Laidback Gardener Tip of the Day

Leaky Saucers: On Sale Now at a Garden Center Near You!

20150121Visit almost any garden center and you will see attractive terra cotta saucers that are the same brownish-orange shade inside and out. Won’t they look lovely with matching terra cotta pots on your antique Louis XIV side table? But oops! Did you know that these saucers actually leak? Terra cotta is porous, so water will slowly flow through it, leaving a charming stain on your furniture. But wait a minute! Didn’t you buy a saucer precisely to protect your furniture from water damage? What was it those Romans used to say? Caveat emptor or something like that?

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The glazed inside of this saucer shows that it won’t leak.

Ideally, if you want a terra cotta saucer, you should choose one that is glazed inside and therefore waterproof… generally sold by the same garden center that sold the leaky ones. Or buy a plastic saucer. Or place the offending saucer on a sheet of plastic, rubber or other waterproof material. Or if you’re feeling particularly energetic, you can paint the inside of the leaky saucer with a good waterproof varnish or paint (boat varnish, for example). Just don’t use an unglazed terra cotta saucer for your plants.

And I have a suggestion for garden centers: if you have this essentially useless product in stock, why not at least be honest with your customers? Add a label saying “This product is not designed for use with living plants.” A store that did that would get my business!

Garden writer and blogger, author of more than 60 gardening books, the laidback gardener, Larry Hodgson, lives and gardens in Quebec City, Canada. The Laidback Gardener blog offers more than 2,500 articles to passionate home gardeners, always with the goal of demystifying gardening and making it easier for even novice gardeners. If you have a gardening question, enter it in Search: the answer is probably already there!

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