When & how to water your plants both in your garden & in pots & containers throughout the year.

When & how to water your plants both in your garden & in pots & containers throughout the year.
  • It is vital to water newly planted plants for some months after planting in the ground to enable them to grow strong roots & settle in well. For trees & larger shrubs it might be necessary to continue watering for the first 12 months after planting. Young newly planted plants especially those in containers might need watering more often, even daily, depending on the position of the container & the material it is made out of. Unglazed Terracotta dries out much more quickly than glazed pots unless they have been lined or made waterproof. Metal pots heat up quickly in the sun so bake the compost.
  • Compost loses its structure over time making it less able to hold on to moisture. If using last year’s compost either replace it completely or mix in at least half the amount needed of new compost.
  • Water pots slowly filling them up to the rim, let the water soak in slowly then repeat. When potting don’t fill the pot with compost right to the top, allow space for watering. Completely saturating the compost isn’t necessary & isn’t good for the plants as it washes out the nutrients.
  • In the ground even after rain your plants might need watering because showers might not be heavy enough to soak into the soil to provide the moisture that the plant requires especially if it has been dry for some time & the soil has baked or gone hard.
  • Even after heavy rain your plants might need watering especially if they have large leaves or bushy foliage. These leaves can act like an umbrella & stop the water reaching the plant roots by cascading the rain around the outer edges of the plant. If you look carefully you could see a dark, wet circle of soil around the outer edge but dry, dusty soil around the roots.
  • In the ground & containers, it is better to water for a longer period less often so your plants get a good soaking rather than little & often so that most of the water soaks into the soil rather than evaporating. This encourages deeper rooting so the plants are more able to withstand drier weather conditions.
  • Stop watering when the water emerges out of the bottom of the pot. If this happens very quickly then the compost might be so dry that the pot needs submerging in water to re-soak the compost.
  • Deeper pots hold onto moisture better than shallower pots.
  • Pots in south & west facing positions dry out more quickly than those facing north & east so will need watering more often.
  • Try to water early in the day whenever possible to avoid encouraging slugs into your garden. They love moist soils especially after evening watering. Watering earlier in the day has less evaporation & also gives the soil time to dry up either by the sun’s temperature or the wind.
  • Remember to water the soil around the plants roots not the foliage, This is important as it avoids spreading disease spores eg. black spot on roses & also stops leaves scorching in the sun.
  • Plants in containers can only absorb water from the limited amount of compost around their roots so we need to provide enough water to ensure healthy growth. Water regularly in spring & summer for bedding plants but with longer term planting watering might be needed in autumn & winter as well in lesser quantities.
  • Plants labeled as drought tolerant or those with silvery or small, fleshy foliage can be left for longer between watering. If the compost is dry about a third of the way down the pot then it needs watering. The compost will dry out more quickly in warm or windy weather.
  • Use grey water or rain water if possible. Small pots can be dunked in a bucket.
  • If going on holiday, either ask a friend or neighbour to water your plants, or install a self-watering system.
  • Peat free compost dries out more quickly so think about adding water retaining granules to your compost when planting a container. This can be a problem in very wet weather as then the compost can hold too much water!


How to use less water.

  • Grouping pots together raises the air humidity around them.
  • Pots in saucers or trays catch run-off water. Don’t use this method over winter. Pots need to be stood on pot feet or raised off the ground in winter to allow for good drainage especially in frosty weather. Roots need oxygen as well as water so don’t leave pots standing in water for more than a few hours in warm weather.
  • Mulching the surface with grit, bark or bought or home-made compost reduces evaporation in pots. This also works well with plants in your borders.
  • Peat free compost in pots dries out quicker than compost containing peat so might need to be watered more often. Put your finger down the side of the pot to check that it isn’t just the pot surface that is dry.



          Cath Sanderson  July 2024

           Caths Garden Plants

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