It’s a phrase heard at least once or twice a year when I’m handling a plant in a terracotta pot. It’s usually uttered moments after a loud crash.
Who am I kidding? It’s said more frequently than once or twice a year.
If you’re human like me, you’ve also busted your fair share of terracotta pots. Accidents happen, and busted pots are inevitable when using pottery in the garden.
It always feels like such a waste, though.
More commonly, a hard frost might freeze the water absorbed into your terracotta pot and cause it to crack and then split apart.
But before you pitch the pieces, hold up a minute and check out all the ways you can repurpose those orange pottery shards. The pot might be cracked, but you can still get some use out of it. Spare yourself the guilt that comes with throwing them away.
We put together a bunch of great ways you can give your busted terracotta pots new life – from practical to beautiful.
1. Terracotta Mulch
Take your frustration out on the broken pot and smash it up a bit more. For houseplants, aim for pieces roughly the size of nickels and dimes. For larger potted plants outdoors or around the garden, break the terracotta into chunks.
Use the smashed terracotta mulch to cover the soil where it will hold in moisture, keep weeds at bay, prevent animals from digging in the soil and keep the ground warm by absorbing the heat from the sun. If you mulch your houseplants with terracotta pieces, it can also help to prevent fungus gnats.
2. Create Rustic Plant Labels
I love the look of a rustic, well-tended garden, don’t you? With plants spilling out of their containers and flowers and vines creeping into the paths, it always feels slightly feral. In keeping with this rustic look, use the broken rims of terracotta pots as plant markers.
Use a permanent marker or paint marker to write plant names on the rims. Add a rustic trellis fashioned with sticks from your yard, and you’re halfway to Hobbiton.
3. Plant a Small Tiered Garden
Tiered gardens are stunning, whether they’re large enough to walk on the tiers or tiny enough to fit the entire garden in a pot. They combine the structured look of steps with the wildness of growing things. Save the rims of broken terracotta pots and use them to set up a tiered garden of your own.
You can even use another broken terracotta pot to make a small tiered garden inside it. Or give it a more free-hand look by creating the tiers directly in the soil. If you’re clumsy like me, you can add new tiers each time you break another pot.
4. Toad House
Depending on how much of the pot remains intact, it can serve as the perfect amphibian abode. You can go all out and paint the broken pot to look like a tiny home or keep the homespun feel and use it as it is.
Place several terracotta pot toad houses around your garden to encourage these helpful visitors to stick around and eat harmful insects. Tuck them into shady areas that stay cool and moist for the best chances of attracting toads.
And don’t stop there; there’s more you can do to help invite these helpful animals to hang out in your garden.
5. Fairy Garden
Fairy gardens are a great way to get the young folks in your life interested in gardening. Most garden centers sell tiny accessories to outfit your fairy garden. And if you want a truly unique fairy garden, check out all the cool handmade accessories on Etsy.
Use broken terracotta pots to stage tiny scenes that look like the fairy folk have taken up residence in them.
Try tucking these little vignettes in spots around your garden that aren’t immediately obvious. It makes stumbling across them more of a surprise when others spot them as if the fairies are living secret lives in your garden. It gives the whole thing more of a realistic feel. You know, as realistic as fairies go.
6. Terracotta Stepping Stones
Grab yourself a stepping stone mold and a few bags of quick-setting concrete and mix up a batch of terracotta stepping stones. The beautiful earthy orange looks lovely amid a sea of green grass.
Make sure you place the pieces concave side facing down and press them firmly into the concrete, so there aren’t any sharp edges sticking out.
Who knows, you may like the look so much you find yourself with a permanent case of butterfingers whenever you handle terracotta pots. Oops! Only three more stepping stones to go.
7. Terracotta Mosaic
If you don’t need stepping stones, use the same mold and concrete to create beautiful mosaics using smaller pieces of broken terracotta. Keep your shapes simple but bold, like the sun or a flower, and you’ll have a gorgeous mosaic to grace your garden that will last for years.
8. Cover Drainage Holes
I always keep a few pieces of busted terracotta on hand just for this purpose. We all know the importance of using a pot with a drainage hole, but water isn’t the only thing that washes out of it. Over time you can lose quite a bit of soil through the drainage hole in a pot.
To prevent the soil from washing out but still allow water to drain, place a couple of pieces of broken terracotta over the hole before adding soil to the pot.
9. Rustic Succulent Garden
Plant a cluster of small succulents inside the remains of a busted pot for a rustic garden that looks just as good inside as it does out. The terracotta is perfect as its porous nature keeps the succulents from being overwatered.
10. Spilled Flower Garden
If you still have plenty of pot left intact, tip it on its side, burying a portion of it in the ground. Plant flowers, so it looks as though they are spilling out of it. It gives your garden an aged and slightly wild appearance. Or if you have a hole in the pot’s side, again, tip it on its side and plant flowers, so they grow out of the hole. You’ll have a well-groomed overgrown garden.
There’s no need to throw away broken terracotta ever again, not when there are so many great ways to repurpose the pieces. Store your broken shards where they won’t be stepped on until you use them. Always be careful handling the broken pieces, as you can cut yourself on sharp edges. And resist the urge to break pots on purpose to give yourself more pieces.