How to Make Hypertufa

​If you want to learn how to make hypertufa, then the first thing you’ll need is an advanced certificate in hypertufa garden projects issued by top art schools such as Maryland Institute College of Art or Rhode Island School of Design.

Without that certificate you can kiss goodbye to your dream of becoming an expert at making hypertufa. So do you have what it takes to get into those schools?

No? Yes? Who cares because I’m just messing with you! Sorry. Anyway, if you’re passionate about gardening and have been doing it for quite some time, then surely you’ve noticed some garden art creations such as pots, troughs, and various ornaments composed of hypertufa.

Here are some whimsical stepping stones which were done with hypertufa.

hypertufa garden projects

​I myself have created an assortment of easy to make garden art using hypertufa, which is an artificial porous rock. It’s basically an alternate version of the actual ‘Tufa’ porous rock. The latter is extremely hard to source and like most rare things; it costs a lot of money.

So how does one really learn how to make hypertufa?

Okay, I’ve outlined the basic procedure here but keep in mind, it’s not very comprehensive. I actually learned the art of making hypertufa in great detail by referring a full-blown how-to manual that’s over 100 pages long.

Don’t worry. Even though it’s super detailed, the instructions plus all the info found in the manual are easy to understand. Here’s the link so you can check out the manual yourself.

And just so you know it’s actually a downloadable manual, which means you don’t have to wait for it to be shipped to your doorstep. Cool, right?

If you have all sorts of homemade garden art ideas you want to turn into reality, use hypertufa in conjunction with this manual as your guide, and those ideas will indeed become a reality.

So, regarding the basic procedure for making hypertufa, first, let’s talk about the materials. The recipe mixture ​for creating hypertufa obviously differs based on what it is you wish to create.

Materials for Making Hypertufa

how to make hypertufa

​For instance, if you wish to reinforce your hypertufa—give it a bit more oomph in the strength department, then one ingredient that you may want to include in the mixture is fiber mesh. No access to fiber mesh? No problem. You can throw in some other synthetic fibers in the mix. Colors can be added as well so your finished garden craft can have that natural rock appearance.

The most commonly used recipe however is 1.5 parts peat moss, 1.5 parts perlite and 1 part Portland cement.

The Basic Procedure

Safety is paramount so we need to keep that in check first before we go over the basic procedure ​for churning out some hypertufa mix. Portland cement is a corrosive material so you ought to careful with it.

Furthermore, dust from the dry ingredients can enter your nostrils and harm your lungs, and your eyes can get hurt too. In other words, you’ll need to put on a dust mask and a pair of gloves when making hypertufa.

To make hypertufa, you have to mix together the dry ingredients and then pour water into it. Of course it’s not wise to pour loads of water directly into the mix. Instead, the water should be added in gradually. This is important so that the mixture’s consistency can be well controlled.

Once you’ve gotten the proper consistency, the fun part begins as you can now proceed to mold and shape the mixture to whatever it is you fancy. Want to mold the mix and produce an eye-catching hypertufa sculpture for your garden? Well, you go right ahead!

Those with tons of DIY garden sculpture ideas will appreciate the low learning curve of using hypertufa mix. Thanks to this anthropic rock mixture, you can turn those ideas into reality with relatively minimal fuss. Other materials are harder to handle so the failure rate tend to be higher as well, particularly for beginners.

By the way, the manual I mentioned earlier contains a good deal of hypertufa garden projects—along with easy to follow instructions, of course—so no worries if you’re currently lacking in ideas on what to create.

making hypertufa mold

​So anyway, you’ve completed the mold thus the next step is to work on the curing process. This involves wrapping the hypertufa mold in a sheet of plastic and then putting it in a shady spot. You’re going to have to wait for several days, and then the mold can be safely separated from the mix.

At this stage, preparation can be made for the next round of curing which entails having the edges or the upper portion of your mold well brushed. We do this in order to make the craft look natural. And then it is time to give the mold another wrapping so that the next round of curing can be initiated.

Once the second round of curing is completed, another fun part begins. This is the part where you can produce some eye-catching design elements to your hypertufa craft.

Hypertufa FAQ

​What on earth is hypertufa, really?

It’s made out of mixture that resembles and feels like mud. You’re able to mold the mixture into a vast range of ornaments that will help beautify or elevate the look of your garden.

What sort of decorations can I create with hypertufa?

Just about anything from hypertufa sculptures to fancy looking rocks, planters, pots, troughs, stepping stones, etc. Heck, with a bunch of hypertufa rocks, you can even conceive a waterfall in your garden.

Why use hypertufa? Why not create garden crafts using ceramics or clay?

Okay, I’ll tell you what…Why don’t you get lost along with your stinking ceramics and clay? Huh? GET LOST! This article is meant for folks who are interested in learning how to make hypertufa pots, molds, troughs, etc. Go, go away, shoo ceramics and clay!!!

Just kidding. Sorry. Look, hypertufa ornaments are great to place in your garden for a number of reasons. First of all, they are really light. This is particularly beneficial especially if you enjoy rearranging decors in your garden on a fairly regular basis (like me).

Unlike ceramics and clay, hypertufa isn’t as susceptible to cracking, and it certainly doesn’t require an awful lot of care and attention. I’m very impressed with its durability.

If you make hypertufa pots and you grow plants in them, you can expect superb moisture retention which is good for the plants and you, especially if you’re busy and can’t keep up with your watering schedule.

Hypertufa is flexible and easy to learn. As mentioned, the mixture and material requirements are different from project to project. You can make a pot or ornament with phenomenal durability or you can make something really light.

Perhaps you want a mix that can be molded with ease—whatever your heart desires. As long as you have the proper mixtures and materials, it can be done.

Care to shed some light on the history of hypertufa? Where did it begin? I’ve never heard of it until recently…

Well, you need to go back to school and learn history for Pete’s sake! What am I, a hypertufa historian? Joking, of course I’ll shed some historical light on it since sharing is caring and all that…

So, hypertufa history dates all the way back to the 1800’s. Well in essence, hypertufa did not really start out as “hypertufa” but tufa instead, and I mentioned this already at the beginning. The only difference between the two would be the fact that while “tufa” rocks are mined and carved accordingly to achieve its shape; hypertufa is man-made and is designed to serve as an effective substitute.

Before the creation of the hypertufa, Alpine feeding troughs as well as sinks used to depend on tufa stones for various temperamental plants. Its high porous content was perfect for producing healthy plants, and was the material of choice for a time. Eventually though, metal came to replace tufa in making troughs and sinks, which affected its production.

Soon enough gardeners were without any better options for their troughs as they discovered that while metal was cheaper, it also had flaws. It is exactly this lack of option that pushed the very same Alpine gardeners, to experiment with various materials in order to come up with something that resembles the tufa stone.

After several years of trial and error, they discovered that a mixture of cement, sand, vermiculite and perlite brought about the best results in replicating what the tufa stone can do. This discovery is what bought about the “hypertufa”.

It’s easy to come across hypertufa containers in Europe. They are pretty common there. In the United States though, they are somewhat obscure. You’ll surely be able to find specialty garden shops that do carry them but they may be a bit on the expensive side.

Aside from this, the shape and color that you’ll be able to find them in will be somewhat limited, which is why many individuals prefer creating them on their own instead of having to buy one.

Hypertufa creations are lightweight, durable, and attractive. With the right combination of materials, you’ll be able to create various shapes and designs that resemble ancient stones or aged concrete.

This natural look makes it very compatible for outdoors surroundings. Hypertufa crafts work very well with the look and design that you already have in your garden.

So if you’re planning to start your very own project, its best that you start with hypertufa history first in order to eliminate any misconception and confusion. By learning more about hypertufa history, you’ll be able to get more ideas on why it’s the perfect material for your garden.

Don’t forget, if you require a guide on how to make hypertufa molds, various garden crafts, etc. do have a look at the manual below. Easy to make garden art projects are available in it and they are all hypertufa-based.

The manual is such a wonderful source for how-tos and projects with step-by-step, beginner-friendly instructions that you might be looking for, and it’s just right that you depend on this source if you’re looking to be a champ at churning out a wide range of beautiful, durable, and functional hypertufa garden art.

​The walls should be finished off with coping and then filled with soil or compost, above a layer of drainage material, as described for raised beds. Also, do not forget to leave drainage holes along the sides at ground level. Unless sufficient drainage holes are provided, the soil or compost in the wall could become waterlogged, leading to deterioration of the plants.
​The walls should be finished off with coping and then filled with soil or compost, above a layer of drainage material, as described for raised beds. Also, do not forget to leave drainage holes along the sides at ground level. Unless sufficient drainage holes are provided, the soil or compost in the wall could become waterlogged, leading to deterioration of the plants.
digital manual cover

Can I build a garden retaining wall out of hypertufa?

Well, there is a lot of debate surrounding the stability of a hypertufa retaining wall. The material, although strong by nature, makes me extremely concerned about the use of it to bear any significant weight.

Since I am not an engineer and I do not know how to perform weight load tests, I am going to say, it is a “no go” for any type of retaining wall of any significant size.

I expect there are many professionals out there with the capability of constructing an amazing and safe retaining wall. That is not me. But we can sure have some fun with the smaller ones.

Our Hypertufa Retaining Wall Project

Our front yard project is going to require us cutting back some of the overgrown grass in order to add our own small hypertufa retaining wall. There is existing stone that can be found hit or miss along the edges of the sidewalk.

We will be creating rock like pieces and blocks in order to blend and repair the existing landscape. I expect to be using a bonding agent to help strengthen it.

Another part of the hypertufa retaining wall that will be integral in the front yard garden project is the construction of raised beds. We like to control the soil in our smaller areas by using raised beds.

We are still researching the different designs. We are not sure whether to go for a continuous hypertufa retaining wall, or a design of blocks and rocks. This type of planter will be approximately 6 to 8 inches deep, so safety and integrity is a much lower risk.

Send In The Reinforcements!

There was information floating around for reinforcement, such as wire mesh and rebar. We suggest you contact any landscape professionals, concrete specialists, or local engineers. With their experience, they may be able to provide reinforcement solutions for your specific projects.

Personally, I feel pretty content with the idea of pouring a retaining wall with cement or other stronger materials, and using hypertufa as the finishing touch. I would recommend a bonding or strengthening agent for larger projects.

Design Effects

garden retaining wall constructed of hypertufa

​Getting the effect of a hypertufa retaining wall can be as creative as planter projects. Application in a stucco method will likely create a rounded rough finish. If you have a desired finish, say, checker board. We recommend you pre-make the “veneer” and “glue” it on with concrete adhesive.

If the wall is being built from blocks you could also pre-decorate each block that is going to be visible. In my mind that seems time consuming. Determining the scope of your project will determine if a hypertufa retaining wall is for you. Remember some key points:

  • Significant size and weight bearing will present a potential complication for the lighter material.
  • Pay close attention to potential drainage concerns especially if there is a potential the soil will freeze behind it.
  • Ensure you have a plan for what your finished product would look like in order to make a good decision for how to accomplish it before a change needs to be made that will be costly in time, materials, and patience.

How do I grow plants within the retaining wall?

You can’t. For that you’ll need a double wall. A double wall for planting is rather like a narrow raised bed. It is often used as a boundary for the front garden, as a feature in front of a porch and for surrounding a patio.

The height of the wall will depend on its use: for instance, if it is to form the front boundary it may need to be at least 90 cm (3 ft.) high, but slightly lower, if desired, in front of a porch or around a patio. A good width is about 60 cm (2 ft.).

Okay, this is veering WAY off the topic on ​hypertufa-making but fine. I’ll share some brief info on double wall for general knowledge.

Suitable materials for the construction of a garden double wall include ornamental concrete walling blocks in brick or stone finish to match the house, bricks, or natural walling stone. With the latter you could, if desired, build a dry-stone wall so that trailing plants can be grown in the sides.

With a dry-stone wall, the joints are not mortared but filled with soil for planting. The stones should be laid at random but interlocked to ensure strength. If desired, plants can be inserted as building proceeds.

​Each wall should be built on a substantial strip foundation consisting of well-rammed hardcore topped with concrete. Depth of each about 4 inches (10 cm). With long walls it is recommended that cross ties are inserted every 4 ft. (1.2 m), extending from one wall to the other, to ensure extra strength. These can consist of iron bars or, in the case of dry-stone walls, long pieces of stone.

Stuart Jones
 

My name is Stuart Jones and I'm the guy responsible for most of the content on this website. I'm a horticulturist with over 25 years of experience in gardening and garden plants. To bring color throughout the year, I regularly grow a wide variety of plants, bulbs, flowers, shrubs and trees. Oh, and let’s not forget the fruits and vegetables to ensure the fridge is always stocked!

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