Plastic Or Clay Pots: Advantages And Disadvantages

Last updated on October 23rd, 2023 at 09:05 pm

For many, growing plants in pots is the only alternative to have greenery at home when you are not lucky enough to have a garden. For others, it is an aesthetic solution to decorate their home, but for the plants to flourish, the choice of their containers is essential.

On the market, you have mainly the choice between plastic or clay pots. The latter are the best option to ensure good health for your plants.

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Terracotta pots for better plant health

Plastic Or Clay Pots: Advantages And Disadvantages


Terracotta pots are made from molded clay that is then hardened and permanently shaped by heating it to a very high temperature.

Opting for a terracotta pot is above all choosing a natural material, bringing a lot of charm to your home. You can opt for natural colored pots or custom glazed.

Pots with thermoregulatory virtues
A terracotta pot indeed ensures a role of temperature regulation. It will protect the roots from heat and cold, whatever the season. Their natural porosity also allows air and water to circulate, favoring an optimal blooming.

Because of this porosity, the terra cotta pot is the right choice for plants that can’t stand to have their roots soaked in water for long periods of time, as it allows for significant evaporation. On the other hand, you must make sure to choose only pots with holes at the bottom to avoid that an overflow of water suffocates your plants.

Their weight is an advantage as well as a disadvantage. Large terra cotta pots are difficult to move, but they are also more stable, which is especially useful for plants with heavy foliage that can tip over in the wind.

The disadvantages of clay
In addition to their weight, terracotta pots can also be more fragile. Unlike plastic, the material will break if it is hit hard. They may also show stains or fungus over time, due to a high proportion of soluble salts in some types of soil, which will be absorbed by the clay.

Fertilizers or limestone in the watering can also leave organic deposits, which can cause variations in hue and color. Nevertheless, these small defects can contribute to give a patinated aspect and authenticity to the pots. And it is possible to prevent and remedy them with a suitable treatment. Terracotta pots also have a reputation for being expensive. But in reality, they are available at all prices, starting at only a few dollars.

Are plastic pots to be banned?
Plastic pots also offer certain advantages, being lighter and offering a wide variety of colors. They can also cost less, depending on their quality. On the other hand, they are not very suitable to ensure the health of plants. Indeed, they do not ensure any thermal regulation compared to clay pots. In winter, your outdoor plants can freeze, because the root ball will be constantly cold. These pots are also counterproductive in summer since the material tends to retain or even amplify heat.

They are not suitable for most plants, except for those that appreciate humidity and heat. This is the case for tropical, aquatic, swampy or carnivorous plants. Beware, dark colored pots can quickly raise the temperature when exposed to the sun, which can burn the roots.

There is also no great difference in longevity between a plastic pot and a clay pot. Both can break with time, shocks or lack of maintenance. But the harmfulness of manufacturing and recycling of the plastic pot is one of the reasons why people turn more to a natural material like clay.

Clay pots that last longer

Plastic Or Clay Pots: Advantages And Disadvantages


The lifespan of clay pots and the way they look over time are deterrents for many gardening enthusiasts. However, it is possible to optimize the longevity of your terra cotta pots with proper maintenance.

To maintain their appearance over time, do not hesitate to clean them with diluted bleach and then rinse them thoroughly. This will eliminate bacteria. For a new pot, wet it completely in a bath of non calcareous water before using it. You can use rainwater for this. The idea is to soak it in water to make it less sensitive to cold and heat. After drying your pot, use a cloth soaked in olive or sunflower oil to wipe it over the entire surface to protect it and give it a nice shiny appearance.

It is also advisable to regularly rotate your pots outdoors so that they can have both north and south exposure. A permanent north exposure favors the development of moss. It is also important to make sure that the drainage holes are not blocked so that water can drain properly and avoid the risk of freezing and cracking. To do this, simply raise your pots slightly.

Finally, for the lime deposits that can be found on terracotta pots, you can get rid of them by brushing them regularly. These unsightly deposits appear over time, especially if you use hard water for watering, but if you use rainwater, the problem will not arise. Another solution is to soak the container in a mixture of water and white vinegar to remove the limescale more easily when brushing. You can do this when repotting for example.

Author

  • James Jones

    Meet James Jones, a passionate gardening writer whose words bloom with the wisdom of an experienced horticulturist. With a deep-rooted love for all things green, James has dedicated his life to sharing the art and science of gardening with the world. James's words have found their way into countless publications, and his gardening insights have inspired a new generation of green thumbs. His commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship shines through in every article he crafts.

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