Outdoor Metal Decor Care

Home & Garden Blog

Metal garden ornaments can add beauty to your landscape and highlight favorite areas outdoors, but will require some maintenance to stay in top condition. Fortunately, most common outdoor ornament metals are easy to care for if you learn the basics.

Check The Metal Content

Not all metal yard art is created equal. Some newer ornaments are made of aluminum, which is lightweight and doesn't rust. Heavier, sturdier pieces are typically made of iron, which can rust. Copper is another common metal used outdoors. Although it doesn't rust, it will develop a natural patina. The type of metal will guide you on the care requirements of the piece.


Generally, aluminum is the lowest maintenance option. If it gets dirty, clean it with water and a non-abrasive sponge. Since aluminum is a softer metal, abrasive cleaners can scratch the surface. Paint may chip off as the ornament ages, which will require a fresh coat of an outdoor enamel to spruce the item up.

The main concern with aluminum is damage. The soft metal can easily be twisted by the wind. Make sure the ornament is staked down well and place it in a protected area, if possible. Also, don't use aluminum ornaments to support heavy plants, since the ornament may not be able to handle the weight.

Wrought Iron

Wrought iron is a classic in the garden because it can survive for several lifetimes. Traditionally, most wrought iron is painted with a white or black enamel, although you can use any color you desire. Paint jobs can last for many years, but the iron can rust quickly once the paint begins to chip. Examine wrought iron pieces annually for paint damage. If you notice damage, use a wire brush to remove the flaking paint and any rust that has appeared. Then, repaint the piece with a rust-resistant outdoor enamel.

Wrought iron ornaments can safely support plants. Annual vines will require removal at the end of the growing season, so you can inspect and make any repairs to the ornament. If you grow perennials, you will have to work around perennial vines or learn to embrace the natural look of iron rust.


Outdoors, copper is typically used as an accent on the metal ornament. Often, it's allowed to develop a natural patina so cleaning isn't really necessary. If you prefer to keep the copper bright, rub it with a soft cloth and a copper polish. This removes the patina and tarnish that develops. You may also want to place the ornament where it isn't exposed to the elements, such as on a covered porch, to slow down the development of the patina.


30 April 2015