, Newburyport, MA

February 5, 2014

Tim's Tips: How to properly use a clay pot

Tim's Tips
Tim Lamprey

---- — Last week, I was telling you about potting soil. As I said, you need to know a few things about potting soil if you are repotting your houseplants. When people repot their houseplants, many will use clay pots for repotting their plants.

Let me take a few moments to explain why clay pots can make your plants dry out faster and what you can do to prevent this from happening.

Clay pots have been made around the world for more years than I would care to guess. There is one manufacturer on the East Coast that can’t keep up with the production of clay pots. Nice to know that there are things made in the USA where the demand outpaces manufacturing ability.

The clay is formed into the shape of a pot. The pot is then dried in a kiln. The drying process gives the pot its stability, and yet it also lets excess water leach out through the sides of the pot. This natural feature helps temper the effect of overwatering your plants.

When you pick out a clay pot, you want to go only one size larger than the size of the pot that the plant currently is calling home. If you jump to too large of a size, the soil around the root ball will remain wet and you run the risk of rotting the roots on the plant.

When you go to buy your clay pot, you want to make sure that the pot is not cracked. You can look at the pot, and you may not see any cracks. Here is a little trick to check clay pots for cracks. Most clay pots will have a hole in the bottom. The hole allows excess water to drain away.

What you need to do is to pick up the pot and turn the pot upside down. Place a finger in the hole, and hold the pot with just that finger. Take your other hand, and give the side of the pot a quick tap. You should hear a ringing sound if the pot is not cracked. If the pot doesn’t ring, then there is probably a crack in it.

I told you that clay pots could dry out the soil faster than other pots. The reason is that you didn’t prepare the pot for use as a home for your plant.

What you need to do is to place the clay pot in some water. I usually add about 2 inches of water to the kitchen sink. Place the clay pot on its side in the water. Soon, you will notice small bubbles coming out of the clay. The pot is absorbing water.

Once the bubbles slow, give the pot a quarter-turn. Continue to turn the pot each time the bubbles slow down. Eventually, the pot will have been soaked all the way around. Once this has happened, take the pot out of the sink and let it dry for a few moments.

The pot is now ready to use. If you didn’t soak the pot, it would pull moisture out of the soil to get moisture into the clay. Soaking prevents the clay pot from prematurely drying out the soil.

Now, you know how to use a clay pot to create a new home for your houseplants.

Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.


Tim Lamprey is the owner of Harbor Garden Center on Route 1 in Salisbury. His website is Do you have questions for Tim? Send them to, and he will answer them in upcoming columns.