Outdoor potted plants take the brunt of our worst weather in the desert Southwest, and that starts in the spring with windy, dry days. Then they endure constant sun and high temperatures through the summer. With good watering techniques and appropriate care your potted plants will not only survive they will thrive.
As the weather heats up and our late-spring winds start blowing, cover the soil of your outdoor potted plants with several inches of mulch. You can use compost from your pile, bagged mulch, well-chipped bark and even colored glass which looks really pretty. A mulch covering will help the pots retain water and keep the soil cool so plant roots do not dry out.
It’s very important to know your plants’ water needs, so be familiar with your plants when you pot them up. It helps to write down the name of the plant and when you bought it, to help track its progress. Before watering, check the soil down deep to see if the plant needs a drink. Often the top two inches of soil is dry but deep down the root area is wet. A lot of plants don’t like “wet feet” and will rot if roots are continually moist. Sometimes, gardener’s use their fingers to poke down into the pot. If your pot is deep, invest in a moisture meter to help guide your watering.
When you water, it’s best to drench outdoor plants in the early morning or evening, when temperatures are cooler than mid-day. Water evenly on top of all the soil, not just next to the stems, and water only as fast the soil can absorb the moisture. Stop when the water is continually draining from the bottom of the pot. Water the soil only because watering the foliage or flowers can cause flower loss and sometimes fungus growth on the leaves. During cooler weather, such as early spring and fall, you may only need to water your plants every week or two.
Empty the water out of pot saucers or containers after watering or rain. Standing water will breed mosquitoes. Actually, we think it best for you to use pot feet and let the pots drain onto the patio or porch. The roots of a plant need air around them and placing them directly on saucers robs them of the air circulation.
For landscape plants in pots or indoor potted plants, consider using a self-watering device such as a plant nanny or olla to provide a slow, consistent water source. Both are also perfect for watering plants during your vacation and once you put them into a pot you never have to take them out.