How To Seal Terracotta Pots [5 Ways!]

Known for their versatility, terracotta pots make a great impact on your garden. These charming clay containers serve more than a functional purpose—they add a certain rustic flair to your leafy greens.

You can plant on terracotta pots directly, but sealing it gives it a bit more advantage.

Row of brown terracotta pots with fresh green kitchen herbs

An often overlooked yet vital step is the sealing process. By sealing your pots, it prolongs its lifespan to optimize your plants' hydration. However, maintaining them can be a challenge.

Keep reading to find out more about what goes on behind the process of sealing your terracotta pot and which sealing agents are best to use.

Why Do You Need To Seal Terracotta Pots?

Because of their porous nature, terracotta pots quickly dry out and need frequent moisture.

This is good if you tend to give your plants too much to drink or for plants that prefer dryer conditions, such as succulents, cacti, Monstera, snake plants, and ficus.

However, the same can’t be said for plants that require wetter soil.

Sealing your terracotta is a great option to prevent it from soaking up any excess water and moisture intended for your plants. It will help you create a more appropriate environment for your water-loving plants.

These are a few other reasons why you might want to consider sealing your terracotta:

Mineral Build-Up

Have you ever noticed the white layer of dusty residue on your pots before? This is called efflorescence, or salt deposits, and is mainly caused by the terracotta absorbing the minerals and water present in the soil. 

Set of green potted houseplants nephrolepis fern, rubber plant, sansevieria cylindrica.

Prevent Future Cracking

What about the cracks terracotta pots form during the winter? The porous nature is also behind this.

When exposed to frost, the clay will expand and cause your pot to crack. This is similar to how potholes are formed on roads during the winter.

All in all, sealing your terracotta is a quick and easy way for you to waterproof its walls and preserve its longevity. 

Prepping Your Workspace

Before you begin your project, set up your workspace outside. While certain sealants are virtually odorless, some leave a slight smell that only goes away once dry.

Because of this, we recommend choosing a well-ventilated space for your workspace.

You’ll also want to prepare the surface you’ll be working on. Be it a table, backyard deck, or front porch, you can protect your workspace by laying out a few sheets of newspaper or plastic sheeting.

This extra step will lessen your clean-up time and leave room for mistakes in case of spillage.

How To Seal Terracotta Pots

Sealing your terracotta is a fairly simple process. Follow these steps to get started. 

Senecio rowleyanus houseplant in terracotta flower pot at home, sunlight. String of pearls

1. Clean Your Pot

Whether they’re brand new or if they’ve been sitting around your home for a while, start by cleaning your terracotta.

You can do this by using warm soapy water and scrubbing it or using a damp cloth to wipe off any dirt or dust. Let your pot completely dry off before proceeding to the next step.

Old flower pots being soaked in a bucket with water, cleaning of old clay, ceramic, terracotta flower pots

2. Apply Your Sealant

Add a layer of sealant to the interior and exterior of your pot for a uniform finish.

Doing this will not only prevent water and moisture from seeping into your pot’s walls but also protect the surface your pot will be sitting on. 

The number of coats you apply really depends on your preferences and the kind of sealant you use. For better results, ensure that you apply even layers of sealant.

3. Let It Dry Completely

Allow your sealant to dry completely before potting any plants.

5 Ways To Seal Terracotta Pots

It doesn't take much to seal your pots. However, there are many ways to go about the task, and the results lie in the kind of sealant you use for the job.

Stack of small ceramic terra cotta pots, gardening tools for succulents, and lots of plants on the wooden table, How To Seal Terracotta Pots [5 Ways!]

You can seal terracotta pots using a spray sealant, liquid sealant, or drying oil. Here are a few options you can choose from: 

  • Rustoleum Ultra Cover Clear Gloss
  • Thompson’s Water Seal
  • Mod Podge Outdoor
  • DecoArt
  • Tung Oil

Any of these sealants will do as they all work similarly. They act as a layer between the walls of your terracotta and the water you pour into your plants, thus preventing any excess moisture from seeping into your pot.

Rustoleum Ultra Cover Clear Gloss

You can find this sealant in both a liquid and spray-on form. It leaves a glossy finish when dry, which is nice if you want your terracotta's natural color to pop.

View this Rust Oleum clear gloss on Amazon.

When using the liquid variant, we recommend you use a paintbrush to apply this sealant.

However, if you opt for the spray-on, make sure you spray this at least 10 to 16 inches away from your pot. Shake the can often during use.

As for the drying time, it can vary depending on the temperature and humidity.

As a rule of thumb for both the liquid and spray-on variants, wait for at least 2 to 4 hours between each coat and a minimum of 48 hours before using your pot.

Thompson's Water Seal

This water-based sealant doesn't have a strong odor and is intended to seal any porous material, including terracotta, against water damage. Use a paintbrush, roller, or sprayer for application.

If you choose the spray-on variant of this sealant, shake the can well and spray in an upright position, at least 12 inches away from your pot.

Check out this Thompson's Water Seal on Amazon.

Mod Podge Outdoor

This variety of Mod Podge dries to a clear glossy finish and is specifically designed for sealing terracotta and similar surfaces. However, it is not waterproof and takes a minimum of 4 weeks to cure.

It's best to use a sponge brush or foam brush when applying this sealant for better control over how much sealant you use for your pot.

Click here to see this Mod Podge Waterbase Sealer on Amazon.

DecoArt Multipurpose Sealer

DecoArt sealer is another liquid-based sealer that's best applied using a paintbrush.

This sealant was made to adhere to all kinds of surfaces and is ideal for both indoor and outdoor use. It also dries with a clear and slightly glossy finish.

Click here to see this DecoArt Multipurpose Sealer on Amazon.

Tung Oil

Tung oil is a drying oil, which is a good option to consider if you're looking for something more organic and healthy for your plants.

It protects your terracotta while retaining its breathability.

You can apply this by dampening a cloth with the oil, and using the cloth to coat your pot.

Repeat this until your pot no longer absorbs the oil, then leave it aside for 15 days before potting any plants. 

Click here to see this pure tung oil on Amazon.

Do You Need To Seal Terracotta Pots Before Painting Them?

We recommend sealing your pots before painting over them, as painting before using a sealant will cause your paint job to bubble.

Think of it as a primer for painting walls; with it, you give your paint a good base.

Small plants with terracotta pots on a balcony. Nice bokeh effect and warm tones

Because of its sponge-like abilities, the moisture absorbed by the terracotta will cause the paint to crack and eventually peel off.

This isn't ideal; hence choosing to seal your pot before painting it will save you time and energy from future mishaps.

Once your paint has dried, you can also take the extra step and apply another layer of sealant on top of the paint. Doing this will protect your paint from fading or being washed away.

Final Thoughts

Terracotta has many benefits for plants. Its porous nature allows for air circulation, preventing root rot as it lets your plants breathe.

However, you can never go wrong with choosing to seal your pots, especially when you have plants that need wetter conditions. 

Stack of small ceramic terra cotta pots, gardening tools for succulents, and lots of plants on the wooden table

Be it a spray-on, liquid, or oil, there are many available options for you to choose from to seal your pot.

Just remember to clean your pot beforehand and let your sealant dry completely before potting any plants. 

If you enjoyed reading this article, check out these other posts on pots:

The Olla: A Centuries-Old Watering Method That’s Making A Modern Comeback

Watch This Viral No-Mess Hack For Replanting In Large Pots

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