How to make hypertufa for garden containers and accents

This article has been updated. Please check our website for the most recent story.
Last Updated: 
December 29, 2006

MCMINNVILLE – Have you ever wondered how to make hypertufa, a material to make garden containers, birdbaths, and plain or fancy landscape accents? Objects made from hypertufa look like stone, but will be much lighter and far more inexpensive than those from stone.

Here is a hypertufa recipe from Linda McMahan, staff chair and consumer horticulturist for the Yamhill County office of the Oregon State University Extension Service.

Ingredients: (relative volumes are given).

3 parts coir (coconut fiber)
2 parts Portland Cement type I-II
3 parts perlite

Measure these ingredients by volume, measuring with a bucket. Add ingredients to a wheelbarrow or other large container. Add water and mix with ingredients, until it is stiff and holds together, about like cookie dough or cottage cheese.

Mold the wet hypertufa material into a plastic-lined cardboard box or other container, making walls and the bottom of your garden container about two to three inches thick. The walls of your hypertufa container should be at least three inches deep. Punch drain holes in the bottom with your finger or a tool.

Leave the molds outdoors to dry, about one or two days, until firm. Then remove your garden hypertufa planter from the box and plastic. Smooth, carve or shape to your satisfaction using a garden trowel, wire brush or other metal tool. For a smoother finish, moisten the hypertufa and then coat the outside with dry Portland Cement. You can plant in your trough about a week after you make it.

"There are as many methods and recipes as there are people making troughs," said McMahan. "Sometimes I use sand instead of perlite, especially for small troughs. Also, you can substitute finely ground peat moss for the coconut fiber, although coconut fiber is a better alternative from an environmental perspective." For more information on hypertufa, McMahan recommends visiting the Berry Botanic Garden website at: http://www.berrybot.org/

Author: Carol Savonen
Source: Linda McMahan