What is happening ? - Crumbling hypertufa pots. Do I need to change my recipe?

What Am I Dealing With? Crumbling Hypertufa Pots!

This late winter which is shortly to become spring, I have noticed that several of my hypertufa pots and planters seem to have suffered some kind of damage over the winter. They seem to be crumbling or “shedding” a sandy crust. I am not sure what to call it.

I don’t recall having this any other year with my hypertufa containers. So I am not sure what to attribute this to, do you? It may have some correlation to the pots age, but all of these vary from several years old to new last year.

Crumbling Hypertufa Pots - Why is this happening

A few of the pots still seem just as smooth and strong as before, but then the others have a sandy texture when I rub across the surface and this seems to be what is on the table around them.

View of the gutters above my crumbling hypertufa pots

Have you had this happen to you? I am investigating my pots, hoping for some warmer weather to really get out there and do some comparisons between the different pots. I do know that the tables that seem to be in the worst shape are tables located under a roof overhang. It could be a combination of some kind of deterioration and also some runoff of heavy rains in our new geographic area.

This pot did not show crumbling; smooth surface.

We had moved last year so this is our second spring here, just coming up to our first anniversary of the move. We moved into the home in the latter half of March and were busy placing all the pots through April. Sure, I did some re-arranging like I always do, but most of the pots are in the location where they started out here.

Is there more severe acid rain here near the airport? I rarely notice airplanes at all. In fact, I noticed far more airplanes when we lived near Wright Patterson Air Force Base (WPAFB) , so I don’t think that should factor into any affect on my hypertufa pots.

Meanwhile, I think I will change my recipe to a stronger Portland cement-based mix. I will start mixing in a ratio of 1:1:1 with the hope of having a stronger result and less deterioration of my planters. I sure don’t want to lose any at all.

Crumbling Hypertufa Pots Mystery. Acid Rain? Dumping Fuel?

And yes, I have had some crack and fall apart, sad to say. It could be a result of the problem that I have yet to define, or a result of some damage in the move. We were careful to place them where the least amount of jiggling would occur, but the move was a 30 mile drive and there could have been some stress occurring which didn’t reveal itself until an ice/snow heave started at this time of year.

Maybe some who resented carrying those heavy suckers were less than gentle? Hmmmm…could be.


  1. Do you always use “fresh” Portland cement? I see that it must be stored very carefully–not on the floor of your garage, away from walls, away from moisture, etc.

    1. Yes, I try not to keep it too long. Once any moisture get to it, it starts the chemical reaction that “sets” the cement. So weather and humidity can affect its usability. To me, once it begins to clump, it is not usable for hypertufa (or even a concrete sidewalk.) Storing it in something as air-tight as you can will help.

  2. The only pots I’ve had this problem with are the ones I made late in the year. I think they didn’t cure well enough once the high temperatures were only in the 50s.

  3. From many of the posts I read, the longer the hypertufa pots were left to cure, as in weeks, the the more stable, stronger, and longer lasting they are. How long did you leave your pots to cure before starting to plant in them?

    1. Most of the time, I leave mine cure for approx two weeks. Some I have had for 10-12 years or more. It seems that weather conditions and just general use has a pot lasting for whatever time it does, no matter how long you’ve cured it. JMO

  4. Chip Mead says:

    I would like to suggest that unless you are extremely consistent with your hypertufa mixtures, it is to be expected that pots will perform differently in the same climate based on the mixture of portland cement, water, and other materials. Even if you use the same amount of portland and other materials, the amount of water used can significantly impact the strength/integrity of the object.

    Also, it is likely that hypertufa creations will not perform the same in different climates in as much as concrete driveways or sidewalks don’t do as well in the cold north as they do in the hot south because of the extreme expansion and contraction of the surface, plus salt is corrosive.

    Keeping all the above in mind, the thickness of the build is still another variable. Two inches thick might work in most situations but exceptional circumstances can produce exceptional outcomes. So, even if you are a perfectionist and are consistent in everything you have created then the overriding factor is climate change. We know that what worked for centuries is now in jeopardy. Whether you agree that climate change is man-made or not matters little. The effects of climate change are profound, even life-threatening – or possibly damaging to hypertufa pots.

    Don’t despair – earthen-type pots were never met to last long – the enjoyment is in the creation and artistry.

    Cheers, Chip

    1. I agree with you and just hate to lose some of my pots. But time passes and we shall see which ones survive.

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