Save Water, Save Money: Seal Terracotta Pots With A Household Product

Posted on Feb 13, 2014

terracotta pots sealant

How To Seal Terracotta Pots With What You Probably Already Have At Home.

Terracotta pots are a staple in many gardens and landscapes and are used for everything from decorative plantings to raised gardens to fish ponds and fountains. Terracotta, or ‘baked earth” pottery is made from fired clay and gets its beautiful colors from the iron found in the material.  Its beautiful, versatile and can be cheap… which is why I like it.  The only drawback to terracotta is that it is porous so plants have to be watered a lot more frequently. A lot more. Not good if you want to save money and save water. In particular, if you get the lighter colored pots that weren’t burnished before being fired, you’ll be watering those plants every day- sometimes twice a day. Who wants to have to do that?! The clay just sucks the water right out of the soil and then it evaporates out of the pots.  The trick to saving money and having great looking plants that you don’t have to water all the time is to seal your pots with stone sealant that you probably already have.

I bought these great terracotta pots with their flat back-sides so I could have plants against the fence in a narrow concrete side yard.  They are right outside my bathroom window and frame the view.  They were a great deal because they were not burnished before firing, as their counterparts, the classic darker pots with the raised band around the top are.  But they were cheap…and they are perfect…  So I bought them.  I hadn’t bought this type of terracotta in a long time so I was shocked to find how much more water they use.  It felt like my plants might as well have been planted in a screen.  Seriously! I can’t tell you how many plants I lost in just a day or two because I didn’t water them soon enough.  Blamo! One day missed and the plant was dead.  GRRR….

 

terracotta pots sealant

 

Finally I had enough and asked The Mister (a Chemical Engineer) what would work best.  I had tried latex (and other stuff I can’t remember!) a long time ago to seal pots that didn’t work.  I figured he was going to tell me some long chemical name and it would be a bear to find and annoying to use and whaa, whaa, whaa.  Turns out I was completely wrong.  The solution was in my garage already!  He suggested I use the leftover stone sealer we used on our travertine floor.  It doesn’t even matter which brand you have.  If it’s meant to seal stone, it’s perfect! If you don’t have granite counter tops or traverine floors that you keep sealant around for, no worries.  Buy the cheapest stone sealant you can find.  It’ll be great.

Stone sealant is what you use every time you seal your granite or marble.  Granite rock and marble slabs or tiles are all stone. Whether you have stone counter tops or floors, you have to seal them from time to time and that same sealant will do wonders for your terracotta pots! Bonus: sealing your terracotta pots, even the classic kind, will help them last longer.

How To Seal Your Terracotta Pots

 1.  Always follow the instructions on the container.  Mine specified a well ventilated area so I did it outside on paper on the driveway.

2. Start with a clean dry pot.  My pots had been used so I had to empty them, clean the soil out and let them dry overnight.

3. Use a  clean, dry brush and cover the inside, outside, and bottom of the pot. You will see the pots suck up the sealant.  I made sure to coat the bottom of the inside very well since gravity makes water loss even worse there.

4.  It will dry really fast.  Add another coat as soon as it’s dry.  And a third.  Cover every square inch well for best results.  It took me about 30 minutes to put three coats on both pots.

5. Let it dry overnight and you’re ready to plant!

 

sealed terracotta pots  close

 

What’s really nice is that the sealant doesn’t change the soft texture of the pots the way a glaze would. Plus, the process is super easy and I can personally attest to the fact that the water consumption of my plants (technically pots) has gone down dramatically.  I only need to water once a week at most since I sealed my pots and my plants are thriving!  They are almost as water wise as a glazed ceramic pot aaaand, with the drought in California right now, it’s one of the easiest ways to save water and one of the easiest ways to save money!

Try which ever stone sealant you have on your terracotta pots.  Your potted plants will require less frequent watering, your pots will last longer, and you’ll save money:0).

Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with Dunn Edwards.  I’m just glad they can color match!

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3 Comments

  1. Great Idea! Thanks for sharing, I love all your wonderful ideas and tips. Keep them coming.

  2. Where did you get your terra cotta flat backed pots? I’m looking for one!

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