How Do I Choose the Best Clay Flower Pots?

O. Parker

Choosing the best clay flower pot is an important part of growing flowers and plants in containers. There are glazed and unglazed clay pots from which you can choose. In cold areas where the pots will remain outdoors, it's important to select frost-proof pots. The size of the pot and drainage are both important elements to consider when choosing clay flower pots.

Pots made of terracotta clay are porous.
Pots made of terracotta clay are porous.

Unglazed pots are also called terracotta pots. They have a matte finish and a warm reddish brown color. Glazed flower pots can be found in a seemingly endless array of colors and patterns.

Clay pots can be penetrated by water molecules, which can be a problem if freezing occurs.
Clay pots can be penetrated by water molecules, which can be a problem if freezing occurs.

Terracotta flower pots are porous. This allows air flow around the roots and allows moisture to evaporate from the pot. Although terracotta clay flower pots can help minimize over-watering, they do dry out quickly in hot weather. An unglazed terracotta pot might require the flowers in it to be watered as often as twice a day, depending on the heat and the type of flowers.

If terracotta pots are to be left out all winter in cold areas, it is best to select frost-proof pots. The porous nature of the material means that water molecules can penetrate it. As water freezes, it expands. The expanding water molecules can break a terracotta pot in a single winter. Frost-proof pots undergo a firing process that renders them frost-proof.

Glazed clay flower pots do not have the porous nature that terracotta pots do. Moisture is held better in the soil, but there is less airflow around the roots. Glazed pots are less likely to experience frost damage due to the high heat firing process.

When potting up a new plant, it is important to select a pot only slightly larger than the old pot. Putting a small plant in a large pot can lead to overwatering and root rot problems, and a large plant in too small a pot quickly becomes root-bound. It is best to select a pot that is only 1 to 2 inches (about 2.5 to 5 cm) larger than the original pot. Large shrubs and trees can be potted up in a container that is as much as 4 inches (10 cm) larger than the original pot. It is better to go up a pot size every 12 to 24 months than to begin with a pot that is too large.

Drainage is an important part of choosing the best clay flower pots. The pot should have at least one hole in the bottom to allow water to escape. Overwatering and having soggy soil is a sure way to kill a potted plant.

A pretty, decorative pot can be tempting, but if it doesn't have a drainage hole, adjustments must be made. One way to use a pot without a drainage hole is to pot up the plant in a plastic pot that is slightly smaller than the clay pot. As long as the plastic pot has a drainage hole, it can be lifted out of the clay pot, watered, allowed to drain thoroughly and then replaced into the decorative pot.

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Discussion Comments


The article is right about all the available patterns and colors of terracotta flower pots. I buy the pots simply because I like the designs and colors then I choose a flower based on the pot I'm going to put it in. I know this is a bit like putting the cart before the horse, but it works for me. And those pots are so wonderful.


Reading this article gives me yet another reason why I have something other than a green thumb. I don't give any consideration to the clay flower pots I buy beyond whether I like the way they look or not. No, that's not true, I do consider the size, based on the plant I want to put it in, but that is all.

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