Creating a Happy, Colorful, Handmade Home & life on the shores of lake superior

September 11, 2015

How to Paint Terracotta Planters so They Don't Look Painted

Spray paint a terracotta planter

Did you know that you can spray paint terracotta planters to give them a modern finish that looks like ceramic?  I've inherited quite a few plants and they can't all go in $200 planters so I purchased a few terracotta planters in various sizes and gave them a makeover!  Read on for my tips and tricks for painting terracotta, and also why my first attempt looked terrible... 

After updating a plant stand my papa made by refreshing it with paint and adding DIY walnut shelves, I also spruced up the plant stand that came with my Whoville plant (I keep forgetting his actual name, but to me he looks like he belongs in Whoville):


You'll probably think I'm bizarre, but that janky terracotta planter was all I could see when I sat at the dining room table.


I replaced it with a new terracotta pot,. but didn't love the look of them au naturel.  A lot of DIY tutorials, however, suggest just brushing on the paint and I don't love that look, either.

Instead, I gave mine a few coats of Rust-Oleum Tremclad Oil Based spray paint in Harbour Blue.

Rustoleum Tremclad Harbor Blue

And I hated it.

The colour is gorgeous and so glossy, but in the living room it stuck out like a sore thumb, making every colour look dull by comparison (and that is no small feat in my colourful world).  I gave it a light sand and repainted the terracotta planter in Rust-Oleum Universal Enamel Paint + Primer in One - Gloss White, the same colour as the stand. 

Now it looks fresh and modern - I love the crisp white with the green.

Spray paint a terracotta planter

Sometimes it's better to keep things simple.

Spray paint a terracotta planter
Spray paint a terracotta planter
Spray paint a terracotta planter
Spray paint a terracotta planter

Emboldened, I decided to paint a larger terracotta pot for the enormous Jade plant I also inherited.  Worried about leaking, I crammed him and his terracotta pot into this slightly larger pot (without drainage) for the 1600km journey:



Unable to salvage his old pot, I picked up a really large pot at Canadian Tire - did you know the terracotta pots sold there are made in Germany?


Here it is with a brand new paint job:

Spray paint a terracotta planter
Spray paint a terracotta planter

I was amazed at how well the terracotta planters took the paint!  Unfamiliar with most anything related to plants, I assumed the terracotta would be super porous, but the paint went on like a dream. 

Because I used spray paint, they look factory finished - my Mom was actually convinced they were ceramic (which would have cost me a lot more for this size).  Plus, because the paint finish is glossy, both planters can be washed and wiped down easily!

Spray paint a terracotta planter

The little spikey plant on the wall unit is yet another inherited plant - he was living with the Whoville plant but I moved him into a sweet little vintage McCoy pot.


With almost all of my new plants re-homed, the lakehouse is feeling a lot greener.  I'm so nervous about keeping all of these plants healthy (especially the orchids and the Jade - the last plant that bid farewell to the world in my care was a Jade)...

How to paint terracotta planter so they don't look painted

UPDATE (May 27 2016): Readers were curious about how the paint would hold up and whether it would peel or flake off.  My planters still look brand new and there has been absolutely no flaking or peeling.  I think the secret is using a primer + paint in one! 

Huge thanks to Rust-Oleum for providing the spray paint for this and many other DIY projects!
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21 comments

  1. I always appreciate seeing what didn't work when that happens in the middle of the DIY. You're right, that blue color was great but, overwhelming for that particular room.

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    1. I like seeing people's DIY process too! Sometimes a plan B is required, haha.

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  2. What a great idea, I'm not crazy about terra cotta pots either and we have a ton of them. The white looks good, but that blue was pretty spectacular.

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    1. The blue IS gorgeous! It just needs a different space than mine. But maybe for some outdoor pots? I might just use it yet!

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  3. So lovely- I love plants and it nice to see options for modernizing their look. That jade is a beauty. I would be afraid, too- I've killed a couple of jades and I would worry because that one's so large. I hope it goes well, it looks so beautiful. (You've probably hear this already but water infrequently).
    And I really love white planters against the green of the plants, too. Most of my planters are white, too. It creates some cohesiveness and the plant is the focal point. I snatch up any white ceramic pots I see at second-hand stores but I have a couple beautiful pottery planters that will remain their original glazed colour. I found a cute little red west German pottery pot that doesn't match any colours in my house but I love it
    Btw- your cute Dr. Seuss plant looks like a dracaena (dragon tree)

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    1. Thank you for identifying the whoville plant! I definitely think you're right. I'm definitely hooked on white and cream planters now, too. It's so true, the green leaves look beautiful against white. The natural beauty can shine!

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  4. I have tried painting terra cotta in the past and it looks good at the beginning but later the moisture from the soil seems to course through the pot sides and blister the paint - give us an update of how yours stand up!

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    1. What a bummer!! I've seen so many tutorials for painting pots but haven't seen a follow up. I will definitely keep my eyes peeled for blistering and report back. How long did the paint last? I'm reeeaaaalllly hoping mine stay nice because I love the look. Fingers crossed!!

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    2. In my hands, the demise was rapid, within a few weeks. It looks like you've done well sealing from the inside though so I hope your experience will be better than mine!

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    3. It's already been a few weeks (my posts are often published a few days/weeks after a project is finished), but I'm still going to keep an eye on them. Hopefully the primer in the spray paint helps. You raise a good point about the inside being painted. I didn't intentionally paint it, but because of overspray, there wasn't much naked terracotta. Thanks again for the heads up and I'll keep you posted!!

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  5. You're getting perilously close to a green thumb! That jade plant is to die for... I'll be thinking good thoughts in your/its direction! Painting your terra cotta planters will prevent them drying out as quickly as the "nude" ones do, since the paint fills the pores of the pottery. That can be a very good thing for houseplants in winter, as long as you don't let them stand in water. Have fun finding the best environment for each one. We have inherited plants at my mother's house -- mostly outdoors -- and its a constant pleasure to say to ourselves, "Oh, that's Betsey's peony; that's Penny's hydrangea..." I hope your green treasures bring you the same kind of happy connections.

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    1. Thank you for sending good vibes! I'm happy to hear there could be a benefit to painting them - I was worried I made them less functional. I will keep that in mind as I find a good watering routine. I do enjoy the life and energy they add to the house. And I am reminded of my loved one every day...

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  6. Ooooh I hate terracotta pots, they are super porous so it feels like you are watering them twice as much....not to mention I hate the color, these looks really nice. I am super jealous of that plant stand the orchids are on, I love it.

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    1. I am such a plant amateur, I had no idea the porous nature of terracotta planters wasn't ideal! Canadian Tire had some pretty grey/taupe swirl terracotta planters, did you see them? I wished they'd had the sizes I needed because they were so pretty.

      I've seen similar plant stands thrifting - maybe you'll stumble across one. I'll think good thrifting thoughts!!

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    2. I am sure terracotta is good for plants that don't like much water like succulents, but I am not a fan. Lol, thanks for the good thrifting juju.

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  7. brilliant! totally trying this....love the sleek glossy finish!

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    1. Thanks!! I'm a fan of the gloss finish. I like the look, but it's also easy to clean!

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  8. I understand your fear of "killing" off something that a family member had nurtured for years: I once nearly did in a Christmas cactus of my mom's--I put it outside, and we had an unexpected freeze and the whole top rotted off. Amazingly, I replanted the root ball, and it came back to life!! That jade plant is a beauty, and I hope it grows well for you!!

    The breathability of terra cotta does allow plants to dry out faster, but that is a good thing with plants that don't like to be wet...or are prone to fungal disease and rotting. I use terra cotta for my geraniums, and also my jade plants, as they both prefer the more arid soil. I question too whether the paint will blister, but if it works you've found a wonderful solution!

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    1. I'm so happy to hear your Christmas cactus could be saved!! If it could be salvaged you give me hope! To make up for painting the terracotta, I'm trying not to over water. The jade seems happy. It had yellow leaves before the move, but now it seems strong again.

      So far, no blistering and it's been a couple weeks. I check every day, I'm really hoping they stay nice because I love the glossy white. We shall see...

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  9. This is not on topic, I know. But I got my hair done today and my girl had sweet bits of pink in her hair and I commented on how much I liked it, and then she told me it was a conditioner! I thought you might like it, too. It's called Overtone and they have a teal. :)

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    1. I saw a gal on IG raving about it but was dubious. Seemed too good to be true, haha. If your hair stylist uses it, that's a good sign. I might just have to try it! Thanks for the tip :)

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