Terra Cotta Questions

peachymomo(Ca 8)May 15, 2013

I considered posting this on the garden crafts forum but it looked like there isn't much traffic there, so I hope you don't mind having the discussion here.

I remember seeing something years ago about painting the inside of terra cotta pots with something that would act like glaze, to keep the soil from being in contact with the clay and drying out so quickly. I tried searching for the technique but couldn't come up with the right combo of search terms, I mainly got stuff about soaking the pots in water before planting. One site said you can glaze them yourself, if you have a kiln, which I don't. I'm just wondering because I saw a very cool terra cotta pot at the nursery yesterday, but in our summer heat they need to be watered twice a day if they are unglazed.

Alternately, have you ever heard of a pottery place that will glaze single fired terra cotta pots for people? Would it be super expensive for a large pot?

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Hi Peachy. I've used Mod Podge to treat the insides of containers to make them water worthy for cut flowers. I imagine it would be the same for terra cotta pots. It takes a couple of coats. I think I'll try it myself - I'm all for cutting down on watering and I prefer the look of terra cotta to something glazed. Thanks for the idea!


    Bookmark   May 15, 2013 at 11:44AM
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aftermidnight Zone7b B.C. Canada

I've used a product to seal terracotta pots from frost damage, just can't remember the name of it off hand but if you google terracotta pot sealers you should find something that would work for you.


    Bookmark   May 15, 2013 at 11:55AM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

An alternative approach would be to get a plastic pot which fits snugly inside the terracotta one and sits just below the rim so it is invisible. Also makes it easy to swap plant in and out.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2013 at 1:54PM
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peachymomo(Ca 8)

Unless the pot you happen to fall in love with is irregularly shaped... which of course it is. It looks kind of like three stacked pie quarters, each a little smaller than the one below. I was thinking it might be a nice way to grow strawberries, or at the very least pretty with flowers. I looked around and found a product online that is made just for sealing terra cotta pots. I ordered some, once it arrives I'll give it a try and post the results.

Of course there is the method of using a plastic bag or bubble wrap to provide a barrier, but this product got good reviews and I would rather have a sealer than a liner for some reason.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2013 at 5:20PM
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Hi peachymomo,..i have a vast amount of Terracotta Pots and about a dozen are size 14 inch i don't mind the soil being in contact with the pot as to prevent the soil from drying i use Moisture Retaining Crystals and use them likewise in hanging baskets.

I see you are located in Ca so you would have a warmer climate to mine however i was always led to believe that the Terracotta Pots retain moisture more so than plastic or similar,..and if this is so then to glaze inside would not be beneficial.


    Bookmark   May 15, 2013 at 5:38PM
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First I've heard about sealing terra cotta pots. Here in Ohio that might be beneficial to help ward off cracking during hard frosts or cold temps in Fall like Annette mentioned, because they do retain moisture. Otherwise I kind of agree with glengarry.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2013 at 8:33PM
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peachymomo(Ca 8)

They might retain more moisture in a wet climate, but in a dry summer area like Ca they act like a wick and pull all of the water out of the soil, I know from experience. Even a large terra cotta pot requires twice daily watering during the heat of summer here, though I haven't tried moisture retention crystals I think they would only slow it down. I was actually planning on sealing and using the crystals, because I'm tired of having pretty pots full of flowers dry out die in a day.

The other upside of sealing is that it makes the pots last longer, by keeping water out of the clay they don't grow brittle so quickly. The stuff I got is sold by a lady who does decorative pottery, apparently it's good for those who want to paint their pots because it stops the colors from running or being ruined by water soaking through.

The only downside I see is that it cancels out the ability of the terra cotta to breathe, but it's that ability that causes it to dry the soil so fast. I bought some fancy glazed terra cotta pots for my Mom last mother's day and the hydrangeas in them have been very happy, as compared to the things I planted in unglazed pots they stay much more hydrated.

This post was edited by peachymomo on Thu, May 16, 13 at 11:01

    Bookmark   May 16, 2013 at 10:59AM
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Has anyone ever tried Thompson's Water Seal Clear Multi-Surface Waterproofer on terra cotta pots?

I'm not sure if it's the heat or the sun (or maybe the high mineral content of the water) here in the desert southwest, but the large Mexican-type pots I get at Home Depot and Lowe's only last a season or two before they start to deteriorate and crumble. The ones with the carved designs seem to be the worst. I didn't want to use anything that might be toxic to the plants.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2013 at 7:21PM
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hosenemesis(SoCal Sunset 19 USDA 8b)

Roofing tar or Thoroseal are the best materials to prevent the decomposition of cheap terracotta. Both will also help retain moisture. Thoroseal is a cementitious sealer that is used in ponds, basements, etc. Roofing tar is much easier to come by.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2013 at 11:05PM
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Hi, when I had a container garden in LA, I placed sphagnum moss at the bottom of my pots to retain moisture and encourage roots to grow deeper. Worked very well. I had orchids so I had extra moss hanging around.

I agree with terracotta pots absorbing and allowing plants to dry out quicker. For ornamentals I think some glaze would be fine but I would hestitate for anything I would be eating as the glaze might not be safe.

Hope this helps!

    Bookmark   November 6, 2013 at 10:28PM
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