What are Ceramic Planters?

PJP Schroeder

A useful addition to any garden, indoors or out, ceramic planters are highly versatile plant containers. Made of fired clay, these natural pots are available in an almost infinite number of finishes — textured or smooth, painted or glazed — and in any size imaginable. Apart from familiar pots and vases, ceramic planters also come in the forms of urns, window boxes, and hanging planters, among others.

Unfinished terrracotta containers, which is porous, absorbs water.
Unfinished terrracotta containers, which is porous, absorbs water.

Ceramic planters provide healthy growing environments for a wide variety of plants. Formed of a nonporous material, glazed ceramic planters retain water and are well suited for hosting moisture-loving plants. In fact, when purchased from a store, most ceramic plant pots come with plates or saucers attached to the bottoms to catch water as it flows out of the drainage hole.

Ceramic planters should be washed in a bleach solution to remove any remnant of plant diseases.
Ceramic planters should be washed in a bleach solution to remove any remnant of plant diseases.

Unfinished terracotta containers, on the other hand, though also made of fired clay, are porous. Unlike glazed pots, terracotta absorbs water, so drainage is almost never an issue, and it's nearly impossible to overwater the plants. On the other hand, it hot or arid climates, it may be necessary to water more often. Another benefit of this porosity is that the soil is more easily aerated, and the roots breathe easier to remain healthy with less care and attention.

Unfortunately, because ceramic planters provide such good growing environments, they can also become homes to pests, plant diseases, and fungi. When not in use, ceramic plant pots should be cleaned. After removing the soil, the containers can be baked — in an oven or in the hot sun — or rinsed with a diluted bleach solution followed by water to prepare them for the next growing season.

While ceramic planters can enhance the health and appearance of any garden, they may require more careful care than their more modern fiberglass, plastic, or resin counterparts. Clay planters are heavy. Moving them can be difficult, and they are prone to chips and cracks. Extreme temperatures, especially cold, can also wreak havoc on ceramic plant pots as they are likely to crack.

Ceramic pots are made all over the world, most notably in Italy, Germany, Mexico, China, and the United States. The most expensive are often handmade. The high price tag is due not only to the labor involved but also to the high quality of clay used. The most affordable are molded in an automated manufacturing process. Usually made of coarser material, molded clay pots tend to last only for a few years.

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