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pot question

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by Tessa on June 25, 2005 01:13 PM

I finally found a great pot for one of my begonias but it is a plain terra cotta pot. I love just plain terra cotta, but when I water it the whole pot is soaked, of course. I am wondering if I can seal or paint it? And if so, what kind of paint can I use on it that won't hurt the plant later on. Thanks.

Tessa [flower]
by Will Creed on June 26, 2005 12:01 AM
Hi Tessa,

Interesting topic title!

If you place a saucer under the pot, what is your concern with terra cotta pot being damp? If I understand the problem, I might know of another solution.
by Tessa on June 28, 2005 02:53 AM
I thought about that after I posted (topic title [Big Grin] ). I had a couple concerns. One was furnishings, which I know to put a saucer under it. I usually find different, neat, old plates for my plants. The second is, I am concerned that the plant will dry out too fast without any coating on the outside to hold it in a little more. I do prefer cotta pots to plastic because I know over watering is one of the most common killers with indoor plants, that and I just think it is much better for the plant because air can get to the roots. All my other ones are glazed so although the pot on the inside absorbs some water, the glazing keeps it from escaping. I guess, to be clear here, my main concern is that the pot will absorb the water instead of the soil. I think I thought of this because when you pot up using plain terra cotta pots, you want to soak the pot first so it doesn't take the moisture from the newly potted plant.

Boy, that could have been explained a lot better! Sorry so long winded.
Tessa [flower]
by Will Creed on June 28, 2005 05:52 AM
You're funny, Tessa! I understand what your concern is, but I think you misunderstand terra cotta pot dynamics a bit.

If you like terra cotta pots because they breathe and thereby help curb root rot, then by sealing the outside of the pot, you defeat that purpose. An unsealed pot will allow moisture to evaporate through its pores. With a sealed pot, the moisture is absorbed by the pot until it reaches the sealed outer wall and then the terra cotta becomes saturated because it has no place to go.

Unsealed terra cotta pots do dry out sooner and do require more frequent watering (by a day or two, typically). But that is a good thing. Ideally, a plant will dry out every 3 to 7 days. If it goes longer than a week (Cacti and other succulents excluded), then you do start to run an increased risk for root rot.

Unsealed terra cotta does not "steal" moisture from the roots. It does absorb the excess water and allow it to evaporate.

As long as you have a waterproof saucer or plate under the pot, then sealing the pot should make no difference. The excess water will run through the drainage hole in either case. BTW, there are plastic, terra cotta-colored saucers that work very well with terra cotta pots and they are waterproof.

If you still want to seal your pots because you don't want to water them so often, then consider potting them directly into a plastic pot and then putting the plastic pot inside the terra cotta pot. This gives you the terra cotta look without the terra cotta evaporation.

I hope I have answered your question, although I, too, am now guilty of being long-winded! Let me know if you need further clarification.

by justaninstrument on June 28, 2005 07:44 PM
I must say that everything that Will said I agree with. I think I understand what your concern is although I'm not sure it's really warranted. That said, I work in the Lawn & Garden depaartment of a major retailer. We carry many different sizes and styles of plastic pots that have the terra cotta look. In fact, from a distance, side by side, you would be hard pressed to be able to tell the difference. Also, although I don't really recommend it, for reasons Will has already stated, we do sell a sealer that can be sprayed on the terra cotta pots that will not harm your plants. Hope this helps.

* * * *
May Mother Nature shine warmly on your gardens

by Cricket on June 30, 2005 10:02 AM
Tessa, with a few exceptions, I paint my terra cotta pots with acrylics and do not notice much difference in dry out time between the painted and unpainted pots. As Will said, only a day or two at the most.
by Tessa on July 01, 2005 08:14 AM
Thank-you all for responding. Sorry it took so long to get back here and check out the responses, I was watching the cotta pot to see how long it takes for it to dry out and if the soil and plant got any of the water! ha, ha [Big Grin] I do really prefer cotta pots inside.I usually like my indoor plants in cotta and my outdoor pots in plastic, as a general rule. Not necessarily because of the look of cotta, but it's better for the plant. I haven't noticed my glazed pot drying out any different from the plain cotta pot. But, we'll see what happens. I think I may just put it in a basket, rather than paint it. [grin] Thanks again.

Tessa [flower]

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