Pros, Cons, and Tips for Terracotta Pots

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If you are a plant connoisseur or a green thumb beginner, more than likely, you’ve been drilled with the fact terracotta pots are said to be the holy grail of plant pots. Terracotta pots are pots made of baked clay. In Italian, the name terracotta translates to “cooked earth,” so what could be better for a plant than placing it back into the earth.

Terracotta pots are a favorite because they are inexpensive, versatile, and timeless. If you are not a fan, it is probably due to a typical terracotta pot’s orange/red color. The color comes from the iron elements in clay when it’s baked and reactant to oxygen. Luckily for you, there are ways to personalize these pots and make them fit into your decor.

If you are about to purchase your plant’s first pot, repot your entire indoor garden, or if you’re simply gathering information, this article will break down the pros, cons, tips, and tricks about terracotta pots.

Terracotta Pots Pros

Terracotta pots pros easily surpass the cons, but we are going to talk about it all. Let’s start by listing the pros.

Versatility

Terracotta pots are versatile; they come in a vast range of sizes. Due to their size variants, you can add rope to be easily hung, placed on shelving, work as centerpieces, or house large floor trees.

Decor

Many people find terracotta pots to be a decor killer due to their red clay color. However, that is looking at it all wrong. Terracotta pot color will fit into almost any decor as an earthy tone, but there are methods to paint or distress these pots if the natural orange is still not your cup of tea.

Price Tag

Price was mentioned previously, yet it is significant enough to reiterate. If you are a plant lover and find yourself sneaking away to the local greenhouse regularly to find new plants and pots, the cost can add up quickly. Terracotta pots are lifesavers for those of us the invest fortunes into plants, and the low price is also great for those who want to add plants but simply cannot manage to spend a hefty chunk of change on a pot.

Soil Aeration

Terracotta pots make overwatering a plant significantly more difficult. These “cooked earth” plant holders are porous and allow air and water to move through, which helps prevent overwatering, root rot, and soil disease. The more oxygen that can flow to plants’ roots, the better a plant will be long-term. If your terracotta pot is painted or glazed, it will not be as effective in this nature but still proves more beneficial than ceramic, metal, plastic, or other pot material types.

Drainage

The fact that terracotta pots always have predrilled drainage holes is silly to love, but it is necessary for every plant. Knowing you can go to the store and grab one of these pots and not have to worry about drilling a hole yourself may be silly, but it is one minor step that is nice to be able to skip before potting a new plant.

Terracotta Pots Cons

The time has come to list the few cons of using terracotta pots.

Fragile

Terracotta pots are fragile. They will most likely break if dropped or mishandled. Terracotta pots are also sensitive to cold weather, meaning they can crack if the temperature drops or if allowed to freeze.

Increases Watering Frequency

An advantage to these pots is that they help prevent plants from becoming saturated with too much water. However, this can be a double-edged sword since these pots are porous, water will pass through faster than other pot types, and soil will dry out significantly quicker. Until you become familiar with how quickly your plant will dry out in a terracotta pot, it is best to check it more frequently to see how often it needs water.

Drip Saucers Required

This con also relates to the porousness of the pots. When a plant in a terracotta pot is watered, you can expect the water to seep to some extent out of the pot itself, not just through the drainage hole. Always place a plastic, metal, or glazed terracotta saucer under the pot to catch excess water, preventing it from damaging surfaces in your home.

Prepping Terracotta Pots for Planting

An important fact about a terracotta pot is that you must never just throw in the soil and the plant and say it is good to go. The terracotta pot needs prep work first.

Follow these steps for terracotta pot prep:

  • Soaking – Before using a terracotta pot for the first time, fill up a sink or bathtub with water and soak the pot for a minimum of 30 minutes if you can soak them overnight or a full 12 hours even better. By soaking the pot, it will prevent the pot from absorbing all the water from your plant.
  • Coffee filters – Insert a coffee filter into the bottom of the pot. The coffee filter will allow water to pass through the drainage hole while keeping the soil retained.
  • Planting – Finally, you are ready to pour in the soil and place your plant of choice.

Tips and Tricks For Using Terracotta Pots

After much research and experience, we have gathered a few tips and tricks to try implementing to help you enjoy terracotta pots even more.

  • Saucers – Always use a saucer of some kind underneath your pot to catch water drainage and prevent damage to furniture or other surfaces.
  • Size up – Use pots slightly larger than you needed to help plants retain water better.
  • Pass on tap water – If possible, do not use tap water. Tap water is full of hard minerals that are already harsh on the plant itself, but they can also damage clay pots.
  • Soil – Use well-draining soil. Cacti, succulent, orchid, and or palm-type potting mixes are great for these pots.
  • Paint – You can paint your pot to help it match the decor better. Painting will allow you to go crazy with colors or a favorite seems to be creating a distressed aging look on terracotta pots.

How To Clean Terracotta Pots

After some time, you will notice your terracotta pot developing some white residue, or maybe it is just that time of year to freshen up potting soil. Both of those reasons indicate a wonderful time to clean your pot, and luckily, it’s easy to do.

Steps for cleaning terracotta pots:

  • Gather supplies – Before cleaning begins, go ahead and gather everything you need. Grab a brush with heartier bristles; it’s a good idea to keep a flower pot bristle brush on hand. You will also need white vinegar, bleach, and water.
  • Vinegar soak – White vinegar is the secret weapon for removing hard-built-up crusts, water stains, salts, potting mixes, and other residues. Mix 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water and soak the terracotta pots for an hour; after soaking, use the brush to brush away all the build-up residues.
  • Bleach – Bleach is for disinfecting pots. Mix 1 part bleach to 10 parts water and soak for 6 hours. Bleach soaking will remove any potential plant bacteria’s, viruses, and pests lurking in the pots.
  • Water soak – After you have vinegar soaked and bleach soaked, you will still need to water soak your pots for at least an hour. Water soaking will rinse off all chemicals and allow the porous pots to soak up all the desired water.

Get To Planting

Hopefully, this article has broken down the good and the bad of terracotta pots. Researching pots before making them home additions is beneficial in helping to make informed decisions on how your plant and pot will live harmoniously. Now, it is time to get to planting in your timeless terracotta pots.

FAQ

Sometimes terracotta pots will include a saucer to place underneath. This is a great addition if the terracotta saucer has a glaze overlay preventing it from absorbing and releasing water. The saucer’s purpose is to catch excess water drainage, but if the saucer is made from the same porous material as the pot without a glaze, water can easily seep out of the saucer if in excess.

Bleach disinfecting is up to you. It is recommended to disinfect with bleach between pot uses because you cannot see with the naked eye bacteria, fungi, or pests that could have seeped into the pot. Bleach disinfecting will help ensure you that nothing potentially gets transmitted to a new plant.

How painting affects the pots will depend on the type of paint you choose. Typical paint will form a seal over the outside of your pot, and it will no longer be as porous as it once was. Some distressing techniques that do not include paint can adjust the color of the pot without affecting porous qualities.

Terracotta pots are made of clay. They have a red/orange appearance because they have been molded and fired, allowing oxygen and iron elements in the clay to mix.

Yes, terracotta pots are excellent to use time after time. These pots are fragile, you must be gentle with them throughout their lives, and routine cleaning is necessary each time you plant a new plant. However, with the proper care, terracotta pots can last years.

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