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Creative Ways to Upcycle your Clay Pots


Ok, ok I do have a gardening secret.  What is it?  Well, I am a clay pot collector.  Yes, I said it.  I collect clay pots of all shapes and sizes.  It does not matter to me if they are cracked or chipped.  I still save them but frankly sometimes they are really boring.  I love the look of fancy decorative pots but I cannot afford them and really, why do I need them when I have such a lovely collection in my garden shed.

Well, as the gift giving season has approached, I have gone on the search for some ideas on what to do with my collection.  How can I change up a plan clay pot?  How can I make it look like a designer piece that can hold the most valuable and rare gift?  Well, below are some of the ideas I have found and other ideas I have used for years.

Pot Sleeve

Yes, I have used the old foil formed pot sleeve that you find around many plants in florists.  Yes, I do keep these from year to year.  They do serve a purpose and make a quick cover for a container.  But frankly, these can be boring and the colors can be limited.  If you like the pot sleeve cover idea but would like to take it up a notch, consider making your own with fabric. 

A pot sleeve made from fabric is easy to do and may take you back to your old school days.  To start, pick out your fabric.  Turn your pot upside down and lay the fabric over it to test the measurement.  Adjust as needed.  Next, you will need to dip the fabric into a substance that will make it stiff.  This can either be starch that is found in the laundry section of the store or white glue diluted down with water.

Once you have your fabric dipped, squeeze out the excess and drape over the pot.  Allow to dry completely before sitting the pot upright. 

To add an extra designer touch, consider wrapping a ribbon around the fabric pot sleeve.     


This is an old standby.  Today, painting your clay pots is no problem.  There are numerous colors to choose from and if you really want to upscale your terra cotta containers, consider using chalkboard paint.

While you can simply spray your pot with paint, you will get a better finish if you prime it first with watered down, water based paint.  Why would you want to do that?  Well, clay is porous and will soak up paint like a sponge.  To fill in those pores, prime the clay pot first with the mixture described previously.  Once the primer is dry, paint it with full strength paint. 


Decoupage is another technique that works wonderful on clay pots.  You can use fabric or paper napkins cut into strips or pieces.  The basic process of this technique starts off with covering a small area of the pot with mod podge and then putting your material or paper napkins on the decoupaged area.  If using fabric, only paint on additional mod podge on the edges of the fabric.  On the other hand, if you are using paper napkins, cover the paper napkin with mod podge before adding another piece.  Repeat with the process until the container is covered and then allow to dry before adding plant.

Permanent Marker

If you are looking for a quick way to decorate a plain clay pot then permanent markers are the answer.  They come in a range of colors and dry quickly.  Your only limit is your imagination.  While you can free-form it, you may want to plan out a design before pulling out the markers and beginning to draw.

Antique Plaster

This technique does take some time and planning but the effect is beautiful and classy.  To begin this process, you will need to gather a few supplies that you probably do not have lying around.  First, you will need a container of plaster of Paris, colored paint, wooden stir stick, sand, old bowl or deep pan, chalk pastels, and sealant.

Once you have all the supplies gathered, mix up the plaster of Paris according to the directions.  Mix paint into the plaster of Paris.  Keep in mind though, that the color you end up with will be lighter than what you want.  In doing so, add more color than you think you need.

To get some texture going in your finish, add some sand.  The amount will be up to you.  Mix thoroughly. 

Now, you are ready to apply it to your terra cotta pot.  To do this, scoop out a big amount with your hand and smooth it over the pot.  Continue to cover until you are satisfied with the coverage.  Next, allow it to dry.

Once dried, you can customize it even farther by sanding away some of the plaster of Paris and/or rub the surface with chalk. 

After you have the finish that you would like, preserve your work with a sealant.

As beautiful as all these finishes are, there are a few things you need to do to preserve the finish.  First, avoid planting directly into any of the finishes that are cloth or paper.  While you may think you can be careful when you water, believe me an accident will happen.  Two, avoid putting anything outside that has a cloth or paper finish.  The reason for this is two-fold.  First the rain and second the sun.  Both of these elements can and will eventually destroy your work. 

Finally, if you insist on planting directly into your designer pot, make sure to check the soil moisture before watering.  Why you may ask?  Well, the reason is simple.  Many of the finishes discussed close the pores of the clay pot.  Closing these pores will keep the water from the soil going into the pores and evaporating through the pot.  In doing so, check the soil’s moisture with your finger before adding any water.


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