We will present pros and cons of terra-cotta versus concrete pots for plants to help determine which is better able to meet your needs.
It is interesting to discover that both concrete pots and terra-cotta pots share some ‘pros’, similarities and strengths.
Both type of plant pots also share a number of ‘cons’.
Lastly, both concrete pots and terra-cotta pots are different in some key areas.
So which is the clear winner on which is better?
The answer is that different pots will serve different people’s needs under different circumstances.
Our job is to weigh out the pros and cons of each to help you make an educated decision and pick the type of pot that will best suit your individual needs.
WHAT ARE TERRACOTTA PLANT POTS AND THEIR PROS + CONS?
Clay is the natural raw natural material actually used in making terracotta and ceramic pots. The word terracotta itself means ‘baked earth’ in Italian. That should give us a clue.
Clay can be thought of in terms of geological raw material which is the foundation product for the firing in the kiln which produces terracotta and ceramics. Typically, they are unglazed, and in earth tones, or rusty brown color.
The terms Terracotta and ceramics are used by different people and cultures in different situations can be a matter of semantics. They are really the same thing.
These pots have a classic look that some people might really appreciate, and some may find completely boring.
One thing that is great about terracotta pots is that they are so standardized that literally thousands of craft projects have been created around them.
They are very, very easy to customize to your personal taste.
- Terra-Cotta pots are relatively inexpensive.
- It is porous – allows water and air to pass out the sides controlling root rot from overwatering.
- It has a classic look that fits almost all decors.
- It is a great family project to customize and personalize the ‘basic pot’
- The production of terra-cotta clay pots is more environmentally friendly than the production of concrete pots.
- There is a standardization in pot sizes.
- It is porous – plant can dry out quickly meaning more watering.
- Terra cotta is especially good in situations where the soil is not drying quickly enough, because it allows water vapor transfer through the container walls & bottom.
- It is hard to so readily find containers made of a material less expensive and/or more conducive to good plant vitality.
- Both terra-cotta and concrete pots due to their porous nature, it be can become stained with lime, mosses, and mineral salts on the outside.
- Lighter weight pots break, chip and crack more easily
- It can become fragile in winter.
WHAT ARE CONCRETE PLANTERS AND THE PROS + CONS?
You may have seen concrete foundations for homes or buildings being poured in the spaces between two molds. Essentially, concrete planter pots are made the exact same way but on a smaller scale. Two molds are used, an inner and an outer.
They can be similar mold forms used of 2 different sizes, larger outer mold and a smaller inner mold. Alternatively the 2 molds could be of different shapes – the interior mold could be a ‘pot’ shape nestled inside the exterior mold, which is a fancy shape.
Concrete is poured in the larger mold and then the smaller mold is placed on top and “squished” down. Extra concrete is added to fill in the voids. The concrete is then vibrated to remove any air pockets that form during the chemical reaction in the curing of the concrete. The trick is getting the same thickness of concrete all the way around and centering the smaller mold accurately.
Making your own concrete pots and planters can be a great family project. It is fun, simple, and creative enough to get the kids involved too.
- They are very heavy, stable and unlikely to tip over. Good for windy balconies.
- They are extremely sturdy and will last for many, many years.
- If color is mixed into the concrete, it will not fade.
- There are very large ones available for statement pieces.
- You can make your own. Many molds are available.
- Concrete planters can come in extremely large sizes.
- Concrete insulates the plants well in temperature fluctuations.
- Concrete is porous allowing some control against over-watering and developing root rot.
- They are very heavy. Difficult to move if you like to constantly re-arrange your plants.
- If used on balconies or roofs, you must consider the weight load.
- Concrete planter pots are more expensive than terra-cotta.
- The manufacture of cement is not environmentally friendly.
- Both terra-cotta and concrete pots can become stained with lime, mosses, and mineral salts on the outside. They are porous.
- Concrete has a high lime content which may negatively affect some plants. (The excess lime will dissipate on exposure to water – break in the pot by washing it and letting it sit with water for several days to remove excess lime.)
COMMONALITIES OF TERRACOTTA AND CONCRETE PLANT POTS
The main thing you need to take in consideration when choosing a container to grow your plants in is making sure that it drains well.
If your container does not drain well then the roots will rot due to the soggy wet soil. You also want to make sure you choose a container that won’t allow your plant to get too hot while sitting in the sun.
Both type of pots do very well in this department since they are both porous and allow air and water to escape the pot through the walls as well as the bottom.
Concrete pots have good is the insulation value which can protect your plants during wide swings of temperature.
Terracotta is an excellent choice and perhaps the best one we have readily available to when we consider its use strictly from its comparative benefits to overall plant vitality.
It does suffer in the longevity aspect that they are very prone to breaking. Concrete pots of the hands-down winner in that respect.
DON’T CONFUSE CONCRETE AND DRY CAST STONE PLANTERS (THEY ARE DIFFERENT)
At first glance concrete and dry cast stone planters can appear very similar. They are similar in terms of function and benefits they provide for the plants. The differences are aesthetic and economic. Dry stone planters are more of a handcrafted item, they can be expensive. Concrete planters are generally mass-produced and a little more budget-friendly.
DRY CAST STONE PLANTERS (AND ORNAMENTS)
Dry cast stone planters are made of limestone (which puts the ‘stone’ in stone planters). A very small amount of water is used (which makes them a “dry” cast). The chemical reaction between the water in the limestone causes the material to harden. It is a much slower process in drying than concrete.
The mixture of water and limestone composite is then hand packed by artisans into a mold. Many people prefer the handcrafted nature of cast stone planters and ornaments and are willing to pay a price premium for the better quality.
The material and mold is subjected to humid conditions in allowed to cure which normally takes 2 to 4 weeks. It can then be safely removed from the mold. The finished product is almost indistinguishable from limestone.
The rough exterior surface can promote the growth of moss and lichen for a dramatic and aged effect.
CONCRETE PLANTERS (AND ORNAMENTS)
Concrete planters are made from three ingredients, water, aggregate, and cement (which can have limestone in it). The process used to create a concrete planter is called a ‘wet cast’.
Whereas a cast stone planter uses just enough water to hold the material together, the wet process of concrete actually uses enough water to make a somewhat soupy slurry mix.
Rather than being hand-packed into a mold the concrete is poured. The mold is then shaken or vibrated to release any air bubbles that may occur. Concrete will set up in cure at a much more rapid pace than dry cast stone. It is lower in cost to produce. Despite this agitation some air bubbles are almost always apparent on the surface of the cast concrete planter or ornament.
Those air bubbles are distinguishing characteristic between a cast stone planter and a concrete planter. The cast stone planter will have no air bubbles and be very smooth.
The choices are not set in stone. Explore and see what fits your budget and what works for you. Have fun and learn as you go along.
We wish you the best in your gardening adventures.