1. Sand away any rough spots or loose clay particles on the rim, bottom edge, and outside of the pot.
2. For standard flower pots, that will be used for planting, seal the INSIDE with oil or water based polyurethane-2-3 coats-let dry. Either of these will work but oil based polyurethane will last longer.
3. For decorative pots that will not be used for plants, seal the INSIDE with a water-based polyurethane or craft acrylic sealant. I suggest this because oil based products are flammable and the clean-up is easier with water based products.
4. For candle pots you should glaze and fire the inside of your pot. This is the only way to prevent the candle flame from burning the terra cotta. If you really want to make a candle pot, try locating a paint-it-yourself pottery studio and ask if they will glaze and fire the inside of your pot(s).
5. Paint the OUTSIDE of the pot in the base color of your choice with acrylic or latex paint -2-3 coats-let dry. Patio Paint is a good brand for terra cotta. You can find Patio Paint at most craft stores.
6. If you purchase Plaid Decorator Blocks to decorate your pot, they come with a pattern suggestion sheet and how-to instructions. You can also buy more than one set of blocks and mix patterns and shapes. Plaid does offer their products for sale at their web site. See below for specific pattern suggestions.
7. To decoupage your flower pot, pick any wrapping paper, wall paper, greeting card, or fabric, etc., that you like and make a color copy of it. To decoupage your design onto the flower pot, carefully cut-out the shapes you want to use and adhere them to the pot with Mod Podge, (also by Plaid), available at craft stores.
8. When you’re finished decorating/painting your flower pot, let it dry thoroughly, overnight is best. Then seal the outside with a water based polyurethane 2-3 coats. There are several of these on the market, available at craft, hardware and paint stores. Check to see if the product you select is OK to use over a painted surface. I stress water based polyurethane because oil based products have a yellow tint and will likely discolor your design. Mod Podge is a good sealant as well as an adhesive. (It does leave a slightly tacky feeling to the touch).
Protect your flower pot from the elements
If it’s cold where you live, store your flower pot in a warm, dry place during the winter months.
If you use your pot for a living plant, after watering your plant, DO NOT allow the pot to stand in water. If you notice water sitting in the saucer after watering, pour it out. Remember, painted surfaces do not stand-up to extensive exposure to water.
Clean your pot, if necessary, with a soft damp cloth. No scrubby pads or abrasive cleaners. They will scratch the finish.
Patricia Petrat is the owner of Patricia’s Pots, a Michigan-based store specializing in decorating and marketing flower pots, tin-ware, and unique terra cotta pieces since 1997. Visit Patricia’s Pots for great flower pot gift ideas.