If there is a gardener or two on your list this holiday season, why not surprise them with a custom-made hypertufa pot, filled with seasonal blooms! Or, perhaps you have several hostess gifts to get for the many parties you are attending this season. You can make a variety of petite, hypertufa planters and add just one succulent or tiny fern to each for an unusual, thoughtful and inexpensive holiday gift.
What in the world is “hypertufa”? Tufa rock is a type of limestone that is porous, easy to carve, and yet strong. Back in the day, tufa was used extensively for livestock troughs on farms and ranches. Tufa rock can be hard to find and expensive, but you can get the same effect with a faux version. “Hypertufa” refers to faux or fake tufa. It’s a combination of ingredients that mimic the properties of the natural tufa stone and can be mixed to make amazing planters in a variety of shapes and sizes.
Herbs and succulents thrive in hypertufa planters because of its porous nature – draining water and keeping these drought-tolerant plants from sitting in damp soil. But you can plant almost anything in one of these pots. The craggy, rough surface, adds texture and interest to your garden design.
To learn to make these versatile and textural pots, I attended a workshop at Country Gardens Farm. Mike and Judy Cunningham led attendees through the step-by-step process. Here’s what you need to do to make hypertufa pots….
- 1 part Portland cement (not concrete and not a cement mix) *Portland cement comes in 94 pound bags, so you might want to have a hypertufa-making party and invite friends to share the cost of materials!
- 1 part peat moss
- 1 part horticultural perlite (you can also substitute or 1 part vermiculite if you prefer a smoother finish)
- 1 part or more of water (see instructions on water below)
- Liquid concrete bonding agent (1 ounce added to each gallon of water)
- Cooking/oil spray to spray your form and make product slide out easily
- Plastic bag large enough to accommodate your container
- Household vinegar
- Drop cloth
- Mask – the ingredients are very dusty
- Large scoop
- Rubber gloves that extend above the wrist to prevent irritation
- Container mold/form (can be any size and shape but look for container without lip on edge and with a smooth surface, like a plastic kitchen mixing bowl)
- Wire brush
- Large container to mix ingredients
- Place materials on a covered, hard surface in a well-ventilated area, and put on mask and gloves.
- Using your scoop, pour equal parts of the Portland cement, peat moss and perlite into your mixing container.
- Break apart any pieces sticking together, and thoroughly mix all the ingredients
- Make a well in the center of the ingredients in your mixing container and begin to slowly add water, working the water into the mixture with your gloved hands.
- Continue to add small amounts of water and work it into the mixture until it is the consistency of cottage cheese or a mud pie.
- Ball up some of the mixture in your gloved hand and squeeze it. Very little water should come out. If you have added too much water, just add more equal parts of the dry mixture.
- Spray your container mold with cooking spray.
- Begin placing the cottage-cheese consistency cement mixture on the inside bottom of the mold to a 1 ½ – 2 inch thickness.
- Work your way around the sides of the mold, building up to a 1 ½ – 2 inch thickness.
- Pack the mixture firmly to remove any air pockets.
- Use a toothpick to determine uniformity in the mold’s thickness.
- When you are done, inset a drainage hole at the bottom, using your gloved finger or a stick.
- Place a plastic bag around the mold and let it cure in a shady spot for 2-3 days.
- After curing, remove your new hypertufa planter from the mold by gently turning it upside down and carefully separating it from the mold.
- Use a wire brush to smooth off any rough edges or to sculpt the pot for added interest.
- Place your finished hypertufa pot in the plastic bag and let it cure for at least two weeks.
- Before planting, give your hypertufa pot a vinegar wash to make it less alkaline and more plant friendly. Stop up the drainage hole and mix one part vinegar with nine parts water and pour into container. Let it sit and soak for about 30 minutes to one hour.
- Rinse pot and now you are ready to plant your fabulous, new hypertufa container.