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.

Flower pots with no paint v. painted red.

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.)

After Re-Painting

Flower pots painted Tomato Red
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.