How to Create the Perfect Terracotta Garden

If you thought terracotta pots were simply a way to spruce your garden, think again. They really are a Good Find. Their natural porous material will help prevent soil disease and promote better root health for your plants and flowers, while their thermal properties will keep their contents cool in summer and warm in winter. And because terracotta is made of natural materials, it's more eco-friendly than plastic. Best of all, clay garden pots are inexpensive and, like fine wine, get better with age.

Getting started with terracotta pots

Getting started

You’ll find affordable terracotta pots in a wide variety of shapes and sizes on Gumtree. Once you’ve chosen the perfect ones for your garden, it’s worth doing some prep work before you start designing. Taking the time to follow these steps will make your pots last longer and give your plants the best chance to thrive.


Due to their porous nature, clay pots will pull water away from the soil. This can be an issue for new plants, especially in the summer months. A way to avoid this is to soak them in clean water for 24 hours.

Preventing cracks

Terracotta pots are known for cracking, and once a crack does appear, it can’t be repaired. As well as treating your clay pots with extra care, you can avoid cracks by:

  • Matching the root systems of each plant to the size of the clay pot, so they have room to grow.
  • Using less soil – soil expands with water, which will cause your terracotta pots to crack if there’s too much.
  • Allowing your pots to fully dry before winter takes hold, to avoid winter cracking.

Winter storage

It may be helpful to store any pots you’re not using during the winter months in a clean, dry place such as a shed or garage. They’re best stored upside-down, and it’s advisable to avoid stacking them because they might stick together.

planting with terracotta pots


Some plants will be happier in terracotta pots than others. For example, succulents have more than 25 plant families and are perfect for clay pots because they can help draw water out of the soil. These types of plants can fill small pots, so they’re ideal for decoration in smaller spaces. Philodendrons also have many plant families that are ideal for clay garden pots. You may want to opt for climbing philodendrons in terracotta hanging pots for a pretty, bohemian vibe.
Other options for terracotta garden planters include:

  • Snake plants
  • Peperomia
  • Ficus
  • String of pearls
  • Sago-palms
  • Dracaena
  • Ponytail-palm

If you’re hoping to pot flowering plants, perennial flowers are some of the prettiest around, and they’ll come back year on year. The perennials most suitable for clay pots include:

  • Lavender
  • Erysimum Bowles’s Mauve
  • Penstemon
  • Daylilies
  • Festuca glauca
  • Hellebore
  • Hosta

Herbs are also a safe option when it comes to terracotta planters – rosemary, basil and oregano are some pot favourites.

cleaning terracotta pots

Cleaning and maintenance

Effective cleaning is key when it comes to maintaining terracotta pots. Due to the porous nature of the clay, the main thing to be concerned with is preventing fungus or algae from forming, because they can be passed on to your plants.

Once you’ve emptied the pot, you’ll need to scrub away any spores and then disinfect the pot with either bleach or white vinegar, both of which should be mixed with water at a 1:10 ratio. After submerging the pots for a short while, you can leave them to dry in the open air for about two days to make sure any residue disappears.

Both bleach and vinegar can also be used to clean terracotta pots in your dishwasher, using a hot setting. Once the cycle is complete, you can air-dry the pots as above. However, it’s important to avoid overusing bleach or vinegar, as they can damage the pots.

An easy way to remove any hard or salty water deposits from your pots is by using baking soda. This is done by simply mixing the baking soda with water to form a paste and then lightly scrubbing the deposits away.

decorate with terracotta pots

Decorate your pots

If you’re feeling adventurous, you could always paint or decorate your terracotta pots to create a unique garden feature. This can be easily and effectively done in a variety of ways – you may want to opt for spray paint to make them shine, or you could create something more contemporary by using fabrics.

Terracotta pots are also an affordable option for designing something that looks a little more expensive. Antique plaster or image transfers, for example, can turn large terracotta garden pots into something grand and historical.

Other ideas include using permanent markers, faux-stone spray or pastel chalk to match your garden style. It’s important to clean, seal and prime your terracotta pots before decorating them, so they remain durable.

Other uses

Terracotta pots are not just a great way to house plants – they can also be used in many other practical ways. To give that earthy edge to your outdoor space, why not build a terracotta table? Or a clay pot smoker for outside cooking? Or even a terracotta bird feeder? The possibilities are endless.

Whatever your garden goals, terracotta garden pots are a simple and functional choice for all types of outdoor spaces. Even with little time and money, you can have the rustic terracotta garden of your dreams. How about a planter stand for displaying your terracotta pots? Check out our guide to how to make a DIY ladder planter stand for your garden for useful tips.

Want to spruce up your garden on a tight budget? Take a look at our article featuring 19 budget garden ideas for instant impact. Once your outdoor space is looking perfect, you can head to Gumtree for all the garden tools you’ll need to maintain it.