Terracotta vs Plastic
What is the most suitable material for growing your plants?
Let's compare one by one the strengths and weaknesses of terracotta and plastic pots, planters and balcony boxes.
Faced with yet another withered plant, do you ask yourself how to get a green thumb? Would you like to have a flowery corner but don't know how to take care of your flowers and plants?
It's all about the vase!
It may seem obvious, but in reality it is not at all: having the well-being of your plants at heart also means choosing the right "home" that will welcome them. On the market we find pots of all sizes, shapes and colors, with which to play to enhance the beauty of the plants and enhance the style of our green spaces.
But what material should we use to make our flora live in health? Eternal uncertainty always falls between two options: terracotta and plastic. Let's analyze the pros and cons of these materials together, evaluating them in relation to the aspects to consider when choosing pots!
- Natural material based on clay
- Very solid, robust and stable>
Extremely resistant to:
- Thermal shocks
- Solar heat
- Aggressive atmospheric agents
- Gelo (terracotta from Impruneta)
- Non-deformable, it maintains the same size and shape without changing its original design
- Porous, it allows the roots to breathe
- Strong thermoregulating power, it keeps the soil temperature uniform and constant
- Sustainable and ecological
- Timeless beauty, over the years its color takes on increasingly original and valuable nuances
- Durable, keeps for decades
- Safe and healthy for any type of crop, flower or plant
- Very large artifacts have considerable weight and must be handled with caution
- Less economic compared to polymers and synthetic resins
- Practicing extra drainage holes on the bottom of the pot is more complex, so much so that by choosing pre-drilled pots on the market it is possible to avoid this step
- Lightweight, it is easy to move and place wherever you want
- Economic, its widespread production has a very low cost
- Practical and quick to sanitize
- It's simple to add extra drainage holes
- Synthetic artificial polymer
- Vulnerable to sudden changes in temperature and atmospheric agents
- Very sensitive to heat and frost
- Fragile, chips and cracks easily
- Offers little stability, rolling over more often
- Suffocating, it does not let the soil breathe and retains a lot of humidity
- It overheats quickly, and will attract and store heat if left in direct sunlight
- Fades and yellows
- Not very sustainable, it creates plastic waste
- Often it doesn't last more than a couple of seasons
- It can cause health problems for vegetation linked to specific toxic synthetic elements, which can pollute plants and flowers, but also fruit and vegetables which we then consume at the table
Transpiration and Humidity
Plastic is a synthetic material with very little transpiration, which can be harmful to the plant. Not being able to respect the air circulation needs of the roots and the earth, this polymer retains a lot of humidity, causing stagnation which can lead to root rot.
Plastic materials attract and store heat when left in the sunlight, causing the vegetation they contain to wither prematurely. Furthermore, these polymers are not able to offer protection from sudden changes in temperature: in winter they cause freezing, while in summer try to put your hand on a plastic pot and you will feel how hot it is. Well, even the roots in the soil inside will be hot!
On the other hand, terracottas have a great virtue: they manage to maintain a uniform temperature inside the whole vase, maintaining the ideal climate for the plant. Through this intrinsic capacity, it is possible to guarantee a constant atmosphere for our vegetables, cooler in summer (by evaporating excess heat through the terracotta walls) and milder in winter (thanks to greater insulation from the cold).
Solidity, wear and resistance
Plastic pots are notoriously thin and brittle, characterized by a strong propensity to warp to varying degrees, chips and cracks. Their elise structure offers little stability and firmness, making them susceptible to toppling and falling very frequently.
Terracotta is extremely solid, thanks to the considerable thickness with which the vases are made (generally a few centimeters) and to the chemical structure that composes it, which is further strengthened through firing in the kiln, making the artefacts resistant to aggressive atmospheric agents, sharp changes in temperature and excessive solar heat.
Price and value
While it is true that plastic containers are more widespread and cheaper than practically any other material, it is also certain that their low price reflects the reduced value of the raw material.
On the contrary, terracotta, in particular the one from Impruneta known and appreciated all over the world, is considered among the materials of the highest quality and prestige thanks to its particular chemical composition and the rigorous attention dedicated to each stage of its processing, which makes each piece unique.
In general, plastic vases are quite light and for this reason they are easy to move and not tiring to lift to be placed on very high shelves. Fired clay is heavier than plastic.
Cleaning and hygienee
Plastic is very practical and quick to sanitize, dust and clean, it does not require specific products or ad hoc treatments. To keep terracotta vases clean and in perfect condition, just like any other object, we need to carry out simple and quick cleaning operations that require a few minutes. It is possible to use a hard brush and water to remove any deposits of dry earth or salt, in order to finish cleaning with a solution of water and Marseille soap or a common neutral detergent.
Plastic is not biodegradable (it does not decompose) and its production is also highly polluting! The damage caused by the pollution of this polymer inevitably affects both plants and animals. For a sustainable planet, there is a need for greener choices: for this reason our advice is to consciously buy, starting from your pots, preferring natural and ecological materials such as terracotta.
Over time, plastic is subject to fading and yellowing in sunlight, which is why it can acquire an old and neglected appearance. Terracotta is a timeless material that never loses its beauty, on the contrary, over the years its reddish color takes on increasingly fascinating and refined shades that increase its value and uniqueness.
Finally we would like to point out the difference between high quality and cheap clay pots. Choosing a cheap terracotta pot means exposing yourself to the risk of chips and cracks, especially from sudden drops in temperature. By relying on fine terracottas, such as those from Impruneta, you get a guarantee for your vase for decades! This precious Tuscan clay is characterized by the maximum anti-freeze power, which makes it capable of withstanding extremely cold temperatures, over -30°C.