One of the first things to consider when deciding to start a garden is where and how to plant your plants. Many gardeners take into consideration the lighting, soil type, and location, but many times overlook the actual container used to house the plant. While the other items are extremely important, understanding the container you are using can be just as important for optimal growth.
Today, we will focus on one of the most popular container types for both indoor and outdoor gardening, the terra-cotta pot. These pots are usually very cheap and easy to obtain making them an excellent first choice for many gardeners. However, there are some things to keep in mind when using them to ensure your plants reach their maximum potential.
If you’re interested in other container types for indoor gardening check out our more in-depth container gardening guide! We’ll also briefly touch on a couple of other popular pot types at the end of this article.
Start With The Size
The first thing to keep in mind when using terra-cotta pots, as well as any type of container, is the plant’s optimal grow size. The size of the pot is going to be a limiting factor in the size your plant grows to. So if you’re looking to grow a large plant then you’ll need a pot sized to match. The opposite is true if you wish to grow a smaller plant.
In many cases, you’ll need multiple pots as your plant grows. Many plants like to be planted in a pot that is only slightly bigger, which gives them just enough room for growth. Then, you’ll need to repot them, usually every 1-2 years, as they outgrow the container.
Clay pots come in a wide variety of sizes, so you’ll usually be able to find one that fits your needs. Be sure to get one that is both wide enough as well as deep. Deep roots plants for example generally need a taller pot to allow for proper room for root growth.
Ensure Clean Pots
Next, always make sure the pot you’re using is clean; especially if you’re reusing a pot from outdoors. Scrub out any dirt or debris, and allow the pot to soak in warm, soapy water overnight. This prevents the spread of any sort of disease or pests from older plants to your new ones. You’ll also want to do this even when purchasing from a store to ensure there’s not a nasty surprise waiting in the form of pests.
Before adding your soil you can also add a few inches of pebbles or gravel. This helps promote proper drainage and is important for many plants that are susceptible to overwatering. This also helps with airflow in the soil which helps prevent mold growth.
One of the most interesting attributes of clay pots is their ability to whisk water out of the soil. This is due to the porous nature of the clay. Generally, this is a good thing, and helps prevent overwatering your plants. Most plants don’t like to be sitting in too damp of soil and this property will help prevent that.
You do want to be careful though. This water-whisking property means that your soil will naturally dry out faster. This can sometimes lead to underwatering issues, so make sure you’re keeping up with your plant’s needs!
Why Are My Pots Turning White?
A common issue many people using clay pots for the first time bring up is the buildup of a white material on the outside of the pot. Rest assured that this is completely normal, and won’t harm your plants in any way.
This is actually the result of calcium and other minerals in the water being absorbed into the clay. It’s a natural process as the clay whisks away water and some of the minerals are left over. It’s not harmful to your plants, so it’s nothing to worry about.
If you dislike the look you can use some warm water and a stiff brush to gently remove the buildup. This is usually enough to remove it and make your pots look brand new.
At the end of the day, terra-cotta clay pots are an excellent choice for a variety of plants. They are very popular and cheap while still providing a perfectly healthy environment for your plants to grow. If you keep the above tips in mind, you’re sure to be growing beautiful plants in no time!
Pros and Cons
Pros Of Clay Pots
- Cheap and easy to use
- Water whisking makes overwatering less of a concern
- Provides great airflow
- Good both indoors and outdoors
- Easy to paint and decorate
Cons Of Clay Pots
- Water whisking can be harmful to plants that want
- Cold weather can cause them to crack
Other Types Of Garden Pots
As mentioned above, clay is our favorite pot material, but it’s far from the only show in town. Below, you’ll find some brief details on other popular pot types. If you’re looking for a more in-depth guide to any of these, then check out our full guide to container gardening.
A cheap and popular material that’s easy to DIY into your ideal shape and size. Make sure to properly finish to prevent rotting and mold.
Like clay, cement is porous and will help with water control. Be aware that cement is heavy, and that much more so when filled with soil. It’s best to position this pot type before planting as it can be difficult to move afterward.
Cheap, popular, and easy to customize, plastic is our next choice over clay. This material is not porous, so is good for plants where overwatering is not an issue.
There are dozens of other creative container types available. Everything from mason jars to old shoes can be used to grow plants with a little creativity.
Clay Pots FAQ
Is Food Grown In Terra Cotta Safe?
Yes, you can grow edible plants in terra cots pots safely.
Can You Paint Terra Cotta Pots?
Yes, you can paint and decorate them. In most cases, this will have minimal to no effect on the pot's ability to “breath”, so it is unlikely to cause your plants any problems.
Do You Need To Water Terra Cotta Pots More?
Depending on the plant you might need to. Terra cotta whisks water so will dry out the soil more quickly than other containers. If you have a plant that needs a lot of water then you may need to water it a bit more to keep the soil moist.
What are The Best Plants That Grow in Pots?
Nearly any type of plant will grow well in plants. Issues tend to arise when growing very large plants like trees or certain vegetables that need more space than a pot can provide. Outside of that, most popular houseplants, herbs, fruits, and veggies can be grown perfectly well in pots.