Hypertufa Instructions

Michael Larkin Garden Design

Harrisburg PA


  1. Gathering the materials
    • Sphagnum peat moss - 2 or 3 cu ft bag   or cheap potting soil - Garden Center
    • Portland cement  - 90lb bag (only size available) - Cement Supply Co.
    • Perlite, - 3 cu ft bag (cheaper in larger sizes) - Garden Center
    • 2" plastic pot ( for drainage hole) 
    • Latex gloves, good quality dust mask, eye protection

    • Wheelbarrow or plastic mortar pan
    • PAM cooking spray or a dry cleaner bag
    • Large round plastic mixing bowl or low round planter
    • 1 gal bucket for measuring 
    • Hand trowel, wire brush, garden hoe
    • Access to water and hose
    • Old table to work on
    • A large garbage bag
    • Cement Dye (liquid)
  1. When and where – It’s best to mix when the temp is 50° -80° f. The Portland cement does not cure properly if it is too cold or too hot.   In the summer - work in the shade.  Its good to work on an old table covered with a plastic tablecloth - This will help your back.

  1. Before you begin - Screen the peat moss, through a 1/4˝ wire screen, removing the twigs and big clumps of peat moss.  This makes for a smooth finish.  Potting soil also works and you may only need to pick out any twigs.

  1. The mold The choices are as broad as your imagination- one choice is a large plastic snack bowl or low round plastic planter.  I prefer placing the Hypertufa (tufa) on the inside of the bowl however you may find that you like it better placing the mix on the outside of the mold.

  1. Safety.  Mixing the ingredients will get dusty! PUT ON YOUR GLOVES, MASK, and EYE PROTECTION.

  1. Mix it Up.   I like the ratio 1/1/1. In the wheelbarrow, place the following:  1 gal bucket of peat moss, 1 gal perlite and 1 gal Portland cement.  Smaller projects use smaller measuring containers. Depending on your project you may need more ingredients. Best to have too much than not enough tufa!  Then either using a garden hoe or your hands with the gloves on, and mix all dry ingredients thoroughly.

  1. Slowly add the water to the dry mix.  Start with one gallon.   Add water until you get a consistency of thick oatmeal. Do not rush this part. Work the mix slowly. If you do add too much water, then just add a little peat moss or Portland.  If you squeeze it in you hands and it drips water a few drops it is ok.

  1. The Mold - Place the bowl on the table. Spray the inside of the bowl with PAM, or cover the mold with a dry cleaner bag.  Next take a handful of the hypertufa mix and place in the bottom of the bowl working your way up the sides. 

    Try to maintain a thickness of about 1˝.  This may be difficult if the tufa is too wet, If its too wet, dump out and remix it with a little more dry ingredient then put back in the mold. Next you also will need to make some drainage holes.  A 2” small plastic pot can also be used  to form one large drainage hole .
 9.  Cover the hypertufa  with the plastic garbage bag and then place your covered container in a shady area.  

10.     In about 24 hours check the hypertufa. It should be damp and  firm  but not soft.  CAREFULLY   turn  the bowl upside down and remove the plastic bowl/mold.  

  1. Finish you trough.  Use your wire brush and the flat part of the trowel and rough up the sides. Remove any sharp edges -- remember this is supposed to look like a stone trough.  Make sure you put on the protective eyewear.  This step takes a little time. Don’t be afraid to try other tools to work the side of the hypertufa bowl.    When you are done rinse off the dust with water then place it back in the garbage bag and tie the opening.   Try to keep the trough moist for 2-3 weeks. Don’t be afraid to uncover and periodically hose down again if needed . This step will insure that the tufa will cure properly and adds to the durability of the trough. If you allow it to dry too fast it may crack.  Also hosing off your new trough several times will remove the cement chemicals. After a few weeks your trough is ready to plant!

  1. Clean up – hose off your tools and wheelbarrow. Seal your open bag of Portland and store in dry place until next time.

Note: The  ingredients may be hazardous to your health.  Use proper protective wear, so that you will not get injured. I am not responsible for any injuries you get while making your trough.