Hypertufa Pot: Ready For Action

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I began working with hypertufa to cast pots and stepping stones about a month ago.

Hypertufa is a mix of Portland Cement with other ingredients more commonly used in potting soil, to create a light but durable material with which one can cast pots, birdbaths, stepping stones, troughs and other items for the garden.

This will be a trough, probably planted with succulents since it is shallow.  It is large enough that I set the plastic bucket inside to support the long walls as they dry.

This will be a trough, probably planted with succulents since it is shallow. It is large enough that I set the plastic bucket inside to support the long walls as they dry.

Over these past few weeks I’ve experimented with different ways to cast  and embellish garden accoutrement.  The same much loved friend who went with me to purchase the bulk of the materials has returned to help mix and shape some of the batches.

Each piece sets up for 36 to 48 hours before it is turned out of its mold.  Then the pieces continue to dry and cure for several more weeks before coming into service in the garden.

A sand cast hypertufa pot, inlaid with glass scallop shells.  The corks in the bottom are to hold the drainage holes open while the cement hardens.

A sand cast hypertufa pot, inlaid with glass scallop shells. The corks in the bottom are to hold the drainage holes open while the cement hardens.

This beautiful trough is from the very first batch I mixed up in March.  It is hard, lightweight, and many shades lighter in color than the dark graphite grey of the wet hypertufa mix from which it is formed.  Cast on March 24, this piece has had a little more than three weeks of time to cure.

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The drainage holes were made with wine corks.   The glass shells were pressed into the wet  hypertufa when it was cast.  There are bits of blue and green glass pressed into the sides which don’t show as much as I had hoped.  I’ve since learned to cast pieces like this in sand so that the glass is visible.

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I made this very shallow trough to hold succulents.  I took cuttings from my succulents in October to decorate pumpkins, and had several cuttings left over which have overwintered in the garage.  I made this to hold them, along with freshly taken cuttings from other  overwintered succulents, which need cutting back.

These are such large drainage holes that I covered them with mesh fabric, and then with handfuls of pea gravel.  Then I filled the container with a good quality potting mix.  Since this container is very shallow, I didn’t mix sand into the soil.  I want it to to be a little moisture retentive while  this trough gets baked in our summer heat.

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Next the cuttings were set into the soil , keeping in mind they all will grow much larger.  It always amazes me how bits of succulent will survive for months out of soil, often drawing moisture directly out of the air.  Many of these pieces simply sat in a plastic bowl for more than 5 months, before I re-planted them today.

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So here is our first hypertufa trough, planted up with cuttings, and ready for action in the garden this season.  

A light mulch of pea gravel keeps the plants clean, reflects light to help them dry faster after a rain, and protects their roots.

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I’m still making a few batches each week.  In fact, I mixed up two batches of the hypertufa mix this morning and cast three large planters from them.

Some pieces will find homes in our garden, but others are made for sale at an event next month.  I’ll be planting most with a mixture of Caladiums and hardy ferns to live in partial shade.  Some will be planted with edible herbs to live in the sun.

I will be offering about a dozen of these hypertufa planters for sale in mid-May.

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As these beautiful pieces come out of the basement and into use I’ll show them to you from time to time.  My partner has been infinitely patient with the huge mess I’ve made, the hours spent “playing in the mud,” and my very achy back, sore from all of the lifting; but it has been a very rewarding experiment.  We’re both pleased with the resulting containers and stepping stones.

And yes, my friend already has a stepping stone we made together in her beautiful garden.

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

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About woodlandgnome

Lifelong teacher and gardener.

11 responses to “Hypertufa Pot: Ready For Action

  1. Beautiful work! Can you please share more with me on how you embed glass, etc. into the sides? I have been less than successfully experimenting with that. I saw you said that you are casting in sand with success in having the glass show well?

    • Thank you, Sandy. I’ll photograph the making of another pot one day soon to show you the finer points of doing the inlay. I can only do it with the sand cast, and have had very mixed results. The trick is to use glass or pottery with some thickness to it, and then just barely press it into the sand such that enough is left to adhere to the hypertufa mix. I still have to re-attach a stray bit of glass here and there with glue. I’ve also found that leaving the piece in the sand for an extra day or two helps the finished quality of the piece. The easiest piece so far was the latest one made with bits of broken pottery. Since the vase was originally concave, I could set the broken pieces so the broken rough edges protrude into the hypertufa. It also helps to pack the hypertufa very firmly against the sand mold. Are you dampening your sand? It makes for slower drying, but for a more stable mold which can hold the glass, tile, or pottery in place long enough to fill the mold with the mix. I’ll do a post with photos one day soon 😉 Thank you for visiting Forest Garden today! Best wishes, WG

  2. What a brilliant idea and project! I’ve never heard of hypertufa. I’d like to try this. The container with the succulents looks great!

    All the best with the sale. Those containers will be snapped up.

    • Please do try this. It is so easy today as long as you have a well lit place to work and to store the materials. I’m finally nearing the bottom of my first bag of Portland cement, and have lined up help to wrestle the second one inside.
      A wonderful gardening friend and I plan to collaborate on a few miniature “fairy gardens” for our arts festival. She loves making miniatures. I’m supplying the hypertufa containers and selecting the plants. We’ll post photos when they come together in May. It will definitely be fun to work on together!
      Best wishes, WG

  3. Absolutely beautiful, great job! 🙂 I love the succulents, the caladium and ferns will look great! I need to find time to make me a couple of these.

    • You will absolutely love doing these, Michael. It is so easy. Just a huge mess. If you have space to leave a work area set up for several weeks, you’ll have a great time with it. Best wishes, WG

  4. It looks so beautiful, especially with the succulents planted. 🙂 I really will have to give this a try next year.

    • 🙂 Thank you, Robin. My friend who makes miniatures was looking at our stock of drying pieces this afternoon. We may collaborate on some fairy gardens for our May art event. So many possibilities! Best wishes, WG

  5. Excellent info. I love the rustic look of these pots especially with succulents.

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