What is Terracotta?

The word ‘terracotta’ simply means ‘fired earth’, though the phrase is commonly used to describe the orange-brown colour of this red-burning clay. Usually brown or buff in colour in its uncooked state, the clay turns to its distinctive, orange colour within the kiln, when fired to its maturing temperature.

Terracotta is an earthenware clay, that is, a clay which when fired is porous, a attribute which has contributed to its popularity around the globe as the natural material choice for garden pots and containers.

Care of Terracotta Pots

There are many reasons landscape architects love terracotta pots. They are incredibly durable and versatile, able to fulfilling quite a few purposes and housing plants of all varieties. However, as wonderful as these ceramics may be, they nonetheless require care and maintenance to ensure your terracotta pots last as long as possible. Here are a few care tips for maintaining your pots for years to come.

Preventing Weather Related Cracking

The source of weather associated cracking in terracotta pots is collected water that turns into ice. If ice is able to form inside the pot, the volume expands. This may cause any pot to crack. Making sure the drainage hole stays open allowing water to flow freely out of the pot helps resolve this problem. This prevents water from accumulating inside the vessel which in turn will prevent the possibility of ice forming inside the pot as the temperatures drop below freezing. We also recommend raising the base of pot off the ground a couple of inches. This allows water to flow freely from the drainage hole. We do this by putting four terracotta feet underneath the base of our terracotta pots. The extra elevation prevents the drainage hole from forming a blockage at the exterior of the pot’s base.

Antique Terracotta Pots

An antique terracotta pot that has accumulated plant growth on its exterior. This aesthetic of aged terracotta is one that many people consider distinguished and desirable.

Maintaining a Worn & Aged Aesthetic

From time to time, clients ask, “How should I maintain the appearance of my pots?” Some people prefer to maintain a worn and antique aesthetic. As terracotta pots they will naturally begin to grow algae on their exterior. Most Italians consider this part of their charm. For folks wanting to speed up this process you can place a thin coat of yogurt or buttermilk on the exterior of the pot. This will accelerate plant growth on the surfaces where the material has been applied. If you want your pots to have this antique appearance, we advise against ever cleaning the exterior of the terracotta.

Maintaining a Like New Appearance

Some clients ask, “How can I keep the exterior of my terracotta looking new and clean?” For folks wishing to maintain a clean aesthetic, we recommend washing the exterior of your terracotta pots to remove any unwanted growth or accumulation. You may also use warm water and a coarse haired, synthetic bristled brush. We strongly advise against using chemical substances to clean the exterior as this can accidentally result in an uneven or splotchy appearance.

If the pots are planted up with spring bulbs in the winter, and stored under cover, until the bulbs start to sprout, they can then be moved outside. In this way, they will flower earlier than those set in the garden.

If you’d like to know more about terracotta pots and their care, contact us.