Glazed or Terra Cotta – Choosing A Pot for Your Plant

So, you've decided on a plant, and now it's time to choose a planter. This is an exciting moment where plant care meets design, where matching a new beauty with the perfect pot can create an instant statement in your space.

And while pottery decisions are absolutely an aesthetic decision, keep in mind that it's also a decision about finding a home for your plant that will benefit its health in the long run.

Many plants prefer excellent drainage and airflow, while others prefer to stay moist for extended periods of time.

Different types of pottery can deliver either.

When moving a plant from a plastic grow pot to a more permanent home, we regularly encounter two different types of pottery. Glazed pottery and raw terra cotta. Since many plants tend to thrive in one or the other, the first question we should ask ourselves when pairing a plant with a pot is – Glazed or terra? 

Benefits of Terra Cotta

The most common kind of plant pot out there, terra cotta loosely translates to 'baked earth' in Latin. And that's exactly what it is. Clay taken from the ground and fired to harden into a porous earthenware material. The resulting pottery absorbs moisture when it encounters it and allows water to evaporate from the sides. When dry, it easily allows for the passage of air through microscopic holes to aerate soil and roots. 

Stacks of terra cotta planters and dishes in the Arid Room at Tula Plants & Design in Brooklyn, NY.

Stacks of unglazed terra cotta of all kinds are kept in the Arid Room in our Brooklyn store. Most cacti and succulents in this room would prefer terra cotta homes over glazed ones.

Plants that rely on a drying period between watering will thrive in terra cotta because moisture doesn't gather and stay in these pots for long. When the plant is watered, the roots soak up all the water it needs and the remaining moisture is quickly expelled. Terra cotta-loving plants include:

By providing these plants with a terra cotta home, we create an environment that benefits root health. A lack of stagnant water with instead aerated roots leads to a lower chance of fungal or bacterial buildup that can lead to root rot.

Benefits of Glazed

Glazed pottery can be made of various substrates – ceramic, porcelain, or even terra cotta. What makes a glazed pot glazed is a lacquer finish on the outside of the pot, which adds color, a clean finish, and, from a plant's perspective, retains moisture and restricts airflow.

A selection of tropical plants and glazed pottery in the Tropical Room at Tula Plants & Design in Brooklyn NY.

A majority of pottery in our Tropical Room is glazed, since many plants from tropical environments enjoy a pot that retains moisture. They also enjoy raw terra cotta, but typically need more frequent watering in unglazed pots.

Plants that thrive in moisture and humidity tend to flourish in glazed pottery. These heavy-drinking plants seek out moisture and want it on hand regularly. They would likely do very well in unglazed terra cotta as well, but a glazed pot that retains moisture means we're watering less often and the slowly evaporating water from the pot is also providing added humidity to the plant. Glazed loving plants include:

Many glazed planters are sold without drainage holes. While on first glance this would seem to benefit the moisture retention for water-loving plants, it frequently leads to overwatering. Drainage holes in glazed pottery keep soil from getting too saturated or waterlogged, which could harm a plant.

When seeking out any planter, always try to find one with a drainage hole.

By setting up a new beauty in a home that benefits its health and looks great for years to come, we're participating in the long and beautiful relationship we share with plants. Now it's time to watch them grow.

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