HOW TO INSTANTLY AGE NEW CLAY POTS.

I can kill an indoor plant in 4.6 days.  I’ve talked about my skill in this particular area before, but when  you’re good at something you want everyone to know.  Some person in Waynesboro, Virginia for example is really good at shaving cats bellies.  As such, they’ve taken to … shaving the bellies of all their neighbourhood cats.

7 cats in the past few months in Waynesboro have returned home with shaved bellies. They aren’t hurt or injured or anything.  They’re mainly just a little bit indignant.  But cats are like that all the time – so.  Local authorities are now involved and the town of 21,000 is on the lookout for anyone looking to purchase a loom and/or wearing calico sweaters.

Waynesboro police captain Kelly Walker,  has used his own finely tuned cunning and intuition to solve this mystery, saying,  “Probably the best solution is for whoever is doing this to just stop,” Walker said.

Amen. Someone get this guy on a plane to the Israel/Palestine border.

So these plants of mine.  When The New York Times came to shoot my house I had to replace my dead houseplants with some live house plants because you can only get away with dead houseplants in some of your more avante garde publications, like The Addams Family Circle.  When I was picking up some new plants I grabbed some new clay pots as well.

The problem with new clay pots is they look new.  Looking new is never a problem with white tee shirts, shoes or manicures, but with pots?  You don’t want them to look new.

The pot on the left is my instantly aged clay pot.  The one on the right is a regular old clay pot.  No insta-age on that one, it’s fresh out of the store.

I couldn’t figure out a way to age these pots instantly.  I was not going to sit around all night painting them before the photographer showed up and I didn’t have a handy bottle of moss and buttermilk to spray on them only to discover in 6 months that you can’t really grow moss that way.

So I thought of salt.  Salt stained things and left a white residue, which is what the minerals in water over a period of time does to pots.  Leaves a white residue.

After some experimenting and mishaps that involved open wounds and multiple brand new swear words I figured it out.

I tried 3 different methods and all of them worked in their own way.  Which one you use will depend on how much patina you want on your pot and how permanent you want it to be.

How to instantly age clay pots
  1. Fill a bucket or bowl that’s larger than your pot with hot water.
  2. Pour salt into the container until no more will dissolve. The water will be fully saturated with salt.
  3. Set your clay pot in the water for a few hours until it’s fully absorbed the salt water.  If you have to, flip the pot over in the water so both the top and bottom get immersed.
  4. Remove the clay pot from the salt water and let it dry.
  5. After drying it will be instantly aged with white patina all over it.

The longer the pot dries the more salt will appear.  This continues over the period of a week, but the salt is noticeable after only a few hours of drying.

As you continue to dip your clay pots into the salt water the amount of salt saturation will be less and less because the first pots have absorbed so much of it.  Just continue to add more salt to the water OR be pleased with the fact that all the pots will have different levels of the white patina on them.

You can also take your salt solution and fill a spray bottle with it. Spray the pot until it’s fully saturated.

This method works well, but the salt doesn’t get pulled as far into the clay so it’s more easily removed with  handling and watering.

The last method you can use if you don’t even own a spray bottle is to soak your clay pot in regular water and then sprinkle salt all over you want the patina to appear.  You have to sprinkle the salt IMMEDIATELY so the salt melts on contact allowing the clay pot to pull the salt into itself as it absorbs the water.

If you use the soaking method you’ll have to use a plastic liner in the pot.  As a professional plant killer I can tell you that a sure fire way to kill a plant is to set it in a pot filled with salt.  Salt kills plants.

You can see here how easy it is to rub off the salt patina from a pot that’s only had salt sprinkled onto it.

A soaked pot on the other hand really pulls the salt into itself and is much harder to remove the patina from.

If you decide there’s too much salt patina on a soaked po,t you can scrub it down with a brush or scouring pad.

I used a piece of my homegrown Luffa sponge.

See?  Too much salt isn’t a problem.  A little elbow grease and it’s toned down.

INSTANT aged pots.  You can make ’em quicker than a loon can shave a cat’s belly.

54 Comments

  1. Lois Baron says:

    They should be looking for someone with a heckalotta scratches. lol.

    • Debbie from Illinois says:

      So true!

      • Teresa Plunkett says:

        My question is “Why?” It seems pretty ridiculous to me. Personally I am not a fan of old, aged, dirty pots. Gross, give the plant someplace to live that it will be proud of! Soaking the pot it salt! You’re sure to kill any plant!! Clay pots are so porous that “protecting” the inside of the pot with a plastic bag is a waste of time!! Just skip the trouble and throw your plant in the trash!!

        • Karen says:

          Well, because as I said in my post, I *am* a fan of old, pots with patina. And I’m pretty sure any plant in my house would indeed be proud to be in one. You’ve used an extraordinary amount of exclamation marks in your comment so I’m going to assume you prefer brand new pots and the good news for you is I have no plans to come to your home and force you to salt your pots. ~ karen!

  2. Mia Myers says:

    Oh dear! Yes, salt in the soil will leave it barren forever. (Remember the pillaging Romans?)

    Dilute latex paint wiped almost off the pot gives it a tempered patina and won’t kill the poor trapped plant. Choose colors to give a mossy effect, or even the thinnest glaze of antique gold. Or Milk Paint (very old fashioned, cheap, and benign.)

    There’s no shame in dressing up with artificial plants (as long as they aren’t glossy plastic). But table salt will only further convince you that you can a condemned thumb, which is not the case.

    RIP

    • Karen says:

      Hi Mia! I understand your concern. But in my experience (and I’ve done a lot of it) painted pots usually end up looking like painted pots no matter how skilled you are. Salt literally mimics the minerals left by water on pots. The plants won’t die, you just leave them in plastic pots (which are much better for keeping an even moisture in soil anyway. ~ karen!

    • Lyn says:

      At last, someone else who recalls what the Romans did to Carthage!

      • Jennie Lee says:

        I do, too. I’ve always felt sorry for Hannibal. All that mountain crossing with elephants, plus the Romans cut off his brother’s head and threw it into his camp at night, and he still lost. 🙁 As for pots, I don’t like the look of new pots, but I don’t really like salty pots, either (sorry, Karen). An alternative I saw online showed pots spray-painted with metallic paint. They looked like real copper! And I have hammered copper and hammered bronze paint! I haven’t tried it yet, though. I worry that the paint will flake off, if I don’t use a plastic liner.

        • Lyn says:

          And if you’re using the pots for herbs, you might want to consider whether there are toxic elements in the paint that might find a way into your food…. Another reason for a plastic liner, but then that’s more plastic in the world, sigh. What about just using the pots as they are and having the old-fashioned patience to let them age as & when they will? (Although copper is beautiful and there are some great copper paints out there!)

  3. TucsonPatty says:

    I kept thinking, “But, that is how I kill plants in the driveway, or on the patio…”
    Then I remembered – this is Karen, she knows her shit, and you provided the answer – plastic liners. This looks better than the wiped off painted ones I’ve seen, and this is why they look that way. They have soaked up all the hard water deposits they can here in Tucson, and they look like this! So. Great idea!

  4. Thandi says:

    My birds gave me a “self-catering” spathiphyllum for mother’s day. I have high hopes for this little plant. No more plant death!
    Love the salted pots, but I think I’m going to paint all of mine white and write things like “Don’t Die” on them in gold marker. Classy and practical.

    • Dawn says:

      Well, that might work but how about writing “LIVE” on them? After all, the Universe is listening and will do what you want but from what I understand she doesn’t know about qualifiers like “don’t” and only recognizes “Die” or “Live”. Just a thought!

  5. Thandi says:

    Self-catering? Really autocorrect? Well I suppose it’s not toooo far off…
    But “self-watering” is what I was going for.

  6. Ev Wilcox says:

    Funny-I’ve always Not liked it when my pots get that awful white stuff on them-even went to plastic pots! Have to think about it i guess.

  7. Mary W says:

    It’s hard to find unglazed clay pots anymore that don’t cost an arm and a leg. Are they real expensive in Canada or is this just a local issue?

    • Karen says:

      Dollarama carries them for cheap. And my local nursery. ~ karen!

    • Jennie Lee says:

      Greedy local merchants…?

      • Mary W says:

        I think it is more like the cost of shipping them without breakage and then people seem to choose colorful, ceramic glazed pots instead of plain clay. Probably just supply and demand but it’s hard to find them without spending so much. I prefer clay pots as it seems more natural and efficient but they really aren’t colorful like the ceramics. I guess I’d rather see colorful flowers. Raised orchids for years in plain clay orchid pots and know many people that just hang them in their trees (Florida), but finding orchid pots is even harder.

        • Jennie Lee says:

          I’ve had no luck finding an African Violet pot! They are not as deep as a regular pot.

          • Mary W says:

            One thing I did was plant several in the same larger pot and since they love company, they bloomed really well. I just had to be careful when they became crowded – not to let that be a problem for any length of time. I loved the clay pots and when minerals built up around the edge I made aluminum foil “rims” to keep the stems from getting in the build ups. They were perfectly happy. I misted them every week (they are from the rain forest so I never worried about spots which come from big splashes of cold water. I always set all the clay pots in the tub and soaked them almost every week in the summer. I was rewarded with fantastic blooms. Good luck!

          • nancy says:

            They are at Lowe’s, at least the one in my area, PacNW.

  8. Mary B. says:

    I have one plant that I have managed to keep alive – an orchid my daughter gave me 6 years ago. Other than that I have decided to have mercy on houseplants and leave them to those who enjoy giving plants the care and nurturing nurturing they need. Strangely, I grow very good vegetables.

    By the way, my sister who lives in Hamilton, couldn’t wait to call and tell me that there was an article about you in the newspaper. Turns out it was the NYT article. You’re becoming famous!

  9. Janet says:

    I have read that painting them with plain yogurt will develop a beautiful mossy patina. However, that takes time to grow. Your instant patina is a good solution.

    • Karen says:

      Martha Stewart started that yogurt thing (as far as I can remember) decades ago and I’ve never heard of anyone that it actually worked for. It’s like a mythical crafting rumour, lol. I’ve always wanted to try it to either finally be able to dispel or confirm it. ~ karen!

      • Jennie Lee says:

        I fell for the buttermilk and moss thing. I got a good laugh when you joked about it not working, Karen. I was all set to say that!

        • karin sorensen says:

          so this is really BS huh???? whadda shame, i was just about to try that out…. what was the result? just a stinking yukky mess? thanks for sharing.

          Karin

          • Jennie Lee says:

            Yes, Karin, it is BS. I actually bought buttermilk (which I don’t like) and put it in a blender with moss, then used a paintbrush to apply it to stones in my yard. (Moss grew in that yard, in numerous places, by the way. I just wanted it to grow where I wanted; mainly to make new additions look ancient.) It did NOTHING. I later did some research online, and you can get it to grow on soil, where you want, but it is NOT fast. The experts also gave a thumbs-down to the buttermilk idea.

            • karin sorensen says:

              thanks for your feedback Jennie, I appreciate that. ah the interwebs, where everytong is out to get cha and you can’t trust anyone….

              ‘xept Karen of course :0B

              have a great hump day

              Karin

  10. Tammy says:

    Hi Karen, What “Someone get this guy on a plane to the Israel/Palestine border” suppose to mean?? Tammy, Tel Aviv, Israel

    • Karen says:

      To negotiate the Palestinian / Israeli conflict because this police officer is clearly so good at solving problems. (although clearly he’s not) ~ karen!

  11. Melissa Stinson says:

    Patina’d clay pots = World Peace 😊

  12. Jody says:

    You have time to salt pots. I have time to Google Mike Wilhelm as the police chief of Waynesboro Virginia. I think Mike might be famous now. Or Kelly Walker. There are a lot of Kelly Walkers out there.

  13. Jan Hekhuis says:

    Years ago someone gave me a clay pot on which they had attractively written “Grow damn it!”. It seems to work. Things seem to thrive in that one.

  14. Anne says:

    The salts will kill your plant. No wonder they don’t last long with you. Latex painted and wiped takes less time than all this salt mess and will help seal evaporation from the pot. Double score. The latex doesn’t absorb all the way through like this salt bath. Every time you water the salt pot more will get sucked in to the pot until your plant dies a horrible dessicated death. Such s ray of sunshine I am!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Anne. That’s why I said in the post to just drop your plants in their plastic pots, right into the clay ones. ~ karen!

      • Anne says:

        Oh I get what you are doing. Sorry I missed the plastic part. I never seem to be able to find plastic pots that match the same size terra cotta. I also think that you need to change the soil out a bit because the growing medium they use doesn’t really support good growth for long. I usually increase the size of the pot a bit when I plant loosening up the roots. I do love the look of dried mineral salts on pots. Sorry I didn’t read right I’ve been rushing through my mail thinking if that virus is there if I go fast it won’t get me!

  15. e says:

    I always worry when my clay pots get that white bloom, since i know it’s salts leaching out of the soil and/or water….

  16. K. Savage says:

    There is a way to decorate a clay pot with buttermilk and moss but I have forgotten the procedure. Anybody know?

  17. Janet says:

    I am now ready to try the yogurt experiment, as I need to know if Martha’s method works or it
    just urban legend. I have plenty of plain yogurt on hand and will look up the instruction this afternoon. Will let you know how it goes. It seems easier than salt although, I may end up with a sour mess.

    • Karen says:

      The yogurt method won’t be easier Janet. 🙂 All you do is dunk a pot in salt water. I’m not sure how much easier it can get than that. Also I’m 99.9% sure the yogurt method won’t work. But you’ll have to wait several months to find out because that’s how long they claim it takes to work. ~ karen!

  18. Patti says:

    white and green craft paint and a sea sponge….a lot less work and won’t kill the plants and it won’t damage other surfaces….gesh Karen…you are trying too hard

    • Karen says:

      How exactly is dunking a pot into salt water difficult? That’s what you do. Take a pot, dunk it into salt water. Also, I’ve never been a fan of faux finishes like sponge painting, especially on pots. I didn’t even like them in the 1980’s. ~ karen

  19. Jan says:

    I have done dye projects with Kool Aid on yarn and fabric. Might work on pots too? I might have to try that.

  20. Sarah McDonnell says:

    wonder if this would work as well with Epsom salts? Lavender is supposed to thrive with Epsom supplements so the plastic liner could be done away with. Or borax? They both leave nitre looking finish on my dishwasher when I clean with them.

  21. nancy says:

    Oh, I don’t think I can read anymore comments. (sooooo haarrrrd) and I know I am the laziest reader you have. Clay pots are $$$ and break easily and the dang bottoms are just as much! I always use a liner (called leaving them in the pot they were bought in?) but then your pot looks new forever. Annoying.
    CONGRATULATIONS to Karen! !!!!!

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