From a glance, it’s difficult to tell whether or not a pot is a terracotta or ceramic. But there are many important differences between the two, especially when it comes to plants. In some cases, even choosing the wrong type of pot can result in a dead plant.
In this article, we’ll discuss both terracotta and ceramic pots, identifying for you the pros and cons of each type. Plus, we’ll show you how they’re most commonly used. That way, the next time you need to choose a pot for your beloved plant, you can make a better, more informed decision.
Let’s begin with terracotta pots.
What Are Terracotta Pots?
Terracotta pots are most known for their red-brown color. This comes from the high iron oxide content within the earthenware clay used to make up terracotta pots. However, not all terracotta pots are red. In fact, they can be orange or brown as well.
Also known for being very porous, terracotta pots can be easily broken. They’re just as fragile as any other clay piece but are not necessarily the most fragile type of pot out there. Manufacturers of terracotta pots typically make the bases much thicker so that they’re heavy enough to not easily tip over.
You may have seen terracotta pots with mineral deposits. This is a common occurrence with this type of pot, especially since it’s not waterproof. The patina created from the mineral deposits seeping out of the terracotta pot are not necessarily harmful and can easily be removed with soap and water. However, for some folks, this patina is as aesthetically pleasing as any pottery glaze.
What Are Ceramic Pots?
Ceramic pots are made from dense clay that’s most often kiln fired and then glazed and kiln fired once more. The clay used to make ceramic pots is often lighter colored than terracotta and sits out for quite a few days to dry out completely.
Ceramic clay is slightly absorbent but can be as expensive or affordable as you’d like. The same goes for glazed pieces as well. In fact, ceramic pots are extremely durable when glazed, though they can still break under the right circumstances.
Most ceramic pots are created from clay that contains kaolinite, aluminum oxide, and a few other materials as well. Ceramic pots are almost always glazed. This protects the thick walls from losing water, making ceramic pots nearly waterproof. Some ceramic pots have drainage holes, while others do not.
Primary Use Cases
While terracotta and ceramic pots can be used for some of the same applications, there are times when one is more beneficial than the other. Here are some primary uses for both terracotta and ceramic pots.
Terracotta pots are almost always used for plants that don’t need to hold water. This includes succulents and cactus plants, to name a few examples. Both indoor and outdoor plants can be planted in terracotta pots. You can also use terracotta plants in colder climates and/or for root cuttings.
It’s not difficult to find a terracotta pot in your budget, since they’re relatively inexpensive for what they are. These types of pots come in all shapes and sizes. Most terracotta pots are bottom-heavy, allowing them to remain upright in inclement weather.
Terracotta are timeless and can be painted if you prefer some color on top of the earthy red tones. Since the pot itself is porous, it can soak up water and will actually change to a deeper color if this is the case. Therefore, you can easily tell if your plant needs more water since the pot will likely have drained the soil of any moisture. You can combat this by soaking the terracotta pot in water for about 30 minutes before you plant anything in it.
Ceramic pots are also often used for planting. Because they are glazed, they can be customized to fit the look of your garden.
Water-loving plants do well with ceramic pots, which should come with drainage holes to allow the water to escape somehow. Too much water can cause mold and/or kill the plant living within the ceramic pot.
Most ceramic pots are glazed, which increases their waterproof rating. This is definitely something to keep in mind, especially if you’re watering your plant a lot. The drainage holes should provide enough relief that your plant is still getting water, without drowning in it.
Main Differences Between Terracotta and Ceramic
One of the easiest differences to spot when it comes to terracotta and ceramic pots is the coloring. Ceramic pots can be brightly colored, a single color, or anything in between. Since the glaze allows the artist to express themselves, the possibilities for patterns and designs are nearly endless.
Terracotta pots can be painted as well, but they’re typically only decorated, not necessarily sealed. Terracotta pots do better in colder climates since they allow the moisture to escape from the pores of the pot.
Another big difference between these two pot types is the amount of water you’ll need to give the plants in them. Ceramic pots will typically hold water unless there are drain holes in the bottom. Terracotta pots, however, may have these same holes, but because the terracotta is so porous, it might just soak up the water instead.
Due to the porosity of both ceramic and terracotta pots, you’ll need to water plants more often if they’re in a terracotta pot. That being said, you’ll still want to keep an eye on the water level in ceramic pots so that mold doesn’t form in the standing water.
Main Similarities Between Ceramic and Terracotta
Ceramic and terracotta pots are alike in their fragility. Because they are both made from clay, they are susceptible to cracking and shattering if dropped.
Terracotta and ceramic pots can also both be used inside and out to house plants of your choice. Many gardeners choose to incorporate both types of pots in their gardens, depending on what types of plants they have.
When it comes to purchasing terracotta and ceramic pots, you can find a variety of both shapes, sizes, and prices. Terracotta pots are most often found in traditional cylindrical shapes that are wider at the top than they are at the bottom. Both types of pots can be purchased in small sizes or large sizes used to hold a lot of flowers and other plants.
Paying for larger pots will certainly take more out of your wallet. This is true for terracotta plants, but even more true for ceramic pots, which can fetch a steep price. When you buy a ceramic pot, you’re not just purchasing the clay, but the glaze and extra firing processes as well.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Terracotta Considered Ceramic?
Both terracotta and ceramic pots are made from clay. However, terracotta pots are typically not glazed, whereas ceramic pots are. Planting pots can be terracotta or ceramic, but they can’t be both due to the differences in glazing.
How Can You Tell if Something is Terracotta?
Most terracotta pots are red in color. In fact, it’s this red color that signifies the pot is terracotta. However, this is not always the case, so color alone is not enough to tell if something is terracotta right off the bat.
Terracotta pots can also be identified by their unglazed appearance. One of the greatest characteristics of terracotta pots is that they are very porous, allowing water and air to move through the pot with ease. You may often see terracotta pots that are water-soaked, which is necessary for planting certain types of plants in these containers.
We hope you’ve found this article on the differences between terracotta and ceramic pots useful. There’s a lot that goes into making a ceramic and/or terracotta pot, but knowing the differences between the two can make a huge impact on which one you choose for planting.
Keep this in mind as you search for your next plant pot, so you ca