DIY Painted Terra Cotta Pot

Colocasia, known as Elephant Ears, rieger begonia, daisy and a schefflera tucked in the back fill this pot.

Gardeners are by nature a creative lot, dedicated to designing spaces and places where plants can thrive and give pleasure. For that reason, many are also arts-and-crafters. This DIY painted terra cotta pot is an easy project for anyone to undertake and results in an inexpensive garden planter with a sharp pop of color (that you get to choose) and is quite durable if done right. Sealing the inside with waterproofing is the secret.

Prepare your terra cotta pot. If your pot has been used, make sure it is clean and free of dirt. If you wash it, allow it to dry for at least 24 hours. Even new pots can have a thin layer of dust, so at least wipe your pot off, inside and out, with a soft cloth.

Seal the inside of the pot. This is what keeps it from absorbing moisture which results in water getting under the exterior paint, causing it to bubble and peel. Thompson Water Seal in a spray can, found in the paint section of hardware stores, works well and is convenient – follow the instructions on the can. You will seal parts of the outside of the pot later.

pot with tape to paint
Taping off a straight line creates a clean edge. It will likely take more paint than you may expect. This 16-inch round pot took a whole can of spray paint. Terra cotta is very absorbent!

Tape off a straight line about an inch below the rim of the pot and conceal the rim with newspaper, folding it over the top edge. I tape an inch below the rim to give a little more of an unexpected look. Taping a straight line on a curve is challenging. “Piece in” sections of tape where needed to continue a straight edge.  Do the best you can – it will look good even if it is not perfectly straight.

Spray paint the outside of the pot. Use a high gloss spray paint to simulate a glazed pot. I recommend taking your terra cotta pot to the paint store and holding up the cans next to the pot until you find a color that strikes your fancy. Lime green, lemon yellow, poppy orange and teal blue are trendy choices that have a “wow factor.” Terra cotta is quite porous so you may need a whole can to cover a large pot. The pot in the example is 16-inches in diameter and used an entire can. You do not need a special paint. Follow the painting instructions on the can. You can also brush on the paint if you prefer.

Seal the exposed parts of the pot. Spray the rim and bottom of the pot with the water sealant and do not worry if you overspray onto the painted portion a bit. If you have an option to purchase varying finishes of water sealant, use a matte or satin finish, and not a gloss, to maintain a contrast between the terra cotta and the high gloss color.

Allow to dry and plant. Allow your pot to dry at least 24 hours before planting. Fill with your favorites and enjoy. Empty and bring your painted pot indoors for the winter to extend its life.

This article ran in my DIY column in Northern Gardener magazine.

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