Terracotta and ceramic pots are common materials for growing different houseplants. Both pots have a lot in common, but they also have certain differences making them suitable for specific plants.
Terracotta pots are usually made up of baked clay which makes them porous and helps the soil to dry up much faster. While ceramic pots are also made of textured clay, they are usually glazed, making them less porous and helping the soil stay moist longer.
Different pots have different qualities, and every pot has its care requirements. In this article, I will discuss the benefits and drawbacks of terracotta and ceramic pots and will also help you know which plants work best for these pots.
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Terracotta vs. ceramic pots
Both pots are made up of almost the same clay material, but ceramic pots are glazed with a coat of paint that helps the soil stay moisturized for a longer period.
While on the other hand, terracotta pots are unglazed, which helps the soil dry out faster.
Both pots have characteristics that make them suitable for particular plants.
When selecting the pot for your plant, you need to understand the effect a pot can have on them.
Once you know the impact, you can easily decide which pot is superior for your plant.
Now let us know about each pot in detail.
Also read: What happens when you put a plant in too big of a pot?
Terracotta has been the most commonly used pot material for centuries.
They are made up of refined clay with different shapes and sizes.
These pots are porous, and this property can be both good and bad for the plant.
Because of a porous material, terracotta pot doesn’t let the soil stay moist for a longer period as air can easily pass through the pot.
Therefore, this pot might not be the best for plants that thrive in moist soil.
But some houseplants are more comfortable staying in dry soil than wet, and terracotta pots prevent their roots from fungal diseases, which can be a big advantage.
Let us take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of terracotta pots.
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Advantages of terracotta pots
There are many pros to using terracotta pots:
- Terracotta is less expensive than ceramic: Terracotta pots are less expensive than ceramic pots because of their simplicity.
- It is porous: Terracotta pots are porous, which promotes air and water passing easily through the pot sides and helps soak the soil’s excess moisture. This prevents overwatering problems and keeps the roots healthy by avoiding fungal diseases.
- Hard to knock: Terracotta pots are heavy, so it isn’t easy to knock them over. Because of their heaviness, the pots stay steady at a particular place if not disturbed.
- Easy to customize: The best thing about terracotta pots is that they are very easy to customize according to personal preference compared to ceramic pots.
- Provides a traditional look: As terracotta pots have been used for decades, they give a traditional look to the house, and terracotta pots become glossy on their own as it polishes with age.
- Slightly less heavy than ceramic pots: Ceramic pots are usually coated with different layers, so terracotta pots are considered less heavy than ceramic pots. This becomes much easier for the plant owners to move the plant frequently.
Disadvantages of terracotta pots
Although there are many pros to using terracotta pots, there are significant disadvantages too.
- Less protection from cold temperatures: Terracotta pots are more sensitive to colder temperatures and don’t provide as much protection as ceramic pots. As moisture can easily pass through the sides, terracotta pots can easily freeze and break.
- Can break easily: Some terracotta pots are lighter in weight and fragile and can easily break if dropped even from a smaller distance.
- Porous: The terracotta can soak up all the excess moisture much faster, and the plant can easily suffer from underwatering issues. Terracotta pots are unsuitable for those who frequently forget to water their plants.
- Not many varieties: Terracotta pots usually don’t have many designs or colors, which makes them quite unattractive.
- Can’t reuse: Once the plant is attacked with fungal diseases or pests, it becomes much harder to clean and sterilize terracotta pots. So it is not very reusable.
- Shorter lifespan: Even if terracotta pots polish with age and may look good, as time passes, the quality of the pots degrades because of continuous watering and mineral deposits.
- Frequent salt build-up: Because of the porous material, the pot absorbs extra water frequently, and while absorbing it, the pot takes in salt too. This builds up salt outside the container, and you will see a powdery white substance that looks bad.
Which plants are more suitable for terracotta pots?
Terracotta pots are porous, which helps to dry up the soil much faster than the normal rate.
This pot is best for those plants that thrive in less moisture rather than sitting in damp conditions.
Here are a few plants that are suitable for terracotta plants:
- Moth orchids
- Mediterranean herbs
- Snake plant
- Aloe vera
All these plants prefer to stay in dry conditions before their next drink of water.
Please note: Some plants do well in terracotta as well as ceramic pots.
Other low moisture-loving plants are not mentioned here.
But that doesn’t mean you can grow only low moisture-loving plants.
You can grow any plant you like in these pots.
You just have to water more frequently while keeping your plant in this pot, and then you will see your plant thriving without any issues.
Ceramic pots are one of the oldest handicrafts, made up of textured clay, but they are usually glazed with a coat of lacquer, for example, wood.
Because of coating, these pots become less porous, and the soil doesn’t dry out at the same rate as it would in a terracotta pot.
Ceramic pots are available in greater varieties, sizes, shapes, and colors, which terracotta pot doesn’t.
And because of its non-porous ability, this pot is best for moisture-loving plants, but it can be a disadvantage for those plants that thrive in less moisture.
Let’s take a look at the advantage and disadvantages of ceramic pots.
Advantages of ceramic pots
Here are the pros of using ceramic pots for your plants
- Less porous: Ceramic pots are usually less porous than terracotta pots, which helps the soil stay moist for a longer time and prevents underwatering issues. This pot is most suitable for people who don’t remember to water their plants much.
- Protection from extreme temperatures: Ceramic pots have much thicker clay walls than terracotta pots which protects the plants from extreme temperatures. When the temperature drops too low or rises too high, this pot doesn’t let the soil become too cold or hot.
- Durable: Ceramic pots are long-lasting and durable. This pot doesn’t get affected with age and can be used for a longer period.
- Attractive: Ceramic pots come in various varieties, shapes, sizes, colors, and designs, which makes them look attractive in the house. You can choose any decorative pot according to your taste and style.
- Easily reusable: Ceramic pots are much easier to clean and sanitize once used. You could reuse the same pot easily, even if fungal diseases or pests attacked it.
- Tough to knock: Like terracotta pots, ceramic pot is much heavier, which becomes quite tough to knock over, especially during the windy climate.
- No salt build-up outside of the pot: Ceramic pot is much thicker than a terracotta pot, and because of its outer glaze and lacquer coating, the pot becomes less porous, which doesn’t allow any salt build-up on the outside of the pot.
Disadvantages of ceramic pots
Now, look at the disadvantages of using ceramic pots.
- Overwatering issues: Even though ceramic pots are made of clay, they still don’t have as much porous ability as terracotta pots. Due to the outer glaze, ceramic pots don’t allow any water and airflow inside the soil, which can frequently cause overwatering and harm the root system.
- High risk of breaking: Just like terracotta pots, ceramic pots can easily break. If the pot drops, it breaks into little pieces, and the sharp edges can greatly threaten people.
- More expensive: Ceramic pots are much more expensive than terracotta pots because of their glazed and lacquer coating.
- Much heavier than terracotta pots: Ceramic pots appear to be very heavy compared to terracotta pots. This becomes difficult for the owners to move the plant frequently from one place to another.
- Mostly sold without drainage holes: Most ceramic pots are usually sold without any drainage holes, and your houseplants will only work better if the pot contains drainage holes in it. Also, adding drainage holes to the pot is impossible as it can easily break by drilling.
Which plants are more suitable for ceramic pots?
Ceramic pots are relatively less porous than terracotta pots, so the soil remains moist for longer.
Ceramic pots are generally for those plants that love damper environments.
Here are a couple of moisture-loving plants that I am listing out:
- Spider plants
- Baby’s tears
- Boston fern
- Maidenhair fern
- Peace lily
- Moth orchids
- Staghorn fern
- Parlor palm
All these plants love to stay in moist soil and are considered best for ceramic pots.
Remember, there are other plants, too, which are not listed here.
You can also grow plants that don’t like moisture by not watering too frequently.
So, don’t think it’s impossible to grow other houseplants in these pots.
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Which is best? – Terracotta or Ceramic pots?
As you can notice, some of these advantages can also be considered disadvantages and vice versa.
It depends on the situation.
If you want to choose which pot is best for your plant, then it completely depends on which plant you want to grow.
If your plant loves moisture, then ceramic pots are best, but if your plant doesn’t love too much moisture, then terracotta pots are considered best.
But, both terracotta and ceramic pots can work fine for any plant.
You can choose any pot you like for your plant, but you must prepare a watering schedule.
But it is best to consider your plant’s needs and choose the best pot.
Here is a table to help you understand:
|Terracotta pot||Ceramic pot|
|Ideal for plants that prefer drier soil.||Ideal for plants that prefer evenly moist soil.|
|Less durable than ceramic pots.||More durable than terracotta pots.|
|Cheap and pocket-friendly.||Expensive than terracotta pots.|
|Not ideal for reusing.||It can be cleaned and reused easily.|
|Doesn’t protect the plant from extremely low temperatures.||It can protect plants from both extremely high and low temperatures.|
No pot is perfect, as each has its pros and cons, depending on the situation. If you are confused between these pots, you need to consider what effect they can have on your plant.
Both terracotta and ceramic pots are good on their own. Go through every advantage and disadvantage and choose the pot that will be ideal for your plant and the care routine you can follow.
Even if you want to choose a pot by your preference, despite knowing the impact it can have on your plant, you must change your care requirements to give an ideal growing environment to the plant.
Also read: Are Clay Pots Better Than Plastic Pots For Plants?
Sources: Society for Experimental Biology, The Effect Of Container Size, Effects of Plant Growth Retardants and Pot Sizes on Plants.
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