Cedar Valley Arboretum & Botanic Gardens

Hypertufa How-To

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We started our summer lineup this past Saturday with a hypertufa how-to class.  It was so much fun!  Maurine and Sara showed us how to mix our materials while Kelly (from Harmony House Greenhouse) was on hand to tell us a bit about plant material for our finished containers.  It was the perfect way to spend an early spring Saturday.

For those of you who are not familiar, hypertufa containers are natural, weather-resistant vessels similar to cement or terracotta, but minus the weight, making them easier to use for the average home gardener.  They work especially well in rock gardens with succulent plants (but can be used anywhere with any plant material).


To get us started, the gals showed us several different hypertufa containers already made.  They can be more free form (photo on the left) or smooth with designs (photo on the right).  It all depends on the form you choose.

Our recipe was one part Portland cement mix, one and a half part peat moss, and one and a half part perlite (shown left to right).  Fiber mesh can also be added for strength.

(When working with perlite, it is important to remember to wear gloves and dust mask.)

Maurine provided large tubs for us to mix our materials.  Once the cement mix, peat moss and perlite were thoroughly blended, we added water until the right consistency was found.  It is important to add water slowly and wait several minutes to allow the materials soak up the water.

The ideal mix should hold together when squeezed into a ball without any water dripping.  If you find your mix is too wet, simply add more peat moss until the right consistency is found.

Then we were ready to form our containers!  We found that working on Rubbermaid tub lids worked best so containers could easily be taken home after the class.  Any flat surface would work.

After molding, we covered the containers in an airtight garbage bag.  Once at home, we were encouraged to place our bagged containers in a sunny spot (the humidity in the plastic will help the cement better cure).  After about 24 hours, we were told to check our containers.  If you can scratch the cement with your finger without leaving a mark, then it is time to remove the container from the mold.

For the final curing process, there are a few different options:

1.       Place the container again in the plastic bag and let it sit for a month.  (The longer it is in a moist environment, the stronger it is.)

2.       Soak in water for three days and change the water daily.  (This leaches out the lime.)

3.       Let it sit out in the open for 1-2 months.

Several hypertufa containers were made for our Alpine Garden at the Arboretum (just south of the Education Center).  Be sure to check them out later this summer!

See you in the gardens.


Written by cedarvalleyarboretum

May 4, 2011 at 6:00 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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