January 13, 2023

Patina on Terracotta Flowerpots

By Peter Wakefield Jackson
1 Comment
Patina on Terracotta Flowerpots
Patina, n. pə-ˈtē-nə  a surface appearance of
something that has grown beautiful, especially with age or use.
A fine covering of moss on the terracotta pot which holds a beautiful planting, is a familiar and pleasing sight. In fact, the patina of age is highly sought after, with some people going to great lengths to make their pots age more quickly.  There are many different techniques, both simple and complex, that can accelerate and enhance the natural patina of age which will develop once a terracotta pot is planted:
  • Rubbing the pot with dirt
  • Blocking the drainage hole to fill the pot with a solution of water and fertilizer that is much stronger than what one would use for a planting
  • Adding fertilizers to the soil
  • Soaking pots in water until they grow algae
  • Keeping a pot on the north side of a building to limit its exposure to direct sunlight
  • Slathering on a mixture of buttermilk and bits of moss to the exterior of the pot. (Here are full instructions on Martha Stewart's technique, if you'd like a DIY project for the new year) 
Patina on white terracotta flowerpots may not be as familiar, simply because white terracotta is rarer than its red terracotta cousin. So some of my customers are surprised when they receive a piece of white terracotta, and then see it begin to darken and change after planting. But any flowerpot made of porous terracotta will develop a patina of age after direct planting and exposure to salts and minerals in the soil and water, as well as the pot's exposure to sunlight, heat and cold. For most people, the patina of age is very sought after, and enhances the beauty of their plantings. If a patina of age is not your cup of tea, you may be able to inhibit or slow down the natural ageing process of terracotta by applying a sealer to the inside and/or outside of the pot to not allow water and minerals from the soil to soak through. Another alternative is to use the non-porous, soda fired flowerpots which I offer in the spring and fall. My soda fired pots are fired to 2350° F, while my terracotta is fired to 1981° F.  My white terracotta is porous, yet durable for outdoor use.  And plants seem to like being in a container that can breathe a little.

Sometimes I'm surprised that some white clay pots seem to age very quickly, while others stay whiter for many seasons. There are variations in the clay I use, depending on where in the pit the clay was dug, and differences in the potting soil and fertilizer used on commercial plants, which might explain it.  
Below are some examples of my pots in various stages of patina development. In any event, it is important to know that the white terracotta pot you choose, will develop a patina of age after you plant it.

#12 Medieval Urn, one of my designs that was part of the "G. Wolff & Co." collection on which Guy Wolff and I collaborated in the late 90's and early '00's.  I made this one in 2003, So it has had quite a few seasons of plantings.


#12 Cotswold Full Pot, which has had 3 or 4 seasons on our deck in Wisconsin.


#24 Bartram pot, with many years of outdoor exposure, with a nice mossy patina, contrasted by a newly planted coggled rim terracotta piece I made last summer.

Here's a #24 Split Rim Scallop pot that had just been unloaded from the kiln last summer, and was freshly planted.  Any patina you notice on this one is from our Antique White finish, in which a mineral wash containing iron and copper is carefully applied applied before firing to make the pots look just a little old while it's still brand new out of the kiln.


My friend, Laura Boissonnault who's Instagram page @howsitgrowingnj now has over 30,000 followers, was kind enough to share with me one of her Instagram stories showing the various patinas that had developed on her Wakefield Handmade pots.  I've uploaded it to my YouTube channel so that you can have a look.

Megan and I love seeing photos of how people plant up our pots, so please feel free to share them!  You can mention @wakefield_handmade in your social media posts, or email us a photo at customerservice@wakefieldstudio.com

age aged terracotta color patina pot turned brown