How to Keep Container Plants from Drying Out | 10 Tips

To stop 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. Dark colored pots will absorb the sunlight and will dry out the plant and soil faster.

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

Covering the top of your containers with mulch will help to stop it from drying out. Plants will grow well with a thin layer layer of mulch on the surface. You could use straw or sugar cane mulch on the surface. For larger plants, a long lasting mulch such as bark is easier as it will need to be replaced less often. Mulch will also help to protect your plant’s roots during cold weather.

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. Water the whole surface area of the pot covering the entire root zone. This will make sure that all of the roots have access to water.

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 Afternoon Shade

Keep containers from drying out by moving them to a position that gets afternoon shade. Keep pots out of direct sunlight in the afternoon. The sun will dry out the soil quickly, particularly in the warmer months. It is best to move them to a protected position in late spring before the summer heat arrives.

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. Grouping your pots will cover the sides of the pot nearby keeping it cooler and helping to stop it 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.

Choosing the Right Containers

When it comes to keeping your container plants from drying out, choosing the right container is crucial. Here are some things to consider:

Consider Material

The material your container is made of can affect how quickly the soil dries out. Porous materials like terra cotta and coir hanging baskets can cause the soil to dry out quickly, while non-porous materials like plastic and metal can help retain moisture.

Make sure that the pot still has adequate drainage holes. This will allow excess water to drain out of the bottom to avoid root rot.

Size Matters

The size of your container can also affect how quickly the soil dries out. A larger pot will generally retain more moisture than smaller ones, so consider the size of your plants and their root systems when choosing a container for new plants. Keep in mind that larger containers may also be heavier and more difficult to move, so make sure you have placed them where they will stay.

When choosing your container, also consider the drainage holes. Proper drainage is crucial to prevent water from pooling in the container, which can lead to root rot and other problems. Make sure your container has adequate drainage holes and that they are not blocked by soil or other materials.

By considering the material and size of your container, as well as ensuring proper drainage, you can help keep your container plants from drying out and ensure their health and longevity.

Choosing the Right Soil

The type of soil you use for your container plants is crucial in keeping them from drying out. You need to choose a soil that can retain moisture for longer periods of time. A good soil mix should be able to hold water while still allowing for proper drainage. Here are some soil types to consider:

  • Potting soil: This is the most common soil type used for container plants. It is a mixture of organic matter, vermiculite, and perlite. It is lightweight and has excellent drainage, which makes it perfect for container plants.
  • Compost: Compost is a great soil amendment that can help retain moisture in your container plants. It is rich in nutrients and can help improve soil structure.
  • Coir: Coir is a natural fiber that is extracted from coconut husks. It is a sustainable alternative to peat moss and can help retain moisture in your container plants.

Watering Techniques

Watering Schedule

One of the most important things to keep in mind when it comes to watering container plants is to maintain a consistent watering schedule. Overwatering or underwatering can both be detrimental to the health of your plants. As a general rule of thumb, most container plants need to be watered once a day, especially during the hot summer months.

However, it is important to keep in mind that some plants may require more or less water depending on their specific needs. You should always check the soil moisture level before watering your plants. To do this, simply stick your finger into the soil up to your knuckle. If the soil feels dry, it’s time to water your plants.

Methods of Watering

There are several methods of watering container plants, and each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Here are a few options:

  • Hand Watering: This is the most basic and traditional method of watering plants. Simply fill a watering can with water and pour it over the soil until it is moist. This method allows you to control the amount of water your plants receive, but it can be time-consuming if you have a large number of plants.
  • Drip Irrigation: Drip irrigation is a great option if you have a lot of container plants to water. It involves installing a drip line to your container pots to automate watering. This can be a convenient and efficient way to water your plants, but it can be expensive to install.
  • Self-Watering Containers: Self-watering containers have a built-in reservoir that automatically waters your plants as needed. This can be a great option for busy gardeners who don’t have time to water their plants every day. However, these containers can be expensive and may not be suitable for all types of plants.

By following a consistent watering schedule and using the right watering method for your plants, you can keep your container plants healthy and thriving.

Use of Mulch

Mulching is an effective way to keep container plants from drying out. It involves covering the soil surface with a layer of organic or inorganic material that helps retain moisture and regulate temperature. In this section, we will discuss the benefits of mulching and the types of mulch you can use.

Benefits of Mulching

Mulching has several benefits that make it a popular practice among gardeners. Here are some of the benefits of mulching:

  • Retains Moisture: Mulch helps retain moisture in the soil, reducing the need for frequent watering. This is especially important for container plants, which tend to dry out faster than plants grown in the ground.
  • Regulates Temperature: Mulch helps regulate soil temperature, keeping it cooler in hot weather and warmer in the winter months. This helps create a more stable environment for your plants.
  • Suppresses Weeds: Mulch helps suppress weed growth, reducing the amount of time and effort you need to spend weeding your containers.
  • Improves Soil Quality: As mulch decomposes, it adds organic matter to the soil, improving its quality and fertility.

Types of Mulch

There are several types of mulch you can use for your container plants. Here are some of the most common types:

  • Organic Mulch: Organic mulch is made from natural materials such as straw, leaves, grass clippings, or bark. It decomposes over time, adding nutrients to the soil. Organic mulch is best for plants that prefer a slightly acidic soil.
  • Inorganic Mulch: Inorganic mulch is made from materials such as gravel, stones, or rubber. It does not decompose and lasts longer than organic mulch. Inorganic mulch is best for plants that prefer a neutral or alkaline soil.
  • Plastic Mulch: Plastic mulch is a non-biodegradable material that is placed over the soil to prevent evaporation and weed growth. It is best for plants that prefer a warm soil temperature.

Mulching is an effective way to keep container plants from drying out. Adding a thin layer of mulch on the top of your plant pots will help to retain moisture, regulate temperature, suppress weeds, and improve soil quality. There are several types of mulch you can use, including organic, inorganic, and plastic mulch. Choose the type that best suits your plants’ needs and enjoy healthy, thriving container plants.

Monitoring Plant Health

To keep your container plants healthy, it’s important to monitor their water needs regularly. Overwatering and underwatering can both cause damage to your plants, so it’s important to know the signs of each.

Signs of Overwatering

Overwatering can lead to root rot, which can be fatal to your plants. Here are some signs that you may be overwatering your container plants:

  • Yellowing leaves
  • Wilting leaves
  • Mushy or soft stems
  • Foul odor from the soil
  • Mold or fungus growing on the soil surface

If you notice any of these signs, it’s important to adjust your watering routine. Make sure your container has proper drainage and reduce the frequency of watering.

Signs of Underwatering

Underwatering can cause your plants to wilt and dry out. Here are some signs that you may be underwatering your container plants:

  • Dry, brittle leaves
  • Brown, crispy edges on leaves
  • Wilting leaves
  • Soil pulling away from the container walls

If you notice any of these signs, it’s important to water your plants more frequently. Make sure you are watering thoroughly and that water is reaching the roots.

Regularly monitoring your plants for signs of overwatering or underwatering can help keep them healthy and thriving.


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.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I keep my potted plants hydrated?

To keep your potted plants hydrated, water them deeply but infrequently. This means watering them until water comes out of the bottom of the container, but not watering them again until the soil has dried out a bit. You can also use an olla, an unglazed clay pot that can be buried underneath the soil with the bottleneck opening positioned above ground so that it can be refilled. This is one of the most ancient methods of irrigation known to man, dating back over 4000 years.

What are some ways to keep soil moist in summer?

To keep soil moist in summer, 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. You can also use water-retaining granules, which can absorb and release water as needed.

Are there any water-retaining granules for plant pots?

Yes, there are water-retaining granules that you can use for plant pots. These granules absorb water and release it slowly over time, helping to keep the soil moist. However, it’s important to note that overuse of these granules can lead to waterlogging, which can be harmful to plants.

How do I prevent clay pots from drying out?

Clay pots are porous and can dry out quickly, so it’s important to take steps to prevent them from drying out. One way to do this is to soak the pot in water before planting. You can also line the pot with plastic or use a saucer underneath to help retain moisture. Adding a layer of mulch on top of the soil can also help to keep the soil moist.

What are some tips for looking after outdoor potted plants?

When looking after outdoor potted plants, it’s important to choose plants that are suitable for your climate and the amount of sunlight they will receive. Water them deeply but infrequently, and make sure they are getting enough drainage. You can also move them to areas that get afternoon shade to help prevent them from drying out.

Is there a specific type of mulch that works best for potted plants?

There are many types of mulch that can work well for potted plants, including straw, leaves, grass clippings, and wood chips. However, it’s important to choose a mulch that is appropriate for the type of plant you are growing and the conditions it will be growing in. Make sure to avoid using mulch that is too thick, as this can lead to waterlogging.