How to Garden in Clay Pots


Clay plant pots add a pretty touch to container gardens, whether you are growing ornamental flowers or vegetables. More durable than plastic and requiring less maintenance than wood, clay pots come in many finishes and designs, including the common smooth sided and orange colored terracotta pots sold at many garden stores. The requirements for growing plants in clay pots are only slightly different from those for growing in other types of containers.

Step 1

Choose clay pots with pre-drilled drainage holes in the bottom, as drilling your own holes is nearly impossible without damaging the container. Lay broken clay shards over the holes if they are wider than ½ inch to prevent the soil from running out.

Step 2

Submerge the clay pot in water overnight the day before planting. This allows the pot to absorb moisture and prevents it from wicking the moisture from the soil inside too quickly, a hazard in clay pots.

Step 3

Fill very deep pots and urns up to 1/3 full with cans, plastic containers or other fillers so they aren't as heavy once filled with soil. Plants require only 2 feet of soil depth on average so this also saves money when purchasing potting mix. Lay a piece of landscape cloth over the filler material so the soil doesn't fall between but the pot still drains well.

Step 4

Choose potting mixes with 30 to 50 percent peat moss as these retain moisture without becoming soggy. Mix your own by combining 1 part peat moss, 1 part compost and 1 part vermiculite.

Step 5

Check moisture levels in clay containers daily and water as needed to keep soil moist. Water plants in clay pots at least twice daily in dry, hot weather.

Tips and Warnings

  • The primary concern with clay pots is that the clay wicks away moisture from the soil. Watering regularly alleviates this concern. Avoid using clay pots that are too small, such as seed starting pots or pots less than 8 inches in diameter. These dry out too quickly as they have less soil inside.

Things You'll Need

  • Clay shards
  • Filler material (empty cans, plastic bottles, other)
  • Landscaping cloth
  • Potting soil
  • Peat moss (optional)
  • Compost (optional)
  • Vermiculite (optional)


  • West Virginia University Extension
  • Virginia Cooperative Extension
Keywords: clay pots, container gardening, terracotta planters

About this Author

Jenny Harrington is a freelance writer of more than five years' experience. Her work has appeared in "Dollar Stretcher" and various blogs. Previously, she owned her own business for four years, selling handmade items online, wholesale and via the crafts fair circuit. Her specialties are small business, crafting, decorating and gardening.