Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Making a Hypertufa Planter

What in the world is hypertufa? That is the question usually asked when I mention making hypertufa planters.
Hypertufa is a man made substitute for tufa which is a porous limestone rock suitable for plant growth. Hypertufa is a mixture of Portland cement, peat moss, perlite or vermiculite and water and is used to create planters, stepping stones or leaf castings. Planters made with this mixture are a lot lighter in weight than concrete but look similar.
You can use many different containers to mold your planters. So far I have used mostly sturdy cardboard boxes, enamel or plastic containers lined with plastic. Make sure there are no ridges in it. You won't be able to get your container out. Trust me....Been there. Done that!
 Foam ice chests or baskets can also be used. You will sacrifice your basket, so use an old one that you don't want anymore.

First of all you will want to wear latex gloves for this project and a mask if you desire.
There are many recipes out there but most are similar. I use a very basic recipe of 1 part Portland cement, 1 part perlite and 1 part peat moss. I sift out the larger pieces of the peat moss. Make sure you use Portland cement and not concrete. There is a difference. You can also use 1 part sand in it for a stronger container but that will add weight.
So far I always made them with the sand added, but decided to experiment this time without. I can tell there is a difference in the weight of the container without the sand. So if they hold up as well as the others, I will omit the sand from here on.
Put your ingredients in a large tub or wheelbarrow and mix together with a garden hoe. If your project is smaller, you can mix with your hands. Make sure it is mixed very well.
TIP 1: If your cement has hard lumps, discard it and buy a new bag.
TIP 2: You can add coloring to your mix if you desire. I haven't tried that yet, but I am going to sometime.

Start adding water slowly and mix with the hoe. Keep adding water and mix well making sure all your ingredients are getting mixed in. Keep checking for pockets of unmixed material on the bottom and in the corners.

Take a handful of the mixture. It should hold it's shape when you form it into a ball. A little bit of water might ooze from when you squeeze it, but you don't want too much. If it's too wet add some more dry ingredients.
I try to keep it a little on the dry side and add a bit of water as I need it.
When you are satisfied with your mix start forming your container.

For this container I'm using an old fruit basket I was ready to toss.
Begin by filling in the bottom of the basket. Pat and press keeping the thickness about 1 1/2 inch thick. I use a wood skewer marked at 1-1/2 inch and check to make sure everything is even.
 If you want to put drainage holes in you can make some by poking some dowels through your mixture. My husband drills a few holes in them for me because for some reason I never remember to do this when I'm making them.

The bottom completed now it's time to start the sides.

Gradually build the sides by adding a handful at a time. Pat and press going all the way around keeping it as uniform as possible.
If your mix seems to be getting dry, add a little bit of water.

Keep building......
And building.....

Almost done!

Done!!! Now it needs to cure. Cover it with plastic and let it dry for 36-48 hours.

Now I start removing the basket. It's very fragile at this point so work very carefully.  See what I meant about sacrificing the basket!

The container now needs to cure for a month or two.  Mist it occasionally with the hose to keep it moist or let it sit in the rain to leech out the lime. Since it's usually mid-summer by the time I get around to making them, I just put them on my porch and let them cure until next spring. 
We had enough mix left to make a bowl which I will show in a separate post. 


  1. What a super good tutorial. Your pot is so pretty with the texture of the wooden basket. I never would've thought to use this kind of container but will be on the lookout now so when I next make some hypertufa I can try it out.

    I have to say I love that you have big font on your blog. It makes it so much easier to read. Sometimes I can't read blogs at all because of the coloring or size. Your barbeque below makes me remember it is dinnertime and that looks so good!

  2. I Just love them but I have never had the nerve to try to build one. LOL! I love the look of yours Pearl form this basket. This was a great tutorial.

  3. Thank you for this great idea! I have not tried Hypertufa yet but want to to create more pots for annuals and succulents around our creek and koi pond gardens.

  4. Very cool, and interesting. I know I'm going to have to give this a try.