Clay flower pots span the wonderfully wide range of container possibilities. From the plainest styles to elegant, refined terra cotta, to the lovely glazes available in high-fired clay types–you’ll find exactly what you’re looking for to plant a container garden that’s just your style.
Here are these three most popular types, explained in detail. And below the explanations are ways to enhance even the plainest garden planter by aging, mossing, or painting.
Plain clay flower pots
These are the workhorses of the container garden. They come in large and small varieties, and can be more and less formal-looking.
At the low end of the price scale, the least expensive clay pots are great if you need a good number and if you’re planting blooming flowers that this low-key base won’t compete with visually.
Clay garden pots also fit a lot of decors—from minimalist to fancy. You can dress them up or down. Look for thick walls, no cracks, and of course drainage holes.
The Good News: they’re plentiful, come in a lot of sizes, are inexpensive, blend well into many décors.
The Bad News: They break easily (but you can use them in planter bottoms over drain holes), and chip. They’re porous, so they dry out easily and might require more frequent watering than other choices, especially in the smaller sizes. You can line the inside of clay garden pots to minimize evaporation, but you also want to ensure that you don’t promote water-logged roots. Roots need both water and oxygen—in the right combination.
Terra Cotta pots
Sometimes spelled “terracotta,” this is a type of clay pot. “Terra cotta” literally means “baked earth.” The best pots come from Italy, and are delicately colored due to the soil composition.
I love terra cotta garden pots. They’re subtly and delicately colored.
These planters also get an old-world weathered look over time and are great complements to flowers because they’re supportive, but not assertive. I think the garden pots themselves are little treasures and beautiful even when they’re empty.
The Good News: They’re versatile and classy. Look better as they age. Support a wide range of flower displays and décor styles.
The Bad News: They break. They chip. They’re porous (because they’re clay!). They’re a little weaker, in fact, than the more mundane clay pot because of the lowness, relatively speaking, of the firing temperature.
Still, with all that said, they’re beautiful.
Glazed Ceramic Pots
These are clay pots fired at a higher temperature than unglazed garden pots. This gives them strength the regular clay pots lack. Still, they do chip and break, so be careful. The colors these pots come in are wonderful—deep blues, turquoise fit for the Caribbean, subdued greens . . . the variety is nearly endless. Plus often this great glazing is combined with decorative work on the pots’ sides. These can be very showy or unobtrusive. Really lovely. You do need to bring these pots in for winter—they’ll crack if left out.
The Good News: Beautiful, come in large and small sizes, are heavy and stable.
The Bad News: More expensive than clay pots. Can chip and break. Can’t take winter outside (fall is fine, just no freezing).
Now, if you’d like to know how to spruce up your plain clay flower pots, try one of these ideas
Clay Flower Pot Possibilities
Aging: Clay flower pots tend to turn white as they age naturally, leaching out the minerals as you water over the years. To get that look quickly, simply paint with a lime powder and water solution. Martha Stewart gives step by step instructions here.
To get moss to grow on your terra cotta or plain clay flower pots, chop green moss and let it dry. Mix this with either yoghurt or buttermilk (add water if you need to) and paint it on your pot. Mist daily to keep the mixture moist and in about 4-6 weeks, you should have moss growing on your pot. Don’t use spaghnum or Spanish moss, though–these won’t work. This method is also best for clay flower pots in shady areas.
There are lots of paints you can use on clay flower pots, too. The best idea is to seal both the inside and outside first with a clear sealant. Paint with several coats of acrylic paint (let dry thoroughly between coats) and then seal again with a clear varnish or sealant of your choice. Make sure your pots are very clean before you start and also make very sure you seal every nook and cranny outside and in.