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Friday Favorite: Terracotta

January 14th, 2011

You may have noticed that I love terra-cotta. I’m not a big fan of plastic or foam pots, I don’t feel like they have the warmth that real terra-cotta does. There’s just something so classic about a terra-cotta pot spilling over with flowers. One of the things I also love about terra-cotta is the way it ages, with such grace. They never look old, they just look like they belong.

I’ve been collecting terra-cotta pots for quite a while, buying them here and there. My sister gets them for me at garage sales, people give them to me. I have teeny tiny ones only a few inches high and huge heavy one that I can barely lift, I have short ones, tall ones, thin ones, fat ones and even a few square ones. One of the benefits of terra-cotta is that they’re fairly inexpensive as well, much cheaper than glazed ceramic containers. I also like that I can find them made in the USA or in Italy, most of the glazed pots are from China.

One of the drawbacks of terra-cotta is that you have to overwinter them where they won’t be exposed to the harsh elements. I empty mine out in the fall, dry them, and stack them on shelves in the garage. A few plants are overwintered in them in the basement or garage and they do quite well this way. This pot of chives was overwintered in the garage and put out in the spring, it’s covered in a late spring snow so it’s safe from the hard freezing and thawing that it would be subject to if I left it out all winter.

My ultimate favorite terra-cotta item is a cloche and coming in second is a nice rhubarb forcing pot. I don’t own either and most likely never will, but one can dream! If I ever travel to England I’ll try to find a way to bring back a rhubarb forcing pot, HMM… wonder if that will fit in the overhead bin? I may look into having a local potter make me some cloches for the garden, they won’t be terra-cotta but perhaps a glazed ceramic or clay instead.

Do you have a favorite kind of container in the garden?

23 Comments to “Friday Favorite: Terracotta”
  1. A Year In My Garden on January 14, 2011 at 5:39 am

    I’m with you on terracotta – i hate plastic pots, but i like to mix them up with some decroated popts and some metal – and i don’t particularly like terracotta when it’s new – it’s too shiny

    Reply to A Year In My Garden's comment

    • Susy on January 14, 2011 at 9:13 am

      Yes, they look so much better after they’ve aged for a few years. I have some other ceramic pots in my collection that I mix in, they’re smaller ones. Here’s a look at my windowsill on the outside of the garage window with a few of my pots.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  2. Sue on January 14, 2011 at 5:43 am

    I just LOVE your pots. Your tiny ones are so cute!!
    I’ve collected clay pots for years….every year I buy a new one as a kickoff to the new gardening season. My favorites, however, are the old ones picked up at tag sales, etc that are well weathered, limey, full of character!

    Reply to Sue's comment

    • Susy on January 14, 2011 at 9:15 am

      I got those tiny pots at IKEA once a long time ago, I have giant ones just like them (they’re the ones with the star topiaries beside the door in my holiday decor). The old ones are so much better, I often let new ones sit out in the garden for a season without using them so they get nicely weathered. I have an old one that my mom gave me with cherubs & stuff one it. It’s in the basement overwintering a fig.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  3. HOT PINK DAHLIA on January 14, 2011 at 6:42 am

    So how exactly does a Rhubarb forcing pot is a way to grow Rhubarb so it does not spread so big???

    Reply to HOT PINK DAHLIA's comment

    • Susy on January 14, 2011 at 9:06 am

      The ones you put in the garden just warm them up so they produce earlier and they will also blanch the rhubarb. You can dig up roots and force them in pots as long as they get a few hard freezes. Rhubarb forcing pots are like cloches. Here’s a photo on Flickr of a few forcing pots:

      Reply to Susy's comment

  4. Nebraska Dave on January 14, 2011 at 9:54 am

    I do have some terra-cotta pots but most of mine are self watering plastic containers. I’m always afraid that I’m going to break the clay pots. The wind blows pretty strong here with gusts sometime up to 50 MPH. I have had some of my pots blow off the retaining wall and if they were clay they would have broken. Then there’s the neighborhood kid factor. My six year old grandson and his two compadres aren’t too careful aroung the plants at times. I would not like to have any injuries due to broken pots. When my container plants mature not much of the pot is seen anyway. I have to agree that the majestic look of the country terra-cotta pot can’t be beat in the landscape but it’s just too risky for me at this time.

    Have a great terra-cotta day.

    Reply to Nebraska Dave's comment

  5. louisa @ TheReallyGoodLife on January 14, 2011 at 10:02 am

    To keep my set up costs low, I’ve been using mostly cheap & ugly plastic pots up til now but I’m slowly converting to terracotta or clay pots & wooden planters – I’m rather jealous of your terracotta collection! So pretty!

    Reply to louisa @ TheReallyGoodLife's comment

  6. Amy W. on January 14, 2011 at 10:17 am

    We use terra cotta pots here as well but for silk flowers and arrangements though but we have a few pretty decorative plastic type pots that our cats love to lay in, in the Spring time and Summer.


    Reply to Amy W.'s comment

  7. Kaytee on January 14, 2011 at 11:13 am

    I do love terracotta. Sadly, most of my pots are plastic (few I purchased in order to keep price down, a several are pots that I’ve bought plants in and have kept). I do have one terracotta pot that is my favorite. It tipped over at one point and cracked, but it has stayed together so I refuse to get rid of it. I think I might scour garage sales this year to try to acquire more.

    Reply to Kaytee's comment

    • Susy on January 14, 2011 at 10:20 pm

      Yes, I’ve had a few cracked pots, I’ve glued them back together and that has worked fairly well.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  8. melissa on January 14, 2011 at 11:28 am

    I love terra cotta too. I think probably my most fun container has been a used whiskey barrel that is the current home of my herb garden. The only problem with the whiskey barrel is once you fill it with dirt, that’s where it is going to stay.

    this is my new favorite, although it doesn’t have anything in it yet:

    Reply to melissa's comment

    • Susy on January 14, 2011 at 10:21 pm

      Very cool, I bet baby’s tears would be very cool in this wall pot.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  9. MAYBELLINE on January 14, 2011 at 11:29 am

    I like to use planters of different types. I can slide a potted plant in quickly for a new look then change things up whenever.

    Reply to MAYBELLINE's comment

  10. annie on January 14, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    I also love terracotta! And glazed. Plastic pots make me kind of sad and they definitely don’t age well. We eschew plastic in our lives anyhow. However, I’m actually a terrible container gardener. I keep trying and I have a ton of pots, but I’m not good at all. I work best in the ground.

    Reply to annie's comment

    • Susy on January 14, 2011 at 10:22 pm

      We also try to not have plastic around, which is one of the reasons I’ve been collecting terra-cotta pots. Not to mention those little back ones are kind of annoying.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  11. Tommy on January 14, 2011 at 12:59 pm

    I have a handful of terracotta pots, and it seems like every year I have one crack—usually so bad that I can’t use it anymore. I live in Southern California, so there aren’t freezing temps to deal with. Any idea why this happens? Too much water, not enough?
    Just wondering if you’ve had this experience.


    Reply to Tommy's comment

    • Susy on January 14, 2011 at 10:25 pm

      It may be the heat, do you know where they were fired? I’ve read that terra-cotta made in the USA and Italy are fired at hotter temps and therefore are stronger than that made in Mexico and in Asia. It might be the heat. Perhaps you could look into using linseed oil or some kind of finish on your pots to seal them so water won’t get into the terra-cotta.

      Not sure but perhaps if you use chemical fertilizers in you container plants that may also weaken the terra-cotta. Bleach will do this as well, which is why I do not use it on my pots.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  12. Dirt Gently on January 14, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    @Tommy – perhaps freezing isn’t necessary to damage the pots. Could it be large and sudden changes in temperature and humidity are causing the cracks? I have in mind here the cracks that form in parched soil.

    My problem is that my terracotta pots frequently get stained by what I’m guessing are mineral deposits, as in the second picture from the top of the post. Is there anything I can do to get rid of them, and avoid them in the first place? Scrubbing with plenty of water and elbow grease doesn’t seem to do the trick.

    Reply to Dirt Gently's comment

    • Susy on January 14, 2011 at 8:53 pm

      I would try using vinegar on them, that works well on the mineral deposits in my shower.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  13. margaret on January 14, 2011 at 8:41 pm

    In addition to terracotta I love wine barrels and galvanized steel pots. I’ve also used old boots, logs with opens holes and baskets. The baskets break down at some point but I think they still look good. I’ve also use broken terracotta pots in the garden.

    Reply to margaret's comment

    • Susy on January 14, 2011 at 8:53 pm

      I too like old galvanized but can’t seem to find too many locally as I don’t frequent antique shops much. I’ll start working on my collection.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  14. Sincerely, Emily on January 14, 2011 at 11:34 pm

    Love terracotta! Love the old ages, weather loved look. They work great for actually holding plants, but also turned upside down to cover fragile seedlings in the spring against cold nights or frost. I find them at thrift stores, garage sales, where ever. But I do use the flat plastic trays for starting seeds. I agree with wanting to buy and and less plastic. I feel a bit better knowing these are items given to my by friends and neighbors that buy flats or 6-packs of plants and then give me the plastic container to re-use instead of throwing or recycling it. I give it a 2nd, 3rd, 4th life depending how long it lasts for me, then I recycle it.

    Reply to Sincerely, Emily's comment

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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