Outdoor gardening in pots offers various advantages but it also presents unique challenges — one of which is correct watering. This is because container-grown plants dry out faster than those growing in open soil.
Watering practices for outdoor potted plants vary widely based on the plant and season. Watering in the morning allows the soil to retain moisture for the rest of the day. In hot weather, you may need to water once or twice daily — and if the soil looks cracked or pale, it’s time to hydrate it.
How and when you water your plants directly impacts their health. Although many gardeners are cautious about under-watering, drowning your plants in water can also have detrimental effects. Let’s take a closer look at some best practices for watering outdoor potted plants so that you can water your plants with confidence.
How Often Should You Water Outdoor Potted Plants?
All plants need water for survival. However, incorrect watering techniques put plants at risk of disease or even death. Summer is the most challenging time for container plant watering.
Because of the limited soil space and the pot’s construction, plant containers store very little moisture. Generally, it’s best to water your containers in the early morning or evening.
This timing gives the plant enough time to absorb the water before the heat of the day sets in. It also allows excess water on the plant to evaporate quickly, making it less susceptible to fungus.
When the soil is dry to the bottom, it’s time to water, but this may be too late for the plant. Some common signs of under-watering are:
- Shriveled leaves
- Limp stems
- Dropped flower petals
- Dry leaves
- Discoloration on leaves
In warm, dry conditions, check potted plants daily. When the top inch of soil is dry, it’s a sign that the soil needs water. Water your outdoor potted plants daily or twice a day during summer.
It’s easy to remember to water your plants if you keep tabs on their containers. Different plant species require different watering frequencies. Drought-resistant plants and succulents need to be hydrated less often than vegetables and annuals. Similarly, plants that have been established for some time can go longer between waterings than those just getting started.
Most plants benefit from being watered slowly and thoroughly, allowing the water to reach deeper into the soil and access the roots. To avoid wasting water, give your plants a long soak instead of a quick spritz that runs straight out the drainage holes. Sometimes, when you allow potting soil to dry out completely, it may begin to repel water.
Other than ensuring that the water reaches the plant’s roots, watering slowly and deeply will encourage the potting soil or planting media to reabsorb water when dry. If your potting soil for outdoor plants has dried out completely, it’s best to soak it in a water tub for around 30 minutes for speedy rehydration.
Can You Overwater Outdoor Potted Plants?
All living organisms rely on water and air for survival, making it necessary for plants to breathe above and below soil level. Since they live in a captive habitat, overwatering outdoor potted plants is one of the major problems faced by novice and even professional gardening enthusiasts. The results of drowning your plants can be disastrous.
Waterlogged soils compact and suffocate the roots causing various issues such as:
- Root rot
- Fungal diseases
- Nutrient stripping
Most plant species have unique watering requirements. Overwatered plants may also have rot at the crown or base.
How to Avoid Overwatering Potted Plants
You need to be familiar with your plant species’ watering needs for efficient watering. Also, use well-drained growing media and a pot with ample drainage.
A moisture meter (on Amazon) is the easiest way to prevent giving your potted plants excessive water. A general rule of thumb is to keep the top two inches of the soil moderately moist.
Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. Push a finger into the soil up to the second knuckle to check moisture levels. Unless you have aquatic plants, never let the pot rest in a pool of water. Drain saucers periodically to reduce the chance of root rot.
Can You Keep Outdoor Potted Plants Watered While Away?
Are you planning a vacation and concerned about the healthy potted plants you’ve worked hard to grow? Here are a few techniques to keep your plants hydrated while you’re away. Use these methods for plants that need daily watering, like herbs or vegetables:
- Move your outdoor potted plants to a cool location if you’ll be away for a few days: Place your plants away from the sun in a shady area or on your deck. Water the plants generously and ensure to place a drip pan underneath.
- Create a mini-greenhouse for a few potted plants: If you plan a long trip, you can turn a clear plastic bag into a greenhouse or buy a terrarium (on Amazon) for your potted plants. To make a DIY greenhouse, place a clear bag big enough to fit the plant and pot over the plant and water. Blow some air in the bag, seal it, and leave plants away from direct sunlight.
- Use a watering bulb: Watering bulbs (on Amazon) are mini-watering systems that you can fill with water and stick into the soil next to a plant. The water autonomously flows from the bulb when the soil gets dry.
- Place plants in a water bath: You can leave plants with well-drained pots in a water bath during your trip. Fill a long shallow container with approximately 4 inches of water, then place the potted plants in the tub.
Tips and Tricks for Watering Outdoor Potted Plants
Potted plants need more water than their garden soil-grown counterparts. These tips facilitate easier watering:
- Use glazed pots to reduce evaporation
- Place clay pots in other containers
- Install a drip irrigation system (on Amazon)
- Water in the early morning or late evening
Also, ensure to water plants at the base of the plant and regularly check soil moisture levels.