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10 Brilliant & Practical Ways to Reuse Broken Terracotta Pots

Dang it!

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.

Broken terracotta pot on the floor.

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.

Pile of busted clay pots with weeds growing up among them.

We put together a bunch of great ways you can give your busted terracotta pots new life – from practical to beautiful.

1. Terracotta Mulch

Vine growing over pieces of 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.

Ta-da! Mulch.

Crushed terracotta pieces.

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

Pot of thyme with a terracotta shard plant label with "thyme" written in white

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.

Tiered garden in a broken pot.

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

A fairy garden with tiny houses and a gnome set up in a broken pot.

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

Broken terracotta pot pieces made into a stepping stone.

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

Clay mosaic in the shape of a sun.

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

Shards of broken clay pot used to cover drainage hole in pot.

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

Succulent garden made out of broken pot

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.

Flowers growing out of a broken clay pot.

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.

Plants growing in a broken pot.

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Tracey Besemer

Hey there, my name is Tracey. I’m the editor-in-chief here at Rural Sprout.

Many of our readers already know me from our popular Sunday newsletters. (You are signed up for our newsletters, right?) Each Sunday, I send a friendly missive from my neck of the woods in Pennsylvania. It’s a bit like sitting on the front porch with a friend, discussing our gardens over a cup of tea.

Originally from upstate NY, I’m now an honorary Pennsylvanian, having lived here for the past 18 years.

I grew up spending weekends on my dad’s off-the-grid homestead, where I spent much of my childhood roaming the woods and getting my hands dirty.

I learned how to do things most little kids haven’t done in over a century.

Whether it was pressing apples in the fall for homemade cider, trudging through the early spring snows of upstate NY to tap trees for maple syrup, or canning everything that grew in the garden in the summer - there were always new adventures with each season.

As an adult, I continue to draw on the skills I learned as a kid. I love my Wi-Fi and knowing pizza is only a phone call away. And I’m okay with never revisiting the adventure that is using an outhouse in the middle of January.

These days, I tend to be almost a homesteader.

I take an eclectic approach to homesteading, utilizing modern convenience where I want and choosing the rustic ways of my childhood as they suit me.

I’m a firm believer in self-sufficiency, no matter where you live, and the power and pride that comes from doing something for yourself.

I’ve always had a garden, even when the only space available was the roof of my apartment building. I’ve been knitting since age seven, and I spin and dye my own wool as well. If you can ferment it, it’s probably in my pantry or on my kitchen counter. And I can’t go more than a few days without a trip into the woods looking for mushrooms, edible plants, or the sound of the wind in the trees.

You can follow my personal (crazy) homesteading adventures on Almost a Homesteader and Instagram as @aahomesteader.

Peace, love, and dirt under your nails,