Last summer I made the bold move to paint all my flower pots, including these two I painted ‘Tomato Red.’ They looked great until the end of the winter when the paint had almost completely peeled off. So no sanding required – yay! I repainted, this time using water sealants and took other steps the Internet told me to take. Fingers crossed it works this time.
The Great Pot Hole Debate
So after I’d emptied the pots in order to seal and paint them I was at a decision point – what (if anything) to put over the holes? I’d read all sorts of disagreements among experts of varying qualifications and was curious what other regular experienced gardeners like myself were doing these days. So naturally I asked the 2.4K-member DC Gardeners Facebook group. Here are their answers, with the numbers of people responding that way:
- “I use nothing” – 5
- Wood chips – 3
- Stones – 2 and with landscape fabric on top – 1
- Gravel – 2
- Landscape fabric – 2
- Seeding straw – 1
- Broken pottery – 4 and broken pottery and dead leaves -1
- Shredded mulch – 2
- Pine cones with upside down half seashell – 1
- Coffee filter – 4
- Window screen scraps – 4 – and window screen covered with pea gravel – 1
- Pieces of fabric ( like from a tote bag) – 1
- Micromesh – 1
- Thick pieces of newspaper with gravel on top – 1
- Marbles – 1
- Sweetgum balls – 1
So Does it Matter?
That’s the obvious question after seeing the wild assortment of techniques that gardeners in my area have used and swear by, so who am I to challenge them? Looks like they all work, including the do-nothing option.
Oh, “BUT WHAT DOES SCIENCE SAY?” you and certainly the Garden Professors will protest, and I’m usually in that camp myself. But hear me out. Maybe the perfect randomized controlled test would reveal the one technique that works the best, but in what way and how much better? Anecdotal reports are worth a listen, too, as long as they come from people with no skin in the game.
So what did I end up using? Coffee filters! Too easy to resist.
To Paint or Not?
A couple of commenters offered the strong opinion that these pots should NOT be painted at all. Their natural beauty should be enough – for everyone’s taste.
So for the ardent natural-pot-color advocates I made this side-by-side of natural terra cotta and TOMATO RED pots. Honestly, anyone who prefers the dull and boring version can have at it but I want more! Especially after I’d stopped growing colorful annuals in the pots, in favor of native grasses that are safe from deer and rabbits but contribute no pizazz to the garden. Color out of a paint can to the rescue! (Also, planting annuals only on the other side of my house has reduced my daily pot-watering by quite a lot.)
Here are the pots a couple of weeks ago with their shiny new paint, sitting on pot-risers to keep the bottoms dry, hopefully. Blooming on the right is Packera aurea, my favorite native groundcover for shade.
While I was reading my first thought was why paint over the beauty of the natural pots? Then I saw the tomato red. Amazing!
My suggestion would be to cover up those holes completely and plant lotus in the pots – interest all season long and no watering needs – and the flowers are exquisite!
what hardiness zone are you in? I’m in zone 7, so it freezes.
Love the red pots. My favorite liner is cheap disposable baby diapers. The gel traps moisture which is especially helpful in hanging baskets and porous terracotta or fiber-lined window boxes.
I’m going to try this!
I’m confused as to why anyone covers the holes. I sure never have.
To keep the growing medium from running out the hole.
I love the red pots, too! Curious whether you have ever tried (or anyone reading this) painting plastic pots? I’m of an age when lifting terra cotta pots is difficult/impossible. Plastic does the trick (I never cover the holes–in fact often drill more) but they sure are ugly.
Krylon “paint for plastic”. Specifically formulated for painting plastic.
Most.of our containers are heavy terra cotta (for succulents) or frost tolerant ceramic, filled to the rim.
USDA Zone 7b/8a
All are raised up at least a few inches to keep them free of the questing Maple tree roots. Love that tree, gotta stay ahead of the roots.
Nothing (for tiny pots)
Landscape fabric (for 95% of our pots)
Old leaves (when I’m out of Landscape fabric)
Curved Broken terra cotta (for 32″ diameter frost tolerant ceramic pots I’m worried about cracking if Landscape fabric gets silted in and collects too much water)
Love your red pots!
I use coffee filters as well.
Gosh, I’ve used at least six of those methods depending upon what I had on hand. They all worked for me. I think the painted pots pop with their color; however, I also like the terracotta earthy look in my garden. It all depends on the plants in the pots and the place I put them. Cheers!
“ It all depends on the plants in the pots and the place I put them”
I use squares of window screen. Works well.
Nice job on painting the pots. They look good.
The pots really pop, but gotta say, I am underwhelmed at what you put in them. Sorry!
Well, what would you put in them instead? Avoiding deer damage or needing daily watering.
I plant perennials such as Rudbeckia & Echinacea
There’s a big batch of rudbeckia just behind the pots. Echinacea I tried there but it failed.
I respectfully agree with the comments above – your plant choice does NOT do those gorgeous pots justice! My go-to for fuss free containers is always portulaca. It loves to bake in hot, dry conditions. Deer shouldn’t bother it and the bright flowers really do look like little roses. This year I’m also doing black dinosaur kale in containers. Should be fun!
Have you considered coleus or heuchera (I am a sucker for colorful foliage) or maybe succulents? I look forward to seeing whatever you come up with!
If your paint job succeeds this time, I hope you’ll share your tips and processes with us. They are beautiful.
Love painted pots and yours look great.
Never put anything to cover holes and have never had the compost come out. And surely that is the critical issue? Maybe it depends on what kind of compost people use in their pots?
I love the red! They look fantastic.
I use drywall tape. It’s a mesh tape that’s slightly sticky on one side and comes on a huge roll so it’s very easy to just cut a piece big enough to cover the hole.
Thank you for sharing – fabulous idea!
Also try ‘chalk’ paint. Requires no real prep (other than cleaning off dirt and grime). I have 2 pots that have been outdoors through 2 winters with little ill effect.
Perhaps you should use wine corks? They’re light, organic and are so much fun to acquire…
Lol. I felt like a genius when I figured out about using coffee filters to cover the holes.