Gardening Pots

Beer Cans to Protect Terracotta Pots?

I recently received the following message: 

thought you may like to know my method of preventing frost damage to terracotta plant pots. 

In the autumn when I plant my bulbs, I put some empty beer cans into the earth, buried so you cannot see them. If the pot is shaped, I try to match the widest part of the pot to the middle of the can vertically. They are buried with the hole at the bottom. When the frost comes and expands the water contained in the earth, instead of the force splitting the plant pot outwards, it is transferred to the beer cans which are crushed because they are weaker than the terracotta. In spring I remove the cans and plant my bedding plants. 

I can tell how bad the freeze was by how crushed the cans are. I use 3 to 4 cans for a very large pot, reducing the amount accordingly with the pot size. 

I lived in Chesterfield, England, for 27 years and thought of this in my second year. By doing this I never lost a terracotta plant pot to the frost.

Yours sincerely,

Frances Rathbone

First, thank you, Frances, for sharing this suggestion. 

I’ve always brought my terracotta plant containers indoors for the winter to prevent breakage. I wonder if any readers have tried this or a similar method and whether it is successful in colder climates than that of the East Midlands of the United Kingdom. 

You could add your experiences under Leave a Reply below.


Ill.: depositphotos and, montage:

Garden writer and blogger, author of 65 gardening books, lecturer and communicator, the Laidback Gardener, Larry Hodgson, passed away in October 2022. Known for his great generosity, his thoroughness and his sense of humor, he reached several generations of amateur and professional gardeners over his 40-year career. Thanks to his son, Mathieu Hodgson, and a team of contributors, will continue its mission of demystifying gardening and making it more accessible to all.

10 comments on “Beer Cans to Protect Terracotta Pots?

  1. Joe Cooke

    I love this article. Before reading this article I always thought spring was the best season to maintain lawns. Thanks for sharing, 1v1 lol!

  2. I have a terra cotta pot nestled right into the soil, so the top is level with the soil. It’s empty, but in summer I use it for water, and water drainage.

  3. Inadvertently I found a similar success in zone 4, northeastern US. At least with large pots. I used broken plastic planting pots to fill the bottom of a pot I use for annuals, using less soil and guaranteeing drainage. Got busy and never brought it in. It has lived unbroken outside for three years now. I have usual winter minimums in the -20+ range. I also keep a cupboard of dry inverted terracotta pots on a covered porch without breakage. It is the water that expands and breaks the pot. But pots that are really special still come inside.

  4. Sounds like a good ideal.

  5. I ran this by my gardening guru partner and he says, he never heard of it but it would work! Just like Larry explained.Not only that but if you have a huge terra cotta pot and don’t need it full of soil from top to bottom, adding cans would save on soil,make the pot lighter for moving around if necessary.

    • Amy in Portland, OR

      This has not worked for me, at least not 100%, even in a milder climate than you. While living in Baltimore, Maryland (US zone 7b), I used both empty plastic water bottles and aluminum cans (as a way to both lighten my pots AND save on soil) in my larger terracotta pots. I put them upside down in the bottom, as described. Lacking a space to overwinter them inside, I lost a pot or two during the harder winters. That said, I had a lot of pots (so maybe it worked for some and not the others).

  6. David Hobson

    Much colder here in Ontario. Terracotta pots don’t do well with freezing and thawing. Besides the possible cracking, they are also subject to spalling, where the outer layers freeze and peel off. Beer cans wouldn’t help this.

  7. Definitely interesting if it works.

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