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6 Brilliant Alternative Uses for Terracotta Pots Around the Garden

Terracotta pots have a way of multiplying when you turn your back on them. With each passing season, our towers of stacked pots grow taller. And why not? They’re a gardening staple for a reason, and once you know how to use them correctly, they tend to accumulate.

Of course, if you’re anything like me, you may have plenty of terracotta pots, but never in the size you need. So, it’s off to buy more pots.

If you’re looking to repurpose some of your terracotta, we have some practical projects to help you repurpose them around your home and garden.

Water fountain made using terracotta pots.

Whether you’re looking to repurpose pots you already have or want to make a project with the rustic charm of terracotta, these seven projects will get you off to a great start.

A quick note

Man's hands using a power drill to drill a hole in a terracotta saucer.

For some of these projects, you may need to drill a hole in the saucer. Place a piece of masking tape over the spot you’re going to drill and go slow to avoid cracks.

1. Earwig Traps

A terracotta pot stuffed with straw and set upside down in the garden to trap earwigs.

Earwigs can be a frustrating pest in and around the garden. While they mostly enjoy munching on dead organic matter, they can wreak havoc on unestablished seedlings, soft fruits like strawberries and raspberries or tender lettuces.

Lindsay has several tips on how to stop earwigs from invading your home and garden. One of which is to use a terracotta earwig trap. Placing these traps around your garden, compost pile and other areas of your yard where you frequently find earwigs will encourage them to nest in the terracotta shelter rather than your garden.

Every couple of days, simply dispose of the collected earwigs in your preferred manner. You can dump them in water to drown them.

I like to feed them to my chickens. I think that’s my hens’ preferred earwig disposal method.

Pots used for making earwig traps.

Stuff straw inside a terracotta pot, then place the pot straw-side down wherever you see earwigs. You can even hang them using a washer large enough to cover the drainage hole in the bottom of the pot and a nut threaded through some twine. If you have stone fruit trees, such as peach or apricot, you’ll want to hang a few in your trees.

An earwig trap hanging from a peach tree.

2. Toad Houses

Setting up a few toad houses around your garden is a great way to help manage six-legged pests. With a daily diet of around a thousand insects, you want to attract toads and frogs to your garden as well as near patios or any other outdoor seating.

Toad house made of a terracotta pot in the sun.

Toads can put a serious dent in your pesky mosquito population.

To encourage these croaking visitors to stick around, give them a cool, dark place to hide in during the day. You can make a toad house with a terracotta pot. Use the pot as is, with a couple of rocks used to prop it up off the ground. Alternatively, you can use a pot with a broken rim, creating a door to the toad house.

They look quite charming as they are, but you can break out the acrylic paints and paint the pots to add a pop of color or even to look like a little cottage.

Place the toad houses in quiet, shady areas of your yard and garden to encourage the little creatures to move in.

3. Bird Feeder

You can make a lovely bird feeder with some easy-to-find hardware, a terracotta orchid pot, and two saucers. And the best part is, you don’t need any tools to assemble it.

A bird feeder made from terracotta pots and saucers.

This style of bird feeder works well with most wild bird seed mixes; if you have a mix with larger ingredients, such as peanuts, you’ll want to make sure everything fits through the holes easily.

It’s important to clean bird feeders regularly to prevent the buildup of bacteria or fungi, which can lead to disease. The easy assembly also means it’s easy to take apart and clean.

Once filled, it’s quite a heavy feeder, so use a strong rope to hang it.

4. Terracotta Pot Fountain

A three-tiered fountain made with terracotta pots.

There’s nothing quite as soothing as sitting on the patio in the evenings listening to the soft gurgle of a fountain nearby.

Terracotta pots and saucers in several sizes, a box of polished stones and a min submersible pump.

You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on an expensive water feature. With a small submersible pump and a few terracotta pots, you can easily make your own fountain.

Water fountain made using terracotta pots.

Add river rocks for an inexpensive water feature for your patio, garden or balcony. But watch out, I can tell you from experience, once you know how easy they are to make, and how beautiful they are when finished, you’ll be hard-pressed to stop at just one fountain.

5. Olla Irrigation with Terracotta Pots

The porous nature of terracotta pots makes them perfect for irrigation. Olla irrigation is a great passive watering technique in which unglazed terracotta pots are buried in the soil up to their rims. Water is added to them, and then, as the soil dries out, it wicks moisture from the pots back into the soil.

A terracotta olla pot buried in a garden and filled with water.

Even if you choose not to water your garden this way regularly, olla irrigation is a great way to keep your garden watered while you’re away on vacation.

You’ll need to seal the hole in the bottom of the terracotta pots you use before burying them in the soil. I have found that silicone caulk works great for this. Let it cure for 24 hours before you put the pot in the soil.

Be sure you press the dirt firmly around the sides of the pot when you bury it. Then fill the pot with water up to the rim.

My colleague, Mickey, has a more in depth guide on keeping your garden watered with terracotta ollas here.

6. Terracotta Bug-Repelling Candles

Three finished bug-repelling candles made with terracotta pots.

If you’ve got an abundance of smaller pots, make up a batch of bug-repelling candles to keep mosquitos away. All you need to make your own candles are paraffin wax, cotton string (I found butchers string works best.) and essential oils. If your pot has a drainage hole, you’ll need to seal it first.

Small terracotta pots, three bottles of essential oils, butchers twine and a box of paraffin wax.

Slowly melt the paraffin wax over a double boiler. You’ll want to dip your cotton string into the paraffin and then lay your wicks straight on wax paper to dry.

Cotton wicks dipped in paraffin drying on wax paper

Once the paraffin is completely melted, remove it from the heat and add your essential oils. Some great scents to repel mosquitoes are lemon grass, lavender and peppermint. I used all three in my candles. I added ten drops of each.

Use a chopstick to wrap the wicks around while you pour the scented wax into the terracotta pots.

You may need to add more wax once the first pour hardens. Keep topping it up each time it cools until the surface is level.

Resist the urge to use your candles right away. Let them cure for about a week to get the best scent (and bug-repelling power) from them.

Make one or all of these projects, and before you know it, those towers of terracotta will be much shorter. And don’t forget; we’ve got some great ideas to use up broken terracotta pots, too.

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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,