How to Create Hypertufa for a Rustic Garden Look

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Story and Photos By Amanda Causey Baity

Hypertufa was developed in the 1930s to replicate the stone troughs that were popular among English gardeners in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The lightweight stand-ins were not only easier to come by, but also easier to transport. Thanks to their porous nature, the pots were ideal for plants needing good drainage. Hypertufa containers are still practical in the garden and simple to create.

To make a pot, you’ll need to fashion a mold from a pair of vessels—the mixture is poured between them. I experimented with various objects, such as milk cartons and metal bowls, and also constructed wooden molds. Because the medium captures subtle textures, baskets and leaves can be rendered in “stone,” while cleanlined molds offer a sleek, modern look. Getting the kids involved can get messy, but it is a lot of fun and teaches about the patience of waiting for your project to be complete. I love putting succulents in these planters, but if you want something with more color, see our Home & Hearth column to read about container gardening.

Hypertufa Planters

Prep Time: 15 minutes / 2 days to set / 2 weeks to cure Total Project Time: approx. 2 1/2 weeks (also depending on the humidity in your location)

Start out with your ingredients. The cost is around $25 to get all of this including containers if you don’t have anything to use. You will need the following items:

  • perlite
  • peat moss
  • QuikreteTM
  • water
  • gloves
  • sand paper
  • cooking spray
  • rubber hammer
  • containers
  • large plastic bag
  • succulents/other plants

Mix equal parts of perlite/Quikrete/peat moss into a large container (make sure your gloves are on!). For the three planters that I made, I used 4 quarts of each mixed together. Then add your water. Add water until you have the consistency of cottage cheese, and when you ball up the mixture, it stays together.

Next, spray your containers with cooking spray. For the first attempt, I followed the instructions that I found at my local home improvement store and used a separate container to stack on the inside and press the edges together. This method made it difficult to remove them. It messed up my containers because even with the cooking spray I had to break them to remove them. I waited two days and tried to pry them from the molds, and this was the result.

Sadly, I had to start over. I did a little research and saw a video from a Martha Stewart television show years back. They did not use an interior mold; instead they just packed the mixture into the mold with their hands…because who cares what the inside of your planter looks like? You are going to have it covered with soil and plants!

After a few days, I used a rubber hammer and beat lightly around the edges. I then slid it out of the mold and used a piece of sand paper to sand any rough edges. Place the planter and container back into a plastic bag and store them in a dry place for a few weeks. It’s very humid here in Virginia, and I found I had to wait an extra week to make sure they were cured. I did not drill a hole in them like it says to…not sure if that’s going to be a problem but for drainage I used rocks in the bottom layer. I was too afraid to try to drill since my first batch fell apart, and this had been 6 weeks in the making since I first started the project.

So far, they have held up nicely even in the rain. It’s been two weeks and I haven’t had any problems. For my next batch, I will be using some of the techniques Martha mentioned for adding texture and patterns…I might even try some concrete dye to make colored planters for Christmas gifts this year!

So, in the end I estimated each planter to cost about $3, and I still have enough materials left to make at least 20 more. This is a good deal if you can master the steps and have the patience to wait it out!

Amanda Causey Baity (abaity@princewilliamliving.com) is Prince William Living’s director of operations and photo editor. You can find her recipes, crafts and more at amandabaity.com. To see more of Amanda’s eco-friendly crafts, visit pwliving.com and look under Family Fun.

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