In the early part of the 20th century, horticulturists discovered a natural porous rock called tufa. Due to its high limestone content, Alpine plants grew very well in tufa containers with good drainage. Through the years, tufa became scarce and more expensive giving birth to the hypertufa pot.
Hypertufa appears as an artificial form of rock used to create lightweight, sturdy, attractive stone pots, planters and ornaments for your garden and home. One can easily make a hypertufa recipe with Portland cement and a few other ingredients from a local garden center.
Cheap and simple to make, hypertufa provides a creative outlet for gardeners who wish to personalize their gardening experience. Containers made with hypertufa can resist all types of harsh, weather conditions and can last for decades.
Uses For Hypertufa In The Garden
This artificial stone can be used to create garden accessories such as:
How To Make Hypertufa?
A basic hypertufa recipe involves combining and mixing equal parts of the following ingredients:
- Sphagnum Moss or Spaghnum Peat Moss or Sawdust or Coconut Coir
- Vermiculite or Perlite or Sand
- Portland Cement
Your choice in materials depends on their availability, your preferences and the results you desire. Practice, plus experimentation with trial and error will help you choose the ingredients that work best for you.
Related Reading: Check out this Hypertufa Guide
Once you combine the dry ingredients in a large plastic tub, gradually add water to create a fairly dry mud. Be sure to stir constantly with a small garden rake or your gloved hands as you add the water.
Exactly How Much Water Do I Need In A Hypertufa Mix?
No exact amount of water can be given. It should be a little less than, rather than equal to, the volume of the dry ingredients. Add a little amount of water after another until it meets the desired consistency.
Some people like their hypertufa to be of cottage cheese consistency while others prefer wet.
Experiment with your recipe to see what works best in your climate. Humidity can affect the performance of the hypertufa mix.
Watch the video below. It shows how to prepare a basic hypertufa mix for a simple planter.
In the video, notice how the gentleman keeps precise measurements except for the water. He also uses a dry mix of hypertufa.
Other gardeners vary greatly in their techniques and recipes used. This goes to show how working with hypertufa can become a very personalized and easy experience.
How Long Does It Take for The Hypertufa To Dry?
Once you have created your object, you must set it aside for a few days for the initial curing.
Cover it with plastic to keep it damp for a couple of days. During this time, it will harden enough to remove from the mold for any additional work to be done.
How To Remove The Hypertufa Mold?
If done correctly, removing the object from mold is easy. Some people spray the mold with cooking spray. Meanwhile, others would say it is not necessary.
Lining your mold with a plastic bag will prevent your homemade hypertufa from sticking.
If some plastic sticks in the crevices of your creation, you can simply burn it off using a lighter or matches. Please do this in a fire-safe and well-ventilated area.
To ensure your hypertufa slips easily from the mold, do not over-pack around curved objects in the center of the mold.
If you use a tapered object such as a jar, define the central opening of your container and leave enough room around the top to allow it to be freed once it dries. See the “Pickle Jar” video below as an example of this situation.
Most likely, you will have trouble removing a highly-textured object from the mold. For example: If you use a wicker basket, you will probably have to destroy it to remove it.
Tidy Up Your Hypertufa
Once removed from the mold, you can smooth the object. Carve it using a putty knife or trowel edge, brush it to give it a rough appearance, and carve patterns into it using a sharp object.
Some people rinse their homemade hypertufa with a fine spray from the garden hose. This will provide a uniform, engraved appearance over the entire surface.
Give Your Container Some Time To Cure
After finishing the surface of your hypertufa container, set it aside in a cool place covered with plastic for about a week. Then, set it uncovered outside in the shady spot for a couple of weeks to cure even further.
How Strong Are Hypertufa Pots?
Hypertufa can stand up to high heat, freezing temperatures, rain, wind, and snow. However, the strength of your creation will depend upon how well you constructed it.
While on the process of completing your DIY Hypertufa, be sure to make it thick enough. Use the length of your thumb as a guideline when measuring the thickness of the walls of your containers and surfaces of the objects.
If you mix the hypertufa correctly, construct your creation well and allow plenty of time for it to cure. Afterward, you will have an object that will withstand the outdoor elements for decades.
Why Hypertufa Containers Fare Better Than Plastic or Concrete Containers?
Hypertufa beats plastic because of its “breathable” quality. The addition of vermiculite, perlite, or sand to the mixture helps to absorb excess water and provides your plant roots with good ventilation.
You can also customize drainage by choosing the number and size of drain holes in each planter. Just poke holes in the bottom of your container using your finger, a pencil, or a dowel while still wet.
This versatile material also beats concrete because of its lighter weight. It also provides better oxygenation for plant roots. In terms of a DIY project, hypertufa costs lesser and makes everything easier than a concrete.
What Can You Use As A Mold?
Some people build very precise molds as shown in the first video. Others use objects such as laundry baskets with wet towels draped over them to create exciting and interesting works of abstract design.
Seventy-eight-year-old Helen Wyatt, known as the hypertufa Grandma Moses of Georgia, uses all manner of objects found around her house as molds for hypertufa pots, birdbaths, birdhouses, fairy houses and more.
In her interesting and entertaining videos, she shows everyone what to do and what not to do when creating useful, folksy hypertufa objects of art.
Watch how she makes a hypertufa bird bath from a very old bowl.
When watching her video, you’ll notice she uses a very wet mixture. Also, she chooses to use sand or sawdust as ingredients. This works out very well for her and it may also work for everyone.
Her enthusiastic and creative approach allows her to make the most out of the material she has on hand. She makes sure everything she does even at outdoors carries her own personal touch.
Sculpting With Hypertufa
Some gardeners tend to be fonder of landscaping and artistry than creating containers. Objects such as rocks and even very large sculptures can be created using a framework of chicken wire stuffed with various materials and objects.
The next video will show how lightweight, attractive, and uniform rocks can be created using plastic bottles. Moreover, you will also see how chicken wire gets used as in the framework.
By reusing them, plastic bottles can be kept out of the landfills, waterways, and oceans. This also serves as an excellent way to create attractive and durable borders for your flower beds, raised bed gardens and pathways.
Artistic gardeners can create large hypertufa sculptures by making a chicken wire framework. In addition, they stuff it with newspaper or cardboard for a better look.
This framework will purposely hold the hypertufa securely in place so the sculpture will be strong and durable. This type of creation must be done over a period of several days and then allowed to cure over a long period. It usually turns out as a very sturdy and attractive hypertufa.
Make A Good Impression!
Create impressions on the surface of your objects by lining the molds with a material such as:
- Wrinkled Plastic
- Bubble wrap
Use your imagination to find ways on granting texture, interest, and appeal to your creation. Once you become a hypertufa expert, you will be able to enhance the appearance of your creations by adding unusual ingredients to your mixture, such as:
- Polymer Fibers
- Liquid Acrylic
- Crushed Rock
- Concrete Dye
Results often depend upon your skill and ambient condition. Experiment with various ingredients and recipes until you hit upon the one that works best for you.
You can also paint your creations using acrylic paint or special concrete paint. Decorate it using various objects and hot glue. You can even add live moss to your damp hypertufa for a living and growing masterpiece.
Over at Urban Trail Gardens owner Ron Harvey shows you the simple method to make your own lightweight containers. The pots can stay outside all year, he’s been using for over 7 years!
Safety In Crafting A Hypertufa Planter
Always wear a dust mask while working with loose and dusty ingredients. This will prevent you from inhaling irritating particles. You should also protect your eyes with safety glasses.
B very careful about coming into physical contact with Portland cement because it can burn your skin.
Always wear plastic or rubber gloves to protect your skin. If some of the material splashes onto your skin, rinse it off immediately.
Always wear old clothes to work with hypertufa. It will ruin your clothing and any garment it meets.
Who Should Craft Hypertufa?
Hypertufa crafting serves as a fun hobby for anyone. Adults may enjoy the activity by seeing their craftsmanship and feeling the sense of accomplishment afterward.
Working with hypertufa may not be suitable for very small children due to the Portland cement. However, with supervision and wearing of proper safety gears, older children and teenagers can enjoy this activity.
Making planters and objects of art with hypertufa could be a wonderful project for groups such as:
- Gardening Clubs
- Scouting Groups
- Church Groups
- Senior Groups
With hypertufa, you can create objects of art to give as gifts on holidays and special occasions. This also opens the opportunity for you to express your own creativity by designing your garden setting using concrete.