Opinions on terra cotta pots

With regard to trees in training, not collected trees, but young pre-bonsai, and/or nursery stock what say you about planting in good bonsai soil in terra cotta pots? Is this frowned upon? Better or worse than the plastic training pots? Why? Thx.


terra cotta pot. It breathes and I can water it to reduce temperature when the pot gets too hot in summer. Also it offers better visual and physical foothold fo the tree.

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In today’s Juniper 2 class, Ryan mentioned that for the fastest growth in a container, a collander would be the best, hands down–but it all depends on what you are trying to do as well as function.

That being said, for function, theory has it that the terra cotta pots are better at handling the temperature fluctuations. I’ve even heard there’s a difference in terra cotta pots–i’ve been told that Italian terra cotta is better because it’s fired at a higher temperature. Not entirely sure on my facts for this last statement.


I like using terra cota pots. I grow a lot of pre-bonsai stuff in them, and keep a lot of my “will it grow here” plants in them for a year or two before committing to using one for bonsai.

I’ve heard from other sources that colanders are great, but my summer heat dries them out way too fast, especially if I want to use a soil with few organics.

Plastic pots also get too hot way too quickly, making them a bad choice for me, especially if I’m using a lot of organics in the soil. I am talking about nursery style plastic pots, though. I’ve used a couple of plastic bonsai pots and some mica pots that have worked pretty well.


We had an unusualy cold winter for a stretch here in East TN. Trees in plastic pots faired much worse than those in terra cotta.

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I tend to use terra cotta pots for growing my bonsai stock, however, these pots are very porous and not fired at extremely high temperatures and therefore susceptible to break during freezing temperatures. They tend to dry out faster than plastic, mica, ceramic pots as well. I do use pond baskets instead of colanders, even in here in Texas my during the summers and I’ve had no problems. I use a wetter mix, for example pure akadama or diatomaceous earth or at least have more of those components in the mix to prevent them from drying out too much between waterings.

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I agree with Kip. The Italian made terra cotta pots made for bulbs are fired at a higher temperature and will withstand the freeze better than the cheap pots. I find the bulb pots also have a larger drainage hole.

Standard terra cota pots will crack and start to crumble if I leave them outside in the upstate NY winters so that’s a big no no for me. I don’t know about the high fired Italian type though. But I probably wouldn’t bother with those either because I can plant my trees in development in cheaper plastic containers like colanders/pond baskets. I have too many trees in development to want to spend lots of money on fancy Italian terra cotta :joy:. I even use large bus tubs for bigger trees (like they use in restaurants, they’re quite cheap from the restaurant supply store and very sturdy) drill a bunch of holes in those for drainage and use drywall tape for screen. This year I will be building some wooden boxes for certain trees, collecting some large yews that will most likely go into wooden boxes and putting some of my maples (planted on tiles) into wooden boxes as well.


Drywall tape for screens in large tubs…BRILLIANT!!!


Drywall Tape not Drywall Tape

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@Kip I like the colander, (cheap plastic from Dollar Tree), for growing seedlings. Great oxygen, great drainage, and seems to self prune the roots to keep the root ball compact and fine. For larger nursery or collected plants I have use plastic grow pans that have colander like bottom and side for the same reason. I fertilize heavily and try to get rapid growth on trident maples, red pine and hornbeams. Seem to work well but need protection for our winters. My goal is rapid growth and increasing trunk and roots. Really need to watch for wire cuts if I wire the trunk to get movement. Rapid growth means less time between wiring!