front Door Style
Here is a simple way to use large clay pots in a prime location, framing your front door. This creates a dramatic focal point that can look either modern or traditional. Consider the plants featured in these large pots. The palm plants add a tropical and modern look. However, if you want a more traditional look, try topiary trees in large pots near the front door.
A Garden Above the Ground
Here is a way of creating a garden in an area with a gravel surface rather than a traditional garden under the ground. There is a dramatic number of pots in this garden that cover every part of the ground. Also, we love the variation in the size and style of the pots.
Symmetrical Terracotta Pots
Consider this garden from Bunny Williams. She uses large clay pots to create a symmetrical border that looks classic and elegant. These pots have a decorative raised pattern with a slight patina to create a more formal style.
As careful as we are, pots do break. However, there is an inspired and interesting way for you to use broken pots. Consider this miniature layered garden filled with rocks and succulents. There is a beautiful variation of colors and wood elements to add texture. In the end, a broken pot becomes a work of art.
Strawberry Terracotta Pots
Strawberries have shallow root systems that put out runners. Therefore, growing them in deep containers will not allow the strawberries the surface area they need to grow. However, a terracotta strawberry pot has holes down the sides which allow the plants to surface at every opening. It creates such a beautiful display and brings a little joy to any outdoor space.
Here is an option if you need an inexpensive way to add some interest to a wood fence or blank wall in the garden. Mount pots with brackets in a wreath form and fill with a trailing plant or flowers. It creates a whimsical effect that can be more or less dramatic depending on the plants you choose.
Decorative Terracotta Urn
This decorative terracotta urn and the plinth are the true centerpieces of this garden area. The warm orange color stands out amidst the stone and greenery. Further, the classic shape, height, and positioning create a focal point that is serene but stunning.
Collection of Pots
This space is proof that you can use all those extra pots to create an interesting display in your potting shed. With the stained glass windows and the wide shelf, this potting shed already has a head start in beautiful style, but the collection of mini terracotta pots with larger sizes and the mirror send it over the finish line.
A Terracotta Pot Figure
If you have an overload of small terracotta pots that you aren’t sure what to do with, consider making your own terracotta figure. This figure is whimsical and fun, perfect in a space for children or for children at heart.
Simple Centerpiece of Terracotta Pots
The Martha Stewart group has done it again! They created a centerpiece with textural interest and elegance using three terracotta clay pots with small plants in a metal tray with small pea gravel. Above all, this is a bespoke centerpiece that will make your guests feel inspired and special.
Trio of Terracotta Pots
A grouping of pots of various heights and styles creates a look of harmonious balance. Further, it is elevated without feeling formal and fussy. For a more modern look, keep the lines of the pots straight and tailored and use modern plants like ornamental grasses and vertical plants like snake plants. If you want a classic look try topiaries or evergreen like Yaupon Holly.
A Wall of Herbs
If you don’t have the space to build that spacious herb garden you’ve always wanted, try building one on the wall with a grid of clay pots. However, it is not just the idea of this garden that is inspiring, it is also the scale of it. This gardener knows that one of the surest ways to make an impression is to scale up.
The Painted Terracotta Pot
Painting is an easy way to add interest to the simple shape and dark orange color of these earthenware pots. You can go for a maximalist or a minimalist approach; this depends on the style that you want your pot to evoke. Use bright colors and stencils for crafts with kids, or use white chalk paint to add age to the pot. We love this minimalist painted pot from Olivia O’Hearn. It has just the right amount of paint to make the pots look like an expensive, store-bought pot.
A Candle Display
Here are a set of terracotta plant pots used to display candles. What we love about this is that, even though it is dressy, it has a boho-chic vibe rather than a formal one. Also, this method avoids the messy candle wax that accompanies burning candles. Rather, fill each pot with sand to catch the mess and anchor the candle. However, avoid this display if there are children present as open flames present a fire hazard.
Flower and Plant for Clay Pots
This pot contains the useful trio of types known as “fillers, thrillers, and spillers” in order to create a pleasing balance of plants. The “filler” plant is the decorative bronze sedge grass. Also, the pansies, cyclamen, and skimmia add lovely color, and the variegated ivy spills over the edge to create a romantic and lush effect.
Italian terracotta is well-known for its strength and durability. In particular, pots made from Galestro clay are fired at high temperatures, and therefore it is sturdier and more durable in cold weather. This pot has raised decorative details that are common in Italian and French pottery.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)FAQ
How can I clean terracotta pots?
First, clay pots should be cleaned and sterilized at the end of each use or else they will spread bacteria from one plant to another. Also, they need to be cleaned if you want to remove mold and algae growth. Use a 1:10 water to bleach or water to vinegar solution to clean pots. Wash with the solution. Last, allow them to dry out before using again.
Where can I buy cheap terracotta pots?
Clay pots are inexpensive in general. You can find them at any DIY store and many big box stores. However, the best way to find inexpensive pots is to search at thrift and second-hand stores.
What is the best method for painting terracotta pots?
You can use many different paints to decorate clay pots. Acrylic and spray paint have high color saturation and adhere well to the pots.
How can I age terracotta pots?
There are many methods to create aged terracotta pots. Chalk paint painted and then sanded gives the pot an aged look. Also, you can brush the pot with yogurt and place it in a dark and covered location for about a month. This will age the pot in a natural way.
How should I seal terracotta pots?
If you want to make your pots more resistant to staining, you can seal the pots with paint. However, if you want an option that is less obvious, use a clear water-based sealer like polyurethane or Mod Podge.
Where can I buy large terracotta pots?
Large terracotta pots are available at specialty garden stores. However, if you want to see a wider variety of pots, it is best to search for large pots online.
What is the best way to drill holes in terracotta pots?
If you want to drill holes in clay pots, use a drill fitted with a masonry drill bit. Make sure to drill in a careful and precise way in order to avoid cracking the pot.
How should I whitewash terracotta pots?
Whitewashing is another way to add age or soften the look of a pot. Gather white water-based paint, a brush, water, and a pot. Water the paint down if you prefer a less white look. Begin painting the pot. Allow it to dry. If it is more white than you want, sand it down until you achieve the desired look.
How do I cut terracotta pots?
There are a couple of good ways to cut a terracotta pot. First, you can use a hacksaw fitted with a carbide blade and cut by hand. Draw the lines on the pot and cut in a slow and steady fashion. Next, consider using a Dremel tool fitted with a diamond cutting wheel. For both options, be prepared to generate dust. Last, wear a mask for protection from the particles.
What is the best way to repair a terracotta pot?
The best way to repair a cracked pot is with epoxy glue. First, clean the edges of the crack to remove any dust particles. Next, apply the epoxy to the edge and keep it from spilling over the side. Put the pieces together and press to keep it steady. Last, clean away any glue that has seeped over the side and allow it to dry before using.
Can terracotta pots go in the oven?
Terracotta is a common baking and roasting material for pots and pizza stones. Therefore, even common terracotta pots can go in the oven and work well in evening-out temperature variations. However, allow the pot to preheat with the oven rather than putting it into a hot oven.
Clay and earthenware pots have been around for many years and are still popular today. These pots come in every shape and size and can be used with many different styles of decor. Further, they work well in crafts as they can be painted, covered, and filled to your heart’s desire! Brighten up your indoor or outdoor space or try a bit of DIY. In the end, the results will be stunning without breaking the bank!