Terracotta Pots Aren’t Just Stylish, They Are Functional Too
I’ll be honest – when I first got into keeping houseplants I used to really dislike the look of terracotta pots. I avoided using terracotta at all costs for my houseplants , and frequently planted all of my plants in decorative planters or in plastic pots. But it wasn’t long until I started realizing that terracotta pots actually have lots of functional benefits. And as it turns out, I have really grown to love the rustic look and feel of terracotta. I now have about half of my plants potted in terracotta pots.
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What is Terracotta?
Terracotta is a clay-based ceramic non-vitreous material. Vitrification is achieved during the firing stage for pottery and ceramics, and it is responsible for making a substance impermeable to water. Terracotta can be glazed (which makes it watertight) or unglazed, and has been used by humans for thousands of years.
Benefits of Terracotta Pots
So what are the benefits of using terracotta pots? It all essentially comes down to this: because it is non-vitreous, terracotta is an extremely porous material.
As a result, there are several functional benefits of potting your plants in terracotta pots.
1. Terracotta Absorbs Water
First and foremost, terracotta soaks up water quickly which makes it great for plants that like dry soil. This also makes it great for preventing root rot (usually a result of overwatering). Examples would be plants like cacti, succulents, snake plants, etc. I actually found it hard to keep my succulents alive indoors before I switched them into terracotta pots.
Terracotta pots also make it easy to tell when a plant needs to be watered. This is because you can visibly see where the water has been absorbed into the porous material. When the soil has moisture left in it, water lines can be seen in the terracotta. For plants that like to thoroughly dry out between watering, ensure that the terracotta is fully dry before watering again. For plants that like the top inch of soil to dry out between waterings, wait until the water line is at least an inch away from the top of the pot before you water again. And so on – I think you get the idea!
Chronic over-waterers: these are the pots for you – trust me on this one.
2. Terracotta Breathes
This may be self-explanatory – but let’s state it for the record: because terracotta is porous, it “breathes” well – meaning air and other particles can pass through it easily. This helps to keep the soil healthy and prevent disease, among other things.
3. Terracotta Pots are Eco-Friendly
For those who are looking for an eco-friendly potting option for their houseplants, terracotta is an ideal choice. As a natural, clay-based material terracotta is 100% biodegradable. Additionally, broken terracotta pots can be easily up-cycled and used to create decorative planters, succulent container gardens, fairy gardens, and more.
4. Aged Terracotta Looks Cool
Or I think it does anyways! Lots of stores even sell artificially ‘aged’ terracotta because of its rustic appearance. Although it really doesn’t take long for a terracotta pot to age naturally, especially if your city’s water is extremely hard so I’d save your money on those (but if I’m being honest, I have purchased them before). After a couple of weeks of regular watering you should start to notice mineral deposits from the water on the outside of the pot.
If at some point, you notice mouldy looking white deposits on the outside of your terracotta pots don’t panic! It won’t harm the plant. Cut back on watering slightly and it should resolve itself. If you don’t like the look of it, simply wipe it off with a paper towel or dry towel.
5. Terracotta is Cost-Effective
Terracotta pots are cheap guys. Like, really cheap. You can’t beat $1.00 or under for regular sized pots. It certainly makes me rethink the expensive decorative planters I occasionally splurge on – but hey, it’s a give and take right?
6. Terracotta Comes in Lots of Shapes and Sizes
I used to dislike the terracotta pots sold in my area because of their shape. I didn’t realize that terracotta pots actually come in lots of different shapes, styles, and sizes.
Personally, my favourite style of terracotta pot is the “European style” pot. They look more minimal and rustic. It takes a bit of searching to find them in my area, however I have found them at IKEA several times.
Terracotta pots come in almost any size you could imagine. From tiny one-inch pots to large planters that are several feet in diameter there is no shortage of sizes to choose from. Plus, you can purchase them nearly anywhere!
Plants That Do Well in Terracotta Pots
Any plant can technically do well in terracotta. However, some plants may require more upkeep when grown in terracotta pots than others. Although moisture-loving plants can be successfully grown in terracotta pots, they will require more frequent watering since terracotta absorbs so much water from the soil. On the other hand, plants that need consistently dry soil thrive in terracotta pots. These plants include:
- Snake plants
- Mediterranean herbs
- ZZ Plants
- And more!
Don’t get me wrong – there is still a time and place for plastic pots and houseplants. But for the right plants, terracotta pots are the perfect potting containers.
How do you clean terracotta pots?
If you’d like to clean the outside of your terracotta pots, simply use a solution of white vinegar and water to scrub the outside of the pot clean. Allow it to dry completely before planting anything inside again.
Do you need to soak terracotta pots?
Soaking terracotta pots before using them for your plants can help to reduce the amount of moisture that the pot absorbs from the soil. It is not necessary, but can be useful for certain plants where you don’t want the soil drying out as quickly.
Can you paint terracotta pots?
Yes, it is totally fine to paint your terracotta pots. However, it will affect how quickly the terracotta pulls moisture from the soil, and you may notice that the soil does not dry out as quickly. As long as you are aware of this and prepared to cut back on watering slightly – paint to your heart’s desire!