philodendron in whitewashed terracotta pot on vintage teacup saucer

How To Whitewash Terracotta Pots: An Easy DIY Garden Project To Create A Vintage Look

I’m so excited to share with you today’s garden project! Whitewashing terracotta pots is a simple & easy DIY, that will leave a bit of rustic charm around your garden. It’s also inexpensive, and most of the supplies can probably be found around your home.

I grow a lot of things in my garden, potted plants included. I love how inexpensive terra cotta is, even in the larger sizes. I also love the way it looks after aging, and the rustic, cottage charm that it adds to a flower pot. 

However, it can take years for the salts and minerals to build up on the outside of a terracotta planter to create that whitewashed, aged look. I also have no control over what the finished product will look like. For that reason, I prefer to whitewash my terracotta myself and enjoy that beautiful look right away. 

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asparagus fern in whitewashed terracotta planter

Where To Find Terracotta Pots

Terracotta pots can be found at most garden centers or home improvement stores.  My favorite place to purchase them is at a craft store, such as Michaels or Hobby Lobby. Terracotta pots can also be picked up at garage sales, or from friends who are downsizing their collection of pots & planters!

How To Prep Terracotta for painting

For brand new terracotta, not much is needed to prep for painting beyond sealing the pot (see below.)

For older terracotta, it’s recommended to scrub off any potting soil or debris and soak in a water/vinegar solution to kill off any bacteria that may be lingering in the pot. I wash my pots with Dawn Dish soap and hot water, and then soak them in a solution of one part vinegar to one part water. Soak them overnight in the vinegar solution, and then rinse them thoroughly. 

Once the pots have dried thoroughly, it’s time to seal them.

How To Seal Terracotta Pots

Although I love the look of a white washed terracotta pot, I don’t like how quickly plants dry out. Terracotta pots are made from clay, and that thirsty clay will pull the water from the soil around your plant roots. If you’re a chronic over-waterer, terra cotta pots are going to be your best friend! But if you’re like me, a busy and sometimes neglectful gardener, then terracotta may prove to be challenging. 

For that reason, I like to seal my terra cotta plants with this spray sealant. This spray creates a barrier, keeping moisture inside the pot.

The downside to this spray is that it keeps terra cotta from building up minerals on the outside, giving it that natural whitewashing we all know and love. That won’t matter here because we will be whitewashing them ourselves. Just keep it in mind for the future, if you want to let some pots naturally age on their own.

Sealing the terra cotta also protects our paint job. As water seeps through the clay, it can discolor or wash away the paint on the outside of the pot. Applying a sealant before paint prevents this from happening. You can also apply the sealant over your final paint job, to give it additional protection from scratches and chipping.

Note: Sealing terracotta is a completely optional step. It helps keep the soil from drying out, and protects your paint long term, but we’ve painted plenty of pots without sealing them. Don’t feel like you *must* do this step.

To seal the pots:


  • Terracotta pots (I buy mine at Michaels)
  • Spray sealant (I use this one)
  • Newspaper

1.     Only seal your terracotta in a well-ventilated room, or outdoors. The fumes from sealants are very strong, and your workspace should be well ventilated.

2.     Cover your working area with newspaper to protect your work surface. 

3.     Place your clean and dry terracotta right side up on top of the newspaper. Spray a thin coat over the entire surface, including the inside of the pot. 

4.     Allow your pot to dry for 24 hours. Repeat with a second coat, if desired.

How To Whitewash Terracotta Pots


  • terra cotta pots (you can find these at any garden center or home improvement store. I frequently pick mine up at Michael’s!) 
  • Small paintbrush 
  • White acrylic paint (or wall paint leftover from a previous project)
  • Something to protect your work surface, like newspaper
  • Paper towels
  • Plastic cup


1.     Pour a little bit of your paint into the plastic cup. Add water and mix well, until you have a thin consistency. There are no exact measurements here, but you are looking for a consistency that would be much thinner than regular paint. The thinner you make the paint, the lighter your whitewashing will be. Experiment until you find a consistency that creates a look you love!

Watered down white paint dripping from a paint brush for whitewashed terracotta

If your pot is big enough, place your hand inside of a it so that it is upside down. This is the easiest way to paint bigger pots. If you’re whitewashing a smaller pot, hold it carefully to avoid smearing paint as you go.

Get your paint brush wet with a little bit of paint, and blot the excess off on a piece of paper towel. Less paint on the brush is more for this project.

Starting at the bottom of the pot and working your way towards the top, and working in small sections, paint little brush strokes that are in the same direction.

Brushing white paint on terracotta pots for whitewashing

After several brush strokes, gently wipe your paint off with a paper towel. The idea here is to remove excess paint and blur the strokes from your paint brush. Fold your paper towel as you work, so you’re not smearing paint back onto your pot.

Wiping off excess paint with paper towel to whitewash terracotta

Continue working your way around the pot, painting with the whitewash mixture and wiping off, until you have covered the entire pot and achieved the desired look.. Note: The paint will dry fast, so you will have to work quickly after applying to blend it with the paper towel.

Continue the paint along the top, and 1/3 of the way inside the pot. This will give you a finished look after planting.

Allow to cure for 24 hours, and spray again with sealant, if desired.

Philodendron in a whitewashed terracotta pot on a teacup saucer
The finished terracotta pot! To pretty it up even more, I like to use vintage teacup saucers as drip trays.

How did they turn out? Your whitewashed terracotta will look so nice with a few new plants in them! I love to decorate my front porch with them, and use them for my houseplants. They’re a great way to brighten up a space, and this is such an easy project to do.


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Whitewashing Terracotta clay pots FAQ’s

What kind of paint will stick to terracotta pots?

Acrylic paints and spray paints will stick to terracotta. I’ve also had excellent results using leftover wall paint.

How do you make terracotta paints white?

Aside from the natural aging process of minerals leaching through the clay to whiten terracotta over time, you can whitewash terracotta pots with paint. Use acrylic paint that has been watered down and wipe off with a paper towel as your brush it on.

How do you make teraacotta look weathered?

Terracotta gets it’s weathered look through the aging process, or from whitewashing with paint.

Do you have to soak terracotta before painting?

It’s recommended to soak terracotta in a vinegar or bleach solution to kill off bacteria before painting. If using vinegar, the ratio is one part water to one part vinegar. If using bleach, use one part bleach to 9 parts water. Soak for at least one hour to kill bacteria.

Can you use washable paint on terracotta?

Washable paint will wash off terracotta as the plant inside the pot is watered. To avoid this, seal the entire pot with a sealant designed for terracotta pots after your paint has thoroughly dried.  

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whitewashed terracotta planter

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How To Whitewash Terracotta Pots: An Easy DIY Garden Project To Create A Vintage Look

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