August 16, 2022

Charlie Doodle

Unique Art & Entertainment

Create a terra-cotta look with a mix of paint and baking soda

3 min read

Happy New Year! While ringing in 2022 looked different than it has in past years for many of us, I hope you found something special to commemorate it. 

A new year is all about starting fresh. And while that’s mostly taken the form of cleaning and purging for me (as I’ve written about in past columns), this weekend I worked on a fun day project to bring a fresh look to some old plant pots. 

If you, too, have an affinity for collecting houseplants, you know how expensive this hobby can get. I’ve always been shocked at the cost of pots — not to mention the fact that houseplants can quickly outgrow their containers and need a change (or several) throughout their lifetime.  

More:Home with Tess: It’s time to make this home a nest

I typically opt for plastic pots, mostly due to cost. They do have other benefits — they dry out more quickly than terra cotta and other ceramic pots, which can help prevent root rot. They’re also lighter, making it easier to transport them and hang them on walls or from ceilings. 

One pitfall, though, is achieving a clean look with them. Some plastic pots do a decent job of mimicking their terra-cotta counterparts, but at the end of the day, you can still tell they’re plastic. Plus, if you’re like me, you keep those suckers in the cheap plastic pots they come in as long as possible. 

Cue a Pinterest painting hack that is here to save the day. For months now, I’ve seen DIY gurus transform glassware and other thrifted finds into ceramics with a simple mixture of acrylic or latex paint and baking soda. This mix creates a textured paint that can make any object look like terra cotta. 

Feigning pottery from glass for the sake of decoration isn’t really my thing — I’d rather have the real deal. But it dawned on me that I could use this hack to create a cohesive look across all my plants. 

Creating and applying the paint was simple. I bought a quart of paint from Home Depot (though a sample size would have likely sufficed) and mixed it in a 1:1 ratio with baking soda. You can add more or less baking soda depending on how much texture you want. I watered my plants, let them dry, and then covered any that overhung their pots in plastic bags and tied them up so I could access the full pot. Then, I got to painting. 

A few notes from the field: 

• Brushstrokes will be visible if you use a paintbrush. I liked that look, as it brought more texture, but you can try sponges if you want to avoid the brushed look. 

• Not all plastic pots are created equal. You’ll have much better results if you spend a couple of extra dollars to buy plastic pots that are hard and don’t bend at the touch. I tried this out on a pot the plant came in (made of cheaper, more flexible plastic), and the paint has already started chipping. 

• This will certainly be easier to do if you paint the pots before they have plants in them. Painting the bottom and inside of the pots (at least the part that will be visible) will make it look more realistic. 

• Time will tell whether this paint holds up to water. It may be a good idea to paint containers that you place your potted plant into rather than painting the actual pot containing the plant. That way, you can remove the plant from the painted pot to water it. 

Overall, I consider this project a success. Of course, what’s a DIY without a little struggle? As I proudly hung my freshly made-over pots in a three-tiered macrame holder, the hook holding it tore out of the ceiling.  

After some cursing and pacing, I just decided to relocate the entire triad. And you know what? I’m liking its new location even better. Sometimes things really do work out in the end. 

Email your questions to Theresa “Tess” Bennett at and keep up with Tess on Instagram @homewithtess

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