How to keep container plants from drying out | 10 Tips for healthy plants

To keep container plants from drying out choose light colored containers to reflect the sun, natural materials like wood, and add 2 inches of mulch on top of the soil. Move containers to an area that gets afternoon shade and move smaller pots around dark containers to shade the base.

This article will explore my top 10 tips to help to keep container plants from drying out. These will also help with potted plants and raised garden beds to protect your plants.

Top 10 tips to keep container plants from drying out

Here are my top 10 tips to keep container plants from drying out at home. Check out each one to try at home.

1. Choose light colored containers

Choosing light colored containers will help to prevent containers and plants from drying out as quickly. Light colored containers reflect the sun so will absorb less heat and keep your plant roots cooler.  A white, light gray or even pink container works best to keep plant roots cool.

Light gray containers will dry out slower than black containers.

2. Choose wooden containers

Choose natural materials for your container like wood which will keep cooler than plastic. Natural materials will help to insulate and keep plants cool. I like wooden containers and raised garden beds as the wood naturally keeps soil moisture in for longer and keeps the container cooler.

While stainless steel raised garden beds are long lasting, they generally heat up quicker than wooden raised beds. If you are opting for a stainless steel container or garden bed, choose a light color to reflect the heat.

My raised garden beds have wooden surrounds which are perfect for insulation and are a great place to put plant pots.

3. Top the container with mulch

Top keep containers cooler for longer top the soil with mulch to keep moisture in and heat out. Plants grown in containers grow well with a topping of bark mulch, straw or sugar cane mulch. For larger plants, a long lasting mulch such as bark is easier as it will need to be replaced less often.

For smaller plants or vegetables use straw which breaks down quickly and has great insulating properties for sensitive plants. Whichever mulch you choose layer it 2 inches thick on the top of the container to provide enough coverage to protect the plant.

Use bark mulch to surround large plants to stop them from drying out as quickly.

4. Water the container deeply

To stop container plants from drying out deep watering is key. Rather than watering a small amount each day, deep water containers using the sprayer nozzle on your hose every 3-4 days in summer and once per week in fall and spring.

Check the soil 2 inches down and thoroughly water so it reaches the base of the soil. This will keep the plants and container moist for longer compared to a light watering. Do this in the morning so the soil and plants have time to dry out.

Water large pots deeply every week in summer to stop them drying out.

5. Cover the container with plants for shade

A great way to stop containers from drying out is to cover the container with as many plants that will fit. I love dense, mixed planting in containers because the plants will help to shade the soil and keep the moisture in for longer.

After you have planted, surround the plants with mulch and this will help to prevent evaporation. Try planting creeping plants like petunias which will cover the soil in raised garden beds or containers and act like a green cover crop.

Plant succulents around your potted plants to help to shade the soil.

6. Use the best quality potting soil

To prevent containers from drying out as quickly, choose a good quality potting soil to fill them. I like to use a premium potting soil and mix through a bag of aged animal manures. Mix through aged cow manure or chicken manure to add organic matter and increase the water holding capacity.

Good quality potting soil will hold water well and will contain slow release fertilizer.

This petunia needs an all purpose fertilizer as nutrients run through the pot quickly. Good quality potting soil still needs slow release fertilizer after around 4 weeks.

7. Move the containers to get afternoon shade

Keep containers from drying out by moving them into a position that gets afternoon sun. If the container is heavy it is best to place it in a spot that gets afternoon sun in the summer before you fill it with soil. Protecting pots from the worst heat of the day will help to stop them from drying out as quickly.

If containers are small you can move them around in summer to place them in a shady position. Move them back out into full sun in fall and spring to help the plant grow well.

Shade loving plants like ZZ will need all day shade to thrive if they are outdoors.

8. Surround containers with smaller pots

A great way to stop containers from drying out as quickly is to surround the base with smaller pots. I use small pots around the base of my bird of paradise to keep the pot cooler. Grouping pots will create shade and a microclimate to help to stop plants from drying out.

9. Move pots or containers into garden beds

Move containers into an area of your garden bed that is bare to keep them cooler. I like to move my pot plants around to gaps in my garden in spring and fall to add more color. This also help to keep the container cooler because it is shaded by other plants and the ground soil help to reduce the radiant heat.

My red flowering strawberry plant has a great home in my garden bed over spring and summer. This helps to prevent the small container from drying out.

Flowers help to attract bees to my strawberry plant in spring.

10. Place containers on garden soil

Move containers off of concrete or pavers to help them to avoid drying out in summer. While placing pots on concrete is fine for spring, the heat can get too much for some plants in the middle of summer. Move delicate, shade loving plants like clivias off concrete and move them onto soil or grassed area.

Dig black containers in the soil over summer to help to keep them cool. Surround them with mulch and this will help to slow down the rate that they dry out.

How to keep container plants from drying out | Summary

Stop container plants from drying out by putting them in a spot that gets afternoon shade, are surrounded by other plants and water them deeply. Containers that are lighter in color will stay cooler and therefore will dry out slower than dark colored containers.

Container plants are great because they can be moved around and filled with flowering annuals.

Happy growing.