Is It Safe To Grow Herbs in Clay Pots?

You’ll want to choose the proper pot if you’re growing herbs. Many gardeners wonder if any materials aren’t safe for herbs to grow. Clay pots are some of the most widely available ones, but are they okay to use?

It is safe to grow herbs in clay pots, including terracotta and ceramic ones. These pots are perfect for herbs as long as they have ample drainage and are a good size for your plants. You’ll need to be careful with homemade clay pots if you don’t know what glazes were used on them.

There’s a lot more to learn about growing herbs in clay pots. This article goes over all the essential details, so make sure to keep reading!

Why It’s Safe To Use Clay Pots for Herbs

Clay pots are the best for growing any type of herb. They hold moisture in the soil, which benefits the plant’s roots. Plus, they keep the roots insulated in the cold. 

Herbs grow very well in clay pots with drainage and are appropriately sized, so you won’t have to worry about your plants hating the pots. Many herbs are low-maintenance and can thrive under various conditions, so clay pots shouldn’t kill your herbs either.

Unfired clay is highly porous and can leach certain chemicals into the soil. Although, that shouldn’t be a problem after firing the clay since it hardens and becomes less porous. The pots you buy at a garden center will already be fired and safe. Manufacturers also shouldn’t use toxic chemicals in their clay pots.

Overall, it’s safe to use clay pots to grow your herbs. You can grow herbs in just about anything, and clay planters are one of the best options. If you’re ever unsure of a clay pot you have, you can always plant the herbs in a plastic container, then set it inside the larger planter.

Can Clay Pots Leach Chemicals?

The clay pots you buy from a home and garden store won’t always be food-grade. However, you can still use them for their intended purpose: growing plants. As long as the planter doesn’t leach chemicals into the soil, it should be perfectly safe. 

Store-bought clay pots won’t contain lead and don’t leach chemicals due to the production process, so they’re safe to grow plants in. They’re already fired and shouldn’t have any materials that would be harmful to you.

If you have a homemade pot and are unsure what chemicals are in the glaze, then it’s better not to use it. Some traditional ceramics can use lead glazes, which leach into the soil. However, you don’t need to throw out these clay pots. Instead, simply set another planter inside so the soil doesn’t touch the clay pot.

Traditional clay pots can leach chemicals into soil, but only if they aren’t appropriately fired or use a toxic glaze. For those reasons, most gardeners recommend not repurposing old clay pots. The planters you buy at a shop won’t have these issues. Although, if you have concerns about a homemade clay pot, you won’t want to plant herbs inside it.

Will Herbs Absorb Toxins in Soil?

Herbs can absorb toxins from soil, so if your clay pot leaches any chemicals, they can end up in your food. Only a certified lab can test your soil and tell you if it’s contaminated with chemicals.

If you have a clay pot you think might contain lead or another harsh toxin, it’s best not to use it. The plants can absorb even small amounts of lead, which might be harmful over time. You’ll want to throw out any contaminated soil.

In short, planting herbs in a toxic planter will cause them to absorb the chemicals. These planters can leach chemicals into the soil each time you water your herbs, absorbing the contaminated water through their roots.

Are Terracotta Plant Pots Toxic?

Terracotta plant pots aren’t toxic because it’s a fired type of clay. After firing, the clay should no longer leach harmful chemicals into the soil. However, terracotta pots still use glaze, so you’ll want to know what’s in that glaze. Today’s store-bought terracotta shouldn’t have any toxins.

So, most terracotta pots that you’ll encounter aren’t toxic. The firing process further solidifies the clay, preventing it from leaching anything harmful into your soil. Although, glazes can still cause problems if they contain lead.

Benefits of Using Clay Pots To Grow Herbs

Growing herbs in clay pots can even come with benefits. You may notice that your plants do better in ceramic planters than ones made of other materials for these reasons.

Clay Pots Offer Root Insulation

First, your clay pots are likely much thicker than the plastic ones your herbs come in. The thickness of the pot can prevent the soil’s temperature from changing too quickly, which protects the roots from damage. 

If you leave your plant outside on a cold day and need to bring it in, the roots shouldn’t be shocked by the sudden change in temperature. The clay pot’s insulation will allow the soil to slowly warm up to the temperature of your house instead.

The added insulation also means that the pot will hold onto heat for longer, causing it to stay warm even after you take it out of the sun.

Clay Offers Decent Aeration

Since clay is porous, it also offers good aeration. The soil dries faster, and it takes longer for excessive moisture buildup to cause root rot. The clay’s pores can also ensure the roots get enough air.

That said, clay can’t provide as much aeration as a fabric pot, which is much more porous.

Clay Is Heavy and Stable

Lastly, clay pots are heavy, which is suitable for lightweight herbs. Since herbs are so light, they can’t add enough weight to their planter to prevent getting knocked over. 

You won’t have to worry about the herbs tipping over and spilling, leading to them wilting when using a much heavier planter. These clay pots are heavy enough to avoid falling over outside in the wind.

They’re also harder to knock over if someone bumps into them. A plastic pot would surely tip and spill, but a clay pot is much more stable due to its weight. 

What Planter Materials Are Unsafe for Herbs?

Some planters will be made of materials that can be unsafe. Before planting your herbs in anything, you’ll need to examine the container. You’ll want to research the manufacturer online if you can find a brand name on the pot.

Planters that contain asbestos or lead are very unsafe for growing food and can even be harmful to you to handle. Soil that makes contact with these materials is contaminated, and the chemicals can quickly spread into your plants.

Lead is a metal that you can find in some glazes. Many glazes are lead-free today, but it can always be a concern with home-crafted pots.

Asbestos was a common ingredient in paint before the 1970s. So, if you’re creating a planter from thrifted or repurposed items, you’ll need to be sure that they don’t contain asbestos.

PVC plastic can be dangerous, so you’ll want to be careful with plastic planters. PVC is another material that can leach chemicals into the soil. It also contaminates groundwater and can impact herbs and other edible plants. They absorb the chemicals in your body when you eat the plants.

No matter what pots you’re using to grow herbs, you must look into what they’re made of. Any planter can contain harmful materials that your plants might absorb, whether made from clay, plastic, or something else.

What Are the Safest Planters for Herbs?

The safest planters for herbs are those made from natural wood. Untreated wood doesn’t contain any added chemicals that the plants could absorb, making it a favorite for growing edible plants.

The safest planters are ones that you also know the history of. You would want to avoid using a pot that might’ve been in contact with various chemicals such as herbicides. These materials can stay in the pores of a clay pot for a very long time. The same goes for diseases and pests, which would kill the herbs you’re trying to grow.

Overall, you have many options for safe pots to use to grow your herbs, such as fabric pots and clay pots. Clay pots can be very safe for growing food, as long as you don’t use a repurposed one.

Final Thoughts

In short, it is safe to grow herbs in clay pots. Modern manufacturers make these planters so that they don’t leach dangerous chemicals into the soil. You’ll only need to perry if you have a homemade clay pot. If you don’t know what glazes were used on it, it’s best not to plant your herbs.

Clay pots also have plenty of benefits that encourage your herbs to thrive, so they’re worth checking out!

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the principal creator of, a website dedicated to gardening tips. Inspired by his mother’s love of gardening, Alex has a passion for taking care of plants and turning backyards into feel-good places and loves to share his experience with the rest of the world.

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