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Like most gardeners, I love the rain, especially when it allows me to turn off those sprinklers and save on my water bill. Did all that precipitation last month give you a case of cabin fever like it did me? When the weather prevents me from working in the garden, I like to make pots, stepping stones and yard art using hypertufa, a mixture of peat moss, perlite, vermiculite, Portland cement and water. These ingredients can all be found at your local hardware or garden store.
I discovered hypertufa pots a few years ago at a garden festival. I liked the “old” look, and the pots weighed much less than those made of concrete. My herbs and succulents seem to thrive in hypertufa containers.
Hypertufa isn’t a new concept. Eons ago, horse troughs, made using similar materials, were placed along the roads for travelers. When cars replaced the horse-drawn buggy, the troughs were recycled, sometimes ending up as large flower pots. The porous nature of the material made it a natural container for plants.
Making pots with hypertufa is an outdoor project that can be done in the yard when it’s pretty or in the garage when it’s not. It reminds me of making mud pies when I was a child, but this project isn’t for young children. The dust from the cement is caustic, requiring that you wear a mask and gloves.
Besides the hypertufa ingredients above, there is a pretty long supply list: a face mask to cover your mouth and nose; rubber gloves; one of those cheap, thin plastic drop cloths; a container for measuring the ingredients; and a large tub – a wheelbarrow works – to mix the “mud” in. I wear my old clothes—this project is messy, but fun! When you’re done, all you have to do is hose down the area.
I love going to garage and estate sales to look for interesting molds like plastic beach pails, the large ones with molded designs on the side. I also use those big plastic tubs you can find at the discount store. Sometimes I use large gelatin molds. While these aren’t as flexible as the plastic ones, they have impressed designs and shapes that make interesting flower pots. Of course, once you use a Jello mold for this purpose, it is no longer safe for preparing food.
Check out some of my pictures of pots, mushrooms, stepping stones, and even a birdbath and fountain my husband and I constructed together.
If you’d like to see more examples of hypertufa, go to Melanie Palmrose taught me how to make these fantastic pots, and she offers reasonably priced workshops you can try if you’d like to make some of your own.

About Aline Clement

Aline Clement is a master gardener with the Duval County Extension Service and the University of Florida/IFAS.