How to Make Hypertufa Planters (part 1)

De-molded the hypertufa planter

De-molded the hypertufa planter

I try to be a person who isn’t afraid to try new things– except mayonnaise–so, after lurking for several years on various sculpture forums, I discovered a form of outdoor cement-based building material called hypertufa that I wanted to try.

Cement hypertufa was developed to resemble real tufa limestone formations, found mainly near water sources.  It’s pretty neat-looking and I think the artificially-created type looks almost as cool.  It is also much much lighter than concrete (please, don’t confuse cement with concrete.  All concrete requires cement, and Portland Cement is the standard type used in both concrete and in hypertufa).

After reading about this fun craft and looking at some really cool photos of different folks’ projects, I decided to give it a whirl.  I made my projects yesterday, and they aren’t quite ready to show you, but I will post a follow up soon.  Hypertufa requires time for its components to dry, and then also require a considerable amount of time for it to cure before it reaches its maximum strength and hardness.

> QUICK COMMENT:  Don’t ever be afraid to try something like this!  If you mess up, big deal!  Start with a small project and work your way up to something bigger.

If you are going to create planters, troughs, sculptures and pots out of hypertufa, you will need to also let them leach out their lime, or else it might kill the plants which you put inside of them.  I’ll go into this later.

Bottom line is, you need to be patient with the finished product.

Hypertufa recipes abound in various ratios on the internet, but the consensus that I’ve aggregated from reading many of them is that you need four main components: Portland Cement, Perlite (or vermiculite), Peat Moss (or sawdust), and Water.

Here is the recipe I decided to use.  Keep in mind, a part can be a small bucket or a large cup–just make sure you use the same container for all of the dry components:

  • 2 parts Portland Cement (Don’t get Concrete!)  This stuff is really heavy–sold in 90 pound bags here in the United States.  It is very inexpensive
  • 3 parts Perlite. These are those lightweight white things you find in a lot of potting soil mixtures.  It give the hypertufa a pitted look, kind of acts as a form of gravel, like in concrete, and keeps the weight of the finished product very light.
  • 3 parts Peat Moss. Peta moss is also very lightweight.  It is spaghnum and is dug from the earth.  It can be broken up to a fine powder and will eventually decay from inside the hypertufa structure, causing voids that help offer great drainage potential for whatever you have planted inside the pot or trough.
  • Just enough Water. This is the final ingredient to the mix.  You will add a small amount of this and gradually mix it all together until it has the consistency of a mud pie or cottage cheese.  If you can form a solid ball and it stays exactly the way you form it, you’ve added enough water.  Add too much?  Your hypertufa might not come out.

As far as cost so far, I am out about $50, but I have TONS of material to make lots of different projects.  That’s not too bad for starting a new hobby!

> Go to part 2 of Making a Hypertufa Planter Trough



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Jason Sipe Jason Sipe (68 Posts)

Jason Sipe is an artist, craftsman and writer. He has spent the last 20 years working in the art and media fields. He now turns to this blog and helping others learn about creating art as his main focus.