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Past Articles Library | Container Gardening | Antique Your Pots

Antique Your Pots & Add Fall Flowering Plants!

Create a new garden feature FAST with moss, or stain, and fall color

Terra cotta, stone, and concrete containers and sculptures all lend themselves nicely to having moss grown on them, giving each one an anitque look.

You can also add a "patina" or even a "faux moss" look to a terra cotta container that will give it its own special beauty, and a sense of timelessess.

Depending on what kind of garden or yard you have, sometimes it's fun to make new clay, stone, or concrete container look old, and these techniques work really well with "urn shaped" containers, because you can place them into your garden setting, and they look like they have been there for years.

Of course, terra cotta and concrete pots will age into beautiful works of art after years of sitting in your garden, but why wait, when these aging and antiquing techniques are fast, easy, and inexpensive to do.

Plus, in addition to making pots look old, we are going to discuss some great shrubs, perennials and annuals that look their best in the fall. This way you can plant your newly "aged" containers to look outstanding for upcoming holiday events you may be hosting, and your garden, and front walkways will look great.

These containers would also be a great gift for someone you know who is an avid gardener, so let's get started.

Adding Moss Works Best On

Terra Cotta

Stone or Concrete Containers

Stone or Concrete Sculptures

There are 2 ways to go about doing this. Both ways work really well, so choose one that best suits your tastes.

Moss requires an acidic environment to grow, which can be developed by painting a pot with buttermilk or yogurt, that's why both recipes below have one or the other.

Recipe 1:

  1. Collect mosses either from around your yard or a friends or neighbors (you can also buy moss spores at a garden store)

  2. Finely chop the moss up (or sprinkle in the moss spores into the mix below if you purchased them)

  3. Allow the moss bits to dry up for a couple of days (if you collected them yourself)

Then mix together in a large bucket or bowl:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons corn syrup
  • 1-1 1/2 cups dried, crumbled moss

Once the above is mixed together, put the bucket in full sun for three days.

When the mixture is good and smelly, brush it generously with a paintbrush on the outsides of your clay pots. Then wrap the pots in plastic wrap and put them in partial sun.

In two weeks the pots will start to grow mold, and by eight weeks the pots will be nice and furry with moss, and looking very antique and old.

Recipe 2:

  • Blend pieces of dried moss or purchased moss spores into

  • 2 cups yogurt or buttermilk

  • Paint onto your pot with a paintbrush

  • Put your pot into a plastic bag to create a humid environment for the moss to develop

  • Set the pot and bag in a cool, shady spot until the moss begins to form, which will be about 10 days

  • Make sure to plant the container so you will be watering it regularly, which will keep the moss alive and growing

Using Wood Stain or Gel Stain Works Best On

Terra Cotta

Wood stain is a great way to give an "antiqued" look to a new terra cotta pot fast. You can use either gel wood stain or liquid wood stain. A darker color like a "walnut" usually works really well.

Here's what you do:

  • Dip an old shirt or a sponge into the wood stain (or squeeze some gel stain onto a cloth or sponge)

  • If you're using liquid stain you can apply it with a paintbrush

  • Wipe the stain onto teh terra cotta pot, working fairly quickly, because you don't want the edge of stain to dry

  • Rub the stain in, then wipe any excess off

The more coats of stain you apply, the more "antiqued" your pots will look. This is a great technique for terra cotta pots with designs imprinted on them, because the stain will rest in any indentations and highlight the raised areas.

Glaze and Acrylic Paint For Terra Cotta

You can also age and antique your terra cotta pots using acrylic paint and glaze. This is like "Faux Painting" inside your house on your walls, except it's a lot easier and you get a very natural look.

  • Mix 1 part brown acrylic paint with 2 parts glaze

  • Stir until well mixed

  • Use a sponge or large paintbrush to paint this glaze mixture onto your terra cotta pot

  • You'll want to paint around the pot, not up and down

  • Wipe away any excess with an old shirt or soft cloth

  • Keep adding layers of tinted glaze until you reach the aged or antiqued look on your terra cotta pot that you like

Using the same technique, you can also create a "faux moss" look by:

  • Mixing 1 part glaze with 1 part hunter green paint

  • Dab this mixture on your terra cotta pot

  • Blot it gently with a soft cloth or t-shirt

  • Do not wipe off

  • Since, real moss does not have painted lines, you'll want to cover the green glaze with a coat of the brown glaze mixture (1 part brown acrylic paint with 2 parts glaze)

  • You'll want to paint around the pot, not up and down

  • A touch of green will show through, making it look like moss

Now Let's Add Some Plants!

There are many shrubs, perennials and annuals that put on their best dispaly of color in the fall. Here are some of them to add to your newly "aged" containers.

Somehow, with the containers muted down with moss or paint, the plant's color is more obvious, creating an eye-catching combination.

Fall Flowering Shrubs:

Camellia sasanqua
Heath - (Erica vagans)
Heath - (Calluna vulgaris)
Skimmia japonica - Female plants produce red berries in fall
Butterfly Bush - (Buddleja 'Lochinch')

Fall Flowering Perennials:

Helleborus niger
Schizachyrium scoparium
Chrysanthemum hybrids

Fall Flowering Annuals:

Primrose - (Primula)
Stock - (Matthiola incana)
Poppy - (Papaver)
Viola - (viola)
Pansy - (viola)
Snapdragon - (Antirrhinum majus)
Sweat Pea - (Lathyrus odoratus)
Calendula - (Calendula officinalis)
Cornflower - (Centaurea cyanus)
Larkspur -(Consolida ajacis)
African Daisy - (Dimorphotheca)
Ornamental Cabbage - (Kale)


Antiqued and aged terra cotta, stone, and concrete pots can be used indoors or out; and they are fast, inexpensive, and easy to make.

If you're looking for something that will give you a new look, try this out, I don't think you'll be disappointed; and if you choose to make one for a gift, I know the person who receives it, will be thrilled!

The writer is a certified organic grower, and a member of the National Garden Writers Association. She is a nationally published writer, and regularly speaks and writes about all gardening related topics concentrating on making gardening fun and successful for everyone. Weekend Gardener Monthly Web Magazine gives gardening advice and gardening tips to all levels of gardeners.

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