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What is a Terracotta Planter?

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  • Written By: Mike Howells
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 28 October 2016
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A terracotta planter is a type of container designed for holding one or more types of flora. Terracotta is a particular kind of ceramic, well-suited for use as a planter. It is cheap to produce, and wears well indoors or out. Heavier than comparable plastic containers, a terracotta planter is typically used to hold larger bushes and small trees.

The technique for making a terracotta planter, or anything made of terracotta, has remained much the same for centuries. A measure of clay is partly dried and molded into the appropriate shape. It is then left to air-dry, and subsequently fired in a kiln or oven. After cooling, a terracotta planter can be glazed to make it water resistant, or left unglazed for use indoors. Terracotta planters left outside in all conditions are liable to crack prematurely.

Terracotta is not intended to be completely waterproof. In fact, one of its benefits in housing plants is that it can absorb excess water, preventing rot. For this reason, the outsides of terracotta pots and planters tend to develop water lines around their exteriors with use. This is normal and, for the most part, unpreventable. In addition to regulating moisture, terracotta helps moderate the temperature of soil and roots, preventing overheating.

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Given the malleable properties of clay, terracotta planters can come in a variety of different shapes and sizes. They can range from very basic, functional pots to intricately designed vessels that resemble animals or whose sides display pastoral scenes. Many planters are made with small drainage holes in the bottom to prevent roots from rotting due to over-watering. Such models often come paired with saucers for the pots to sit in.

For the most part, terracotta is orange-red in appearance. It can be painted, however, and common colors are white, red, and green. In addition to the United States, countries that are historically known for producing terracotta include Mexico and Italy. Planters from these countries are typically more ornate and more expensive.

Depending on the size, country of origin, and complexity of design, a terracotta planter can cost anywhere from around $10 US dollars (USD) to upwards of several hundred. Limited production and handmade pieces can go for even more. Given their relatively heavy weight, shipping prices can rival the cost of terracotta planters themselves, and buying in person is generally advisable both to save on shipping costs and minimize the potential for damage in transit.

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