Painted Flower Pots for Spring Blooms

Turn ordinary terra-cotta pots into pretty, decorative ones with a little paint and a lot of fun.

By Barbara Albright

 Inexpensive, familiar terra-cotta flower pots become charming gifts for potted flowers and herbs when they are hand painted by your kids. Regardless of the child's age or skill level, painting pots is a lot of fun and an activity that becomes especially joyful as spring approaches.

Prepare the Pots and Work Area
Before you begin, gather old terra-cotta pots or buy new ones. Think about the sizes. Choose a big pot if it will stay at your house, but if the kids want to carry it to Grandma's house, choose smaller ones.

Don't forget about the terra-cotta dishes that slip under the pots. These are pretty when painted.

You can also paint plastic pots, although terra-cotta ones will absorb the paint better.

Wash the pots with warm water. If they are caked with last year's garden dirt, use a little dish soap and a mild abrasive pad and rinse them well. Dry the pots with paper towels and then let them air dry in the sun or a warm room.

Spread newspapers or a drop cloth over the work area. Gather clean, dry paint brushes and clean, household or sea sponges.

Select the Paints
Use acrylic, water- or milk-based paints. You don't want to use paint with any toxic substances that could leach into the soil and damage the plant.

Stir the paint with a wooden stick or chopsticks until blended and then pour a little into a shallow dish. Work with one or two colors at a time.

Paint the Pots
Before they begin, the kids may want to sketch a few easy designs. Or they might decide to "plan as they go." Either way, keep it simple.

Tape masking tape on the pots to make horizontal or vertical stripes, or fashion stars, flowers, or free-form designs. When the paint dries, carefully peel the tape off.

For a washy effect, cover the pot with paint and then wipe some of it away with a clean, moist sponge.

To apply paint with a sponge, dip the moist sponge into the paint, press it lightly on a piece of paper to remove the excess, and the dab it on the pot.

Cut the sponges into shapes and use them as stamps, or use rubber stamps. Try different techniques such as streaking or pressing the sponge onto the pot.

Combine techniques. For instance, coat the pot with a smooth or sponged layer of paint and let it dry. Decorate the painted pot with more sponging, stamping, or painted designs.

Plant the Pot
Wait until the pot is completely dry before filling it with potting soil. Or, if you prefer, insert a smaller, plastic pot, already planted, into the painted pot. Use popsicle sticks as markers in the pots, if you want.

You can also use the pots as vases. Insert a glass or plastic container in the pot, fill it with water and fresh flowers.