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.
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:
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.
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.
Are Sealants Safe to Use on Terracotta Pots?
Certain sealants can be used on terracotta pots without harming plants, but there are a few important considerations to keep in mind.
Ensure that the sealant you choose is non-toxic and safe for use with plants.
This is especially important for pots used to grow edible plants like herbs and vegetables.
Look for products labeled as safe for use in gardens or with plants.
Water-based sealants are generally safer for plants compared to oil-based options. They are less likely to leach harmful chemicals into the soil.
Proper Curing Time
Allow the sealant to fully cure before planting. Different products have different curing times, so follow the manufacturer's instructions.
This reduces the risk of any volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or other potentially harmful substances affecting the plants.
Sealing the Exterior Only
If you're concerned about the sealant's impact on plant health, consider only sealing the exterior of the pot.
This can help prevent water loss through the pot walls while minimizing contact between the sealant and the soil.
Use sealants in a well-ventilated area to avoid inhaling fumes, and let the pot air out well before adding soil and plants.
Eco-Friendly and Organic Options
Look for eco-friendly or organic sealants which are designed to be safer for the environment and, by extension, for your plants.
Check out these great pot ideas: Get Creative with Your Nursery Pots: The Ultimate Guide to Perfectly Fitting Decorative Pots
How To Seal Terracotta Pots
Sealing your terracotta is a fairly simple process. Follow these steps to get started.
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.
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.
Apply Your Sealant
Add a layer of sealant to the interior or 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.
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.
Sealants Safe to Apply Inside the Pot
Here are some suggested sealants you can safely use inside and outside the pot. These sealants won't harm the soil or the plant.
1. 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.
2. Shellac Flakes
Shellac is a natural resin that can adhere well to porous surfaces like terracotta.
However, it's important to note that shellac is not as durable as some other sealants, especially when exposed to moisture and outdoor elements.
It may need more frequent reapplication compared to other sealants.
To use shellac flakes as a sealant, you'll need to dissolve the flakes in denatured alcohol to create a liquid shellac solution.
This solution can then be applied to the terracotta pot using a brush or cloth. Multiple coats may be needed to achieve a sufficient seal.
Sealants for Pot Exterior
Here are some suggested sealants you should only use on the exterior part of the pot.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
Do You Need To Seal Terracotta Pots Before Painting Them?
It is recommended to seal 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.
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.
You may want to check out this unique way to use a clay pot: The Olla: A Centuries-Old Watering Method That’s Making A Modern Comeback
Choose Safe Products When Sealing Terracotta Pots
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.
Be it a spray-on, liquid, or oil, there are many available options for you to choose from to seal your pot.
And finally, choose a product that's safe for your plants. If the sealant contains chemicals, it is best to use it only on the exterior of the pot.
Have fun working with your terracotta pots!