How To Keep Your Terra Cotta Pots From Cracking During The Winter

Store these beauties in a safe space before the first frost to keep them perfect year after year.

December 1, 2016
terra cotta pots
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"Terra-cotta pots absorb moisture from the soil they contain," explains Mandy Spence, a buyer who purchases containers and garden accessories for Terrain at Styer's, a specialty nursery in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania. Terra-cotta often cracks during cold winter weather because water in the porous clay material turns to ice and expands (here's a great way to add style to terra cotta pots).

(Whether you're starting your first garden or switching to organic, Rodale’s Basic Organic Gardening has all the answers and advice you need—get your copy today!)

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"To prevent cracking, terra-cotta containers should be brought indoors before frost," says Spence. "Empty the containers of plants and soil and store them in a frost-free place." (Here's how to clean those terra cotta pots.) Fluctuations in humidity can make containers that are nested inside one another swell and stick together. For winter storage, Spence suggests setting the containers upside down on a level surface and then placing pieces of flat scrap lumber across them to create shelves on which other pots can be stacked. "This prevents chipping and still allows you to store several pots in a small space."

If a container eventually cracks, all is not lost, insists Spence. "I break the cracked pots apart with a mallet and plant succulents in the larger shards and place the smaller ones in the bottoms of pots for drainage."