The Terra Cotta Freegan

by Katy on May 24, 2011 · 19 comments

I like to garden, but I don’t like to spend money. Luckily, I live in a neighborhood where people are good about putting unwanted items out on the curb. One category that I keep a keen eye out for is flowerpots, specifically terra cotta flowerpots.

I know they dry out faster than the plastic variety, but I think the plastic ones are ugly as sin and leach chemicals into my plants. A double no-no!

I recently drove past a large terra cotta pot, but was on my way somewhere and unable to stop and scoop it up. On a whim, I drove by two days later and was amazed to find that it was still available. Sure, it had some significant chipping on the rim, but I figured I would turn that side away. And further down the block was another pot, rectangular with a cute fleur de lis pattern on the side. And it was perfect!

And then yesterday I came across another flowerpot, as well as some small pots of freebie trailing plants that I don’t know the name of. Screech . . . I brought those puppies home, planted them up together with some volunteer plants in my garden, and voilá, instant cute porch candy without a single penny being spent!

It would easy to drop a bundle on flower pots, as the nice ones cost $15 and up at our local garden center, so I’m always happy when I can score them for free. I may not be pulling my family’s food from dumpsters yet, but when it comes to terra cotta pots, I am proud to call myself a freegan!

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”


I plan on planting this huge flower pot with a columnar apple tree. And that big ol' chip? It will face the back.

So cute, so perfect, so free. I think I'll plant lettuce in this one.

Within a half hour of finding this freebie pot, I had it planted with lady's mantle, valerian and whatever the free trailing plants are.

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

No Debt MBA May 24, 2011 at 9:40 am

I love finding curbside flower pots. Terra cotta really is more attractive than plastic and they’re given away so often that I feel guilty buying pots at the store. Plus I like the random assortment you end up with through acquiring free pots instead of buying a matching set all at once.


Sherry May 24, 2011 at 10:32 am

Good score! I haven’t done it, but I’ve heard that if you paint yogurt or buttermilk on terra cotta pots and leave them outside moss will grow on them giving them an old English garden look. I’d try a little on that bite mark on the big pot just to see what happens.


Katy May 24, 2011 at 11:50 am

Moss will grow without invitation here. No need for tricks.



Mary Ann May 24, 2011 at 10:34 am

Hard to tell from the picture, but it looks like the trailing plant is Creeping Jenny.


Katy May 24, 2011 at 11:49 am

I just googles a picture, and yes it is Creeping jenny. Thanks for the ID!



HeatherS May 24, 2011 at 10:55 am

What great finds! I love pots like that. I had a terra cotta one that was accidentally left out one winter and due to freezing one side broke off. I kept the intact side and laid it down in my flower bed so it looks like a pot that feel over and then planted flowers so they look they are tumbling out of the overturned pot. A cute effect and I got to still use part of the broken pot!


Kristia@Family Balance Sheet May 24, 2011 at 11:10 am

If you only lived in PA, I have a shed full of terra cotta pots in all sizes that I’m not using right now. I’m about to give up on pots. The plants die on me too quickly.


Tina (Tightwad Mom) May 24, 2011 at 11:57 am

I am a flower pot snob. I hate plastic flower pots; especially the ones that look like animals! Terra cotta are my favorite. In fact, I have several (found at Goodwill) lined up on my kitchen windowsill right now. I am attempting to grow cilantro, parsley, and basil indoors (since it’s to cold and rainy in Idaho to put them outside). I personally think that groupings of terra cotta flower pots filled with flower sitting on someone’s porch is fabulously swanky! 🙂


Chrissy May 24, 2011 at 2:59 pm

What an amazing find! I am jealous. I have had luck with getting free plants in the last week. Three different offers. Marigolds, Impatients, a hanging basket of begonias. I’ve just had to figure out what to do with them as I am running low on pots now. I have have yet to see any terra cotta plants on the side. Of the road though….


Tracy Balzy May 24, 2011 at 6:53 pm

Great post, Katy! I love terra cotta, too. I am working on gathering some to fill with plants and put out on the porch of my 1941 Cape Cod. I think they’ll go nicely with the style of the house.

I buy terra cotta pieces when I find them at resale and garage sales. I have a terra cotta tray (maybe it was meant to be placed under a long pot like the one you’ll use to plant lettuce?) I use under my pepper and salt grinders in my kitchen, and we have tealight holders meant for the outdoors that are shaped like frogs and snails. There’s something so earthy and real about terra cotta!

I love the pictures and captions you included with this post!


molly May 24, 2011 at 7:54 pm

Nice frugal finds Katy! I also think your trailing plant is Creeping Jenny. It’s cute, but be aware that it is more like Galloping Jenny if given more than a pot to populate. A real garden thug, so put it where it’s desire to rule the world doesn’t bother you….


Amber @ May 25, 2011 at 4:23 am

You are lucky! I love terra cotta planters. A while back you mentioned you are limited in what you can plant in your backyard because it is so shady? We planted malabar spinach in our backyard in an area that (maybe) gets 1.5 hours of sun in the morning. It is growing like a weed! The nursery told us that one plant gets HUGE (or as Trump would say—YOUge…sorry, couldn’t resist). And they are right. Just an idea…


Practical Parsimony May 25, 2011 at 4:36 am

Besides curbside and yard sales, I have found that locally-owned nurseries will sell for cheap their broken or chipped terra cotta pots. Mine has an area where they keep the sad pots. Ask if you do not see reduced pots. Like Katy, I just turn the sad side to the back. Or make sure the trailing plants are in the broken/chipped spot. Lowe’s and other chains can return their pots for credit.


Paula in the UP May 25, 2011 at 5:17 am

Great finds! People don’t leave stuff out on the curb here like they do in your area. Although we have an old un used patio table I’m going to haul to the curb and put a free sign on. Maybe I’ll start a trend!!

We can’t even consider planting yet, we had a frost warning for last night, geeesh! We’re still waiting to plant our newly dug veggie garden, hopefully this weekend!


Bellen May 25, 2011 at 6:08 am

Wonderful finds. We often find pots, empty and still planted, when the snowbirds go home – mainly in April.

Besides using trailing plants and turning chipped areas to the back we have used black or dark green paint on the top edge with a matching band about 1/3 to 1/2 down. Dresses it up and makes it hard to notice.


Heather May 25, 2011 at 6:11 am

I love finding treasures along the curb. I did have to laugh as yesterday my children did eat lunch from the trash. Well, actually, we were at the local university where a school group had just visited. One of the chaperones noticed me with my children. He mentioned that he had left their left over lunches by the Union(untouched apples, sandwiches and bags of pretzels). My kids overheard him and ran to grab a lunch. Yep, we scavenged our lunch.


Julie June 16, 2011 at 5:21 am

Hi Katy,

I inherited Cynthia’s flower pots when she moved to Texas. I have several terra cotta ones that are yours if you still want them 🙂 I could set them out next time you work… I’m not too far from the hospital.


Betty Winslow March 30, 2017 at 2:05 pm

My garden nut hubby loves nice pots, but they are so expensive. I found some huge fancy ones out to the road last and brought them home – he was so excited!! Looking forward to seeing how he uses them!


Betty Winslow March 30, 2017 at 2:18 pm

ummm – last FALL – LOL


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