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How to Paint a Terracotta Pot for Herbs

Painting terracotta pots brings a little more interest to these budget friendly patio staples. You have to be careful though, because particular painting techniques aren’t recommended for herbs or other plants you intend to eat.

How to Paint a Terracotta Pot

If you’re anything like me and what I’m assuming is nearly everyone else based on the parking lot at Lowes on the weekends you’ve been sprucing up your outdoor space. With warm weather and the hope of spring it is so nice to be outside in the sunshine and pollen filled air. I’ve been filling my weekends with spring projects, like adding a little character by learning how to paint a terracotta pot so it is food safe for herbs.

We built an enclosed deer proof garden this year and I am in love with it! It is a smaller garden, so I wanted to utilize some of our patio space and grow herbs and smaller vegetables in containers.

Cute planters can get expensive quickly, especially if you want to have several of the larger ones for herbs. (Most herbs should be in pots 10-12 inches deep.) I did a quick DIY where I refreshed some of these simple terracotta pots with some paint and I love how they turned out!

Choosing a Terracotta Pot

This is a super simple and fun DIY. To start you just need some terracotta pots. I like these ones that don’t have the lip on the top. But if it’s May you may just have to go with whatever your local gardening or hardware store has in stock. They sell out so quickly!

Prep Terracotta Pots for Paint

Before you paint anything you always want to clean it with soap. If there is any dirt or grime on the surface the paint won’t adhere well and can peel and chip off later. Save time for your future self by just throwing them into the sink really quick!

Choosing Paint

All right, let’s talk paint. You can absolutely use acrylic paint if you have some lying around. They are cheap and easy to pick up at the craft store. My new favorite paint to use is just latex paint from Lowes. Yes, just like normal wall paint. I love that a sample size is only $4 and I can get them in such gorgeous colors! They are great for using on all different kinds of surfaces!

The colors in the above photo are: Grays Harbor, Secret Cove, Coral Clay, and Blue Seagrass from Sherwin Williams. I did also use some leftover paint I had from painting the exterior trim of my house. It is like a warm white color: Skyline Steel.

How to Paint a Terracotta Pot to Keep Herbs Safe

When I was researching painting terracotta pots I saw the majority of the pots painted both the inside and outside of the pots. This does seal the porous terracotta material, but paint is not food safe. That includes acrylic paint, spray paint, and latex paint.

If you are planning on growing herbs or smaller vegetables or fruits (strawberries would be fun!) in your terracotta pots it is important that the dirt does not come in contact with the paint. Do not paint the inside of the pot or the top rim of the pot.

Paint can degrade and begin to chip off or slowly erode away from the pot. This process is quickened if the pots are outside in the sun and elements.

Painting the Geometric Designs

First I applied a base coat of my warm white color (Skyline Steel from Sherwin Williams). I used a sponge brush because they are a little less streaky.

Since this is a curved pot, I can’t easily tape off the top to make a straight line. The tape will also curve around the pot. So I just did my best to freehand it! You could also make marks a few inches down from the top around the entire pot to keep things even.

To create the design for my pots I just started out with a freehanded squiggle or curve shape. I tried to make it so that the two sides weren’t close to being identical. If you try to make the same shape across the pot it can become quite difficult. Small changes compound and by the time to reach the other side, things can look quite different. Just something to keep in mind.

Continue to add stripes around the pot until it is filled!

I left one pot with just one coat of paint. I liked that you could see the brush strokes and it added a bit of texture to the pot.

For my other pot I did two coats of paint. This gives it a more opaque and less organic look.

Final Thoughts on Painting a Terracotta Pot

After the pots were dry I potted a parsley and mint plant. They look so cute and I love the pop of color that they add to my patio. These pots were so easy to do and you may already have the supplies. It is a great way to add custom herb pots to your patio space if you are on a budget or having trouble finding exactly what you want!

I also made these cute little face planters out of smaller terra cotta pots for some indoor pathos. Another idea if you are looking to add some character to some simple pots.

Edit: After some time the paint can begin to bubble since the terracotta is a porous material. If you want to prevent this from happening you can paint smaller portions of the pots and if you do get some bubbles and they bother you, you can try popping them with a little pin.

If you do this tehcnique or something similar, please share it with me on Instagram!

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