Indoor Plant Ideas

Skipping This Step With Your Terra Cotta Pots Could Be Drying Out Your New Plants

Kara Jillian Brown

Photo: Getty Images / Cavan Images
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Coming home with a new plant and putting it into a pot can feel so rewarding. But, if you're using a terra cotta planter, there's one key step to take before you pour in fresh soil: pre-soaking your vessel. That's according to Jesse Waldman, director of marketing and e-commerce at Pistils Nursery in Portland, Oregon. "Classic terra cotta pots are unglazed and unsealed," he says. "The clay itself is porous, meaning that it will actually absorb water. So pre-soaking saturates them in advance, which is going to slow this process down."

This may seem like a small step, but it can make a big difference because just like moving can be a tense experience for people, your plants feel similarly about being re-homed. "When you repot a plant, it's going to go through some stress, and you don't want it to experience any additional stressors, like dry soil, while it settles in," Waldman says. "Pre-soaking ensures that the soil stays nice and moist during that crucial adjustment period."

When you don't pre-soak terra cotta pots, the plant will dry out faster. "This isn't a huge deal—as long as you are attentive to your plant and water it when the soil is dry enough," Waldman says. But it will help you conserve water and lower the maintenance level of your plant. So, if you know you're not the most attentive waterer or you want to ensure your plants are getting the best possible start, pre-soaking your terra cotta is a worthwhile first step. To do so, Waldman says to submerge your pots in water for at least 30 minutes.

There are, however, two scenarios in which Waldman says not pre-soaking your terra cotta pots may turn out to be beneficial. "It's great for people who tend to over-water their plants," he says. "Also, they're great for plants that really don't like to stay wet very long, like succulents and cacti. That combination of finding the right pot for the right plant that fits your personal style of plant care is probably more important than whether or not you pre-soak your pots."

In need of some terra cotta pots? Shop a few options below

Tula Plants & Design Standard Terra Cotta Planters — $1.00 to $6.00

Shop this standard terra cotta planter in six sizes: 2″, 3″, 3.5″, 4″, 5″, and 6″.

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Tula Plants & Design Liberty Bell Planter 5" — $19.00

Shop this sturdy terra cotta planter. It’s also available in 7″ and 9″.

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Learn more about potting plants from the Plant Doctor:

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