Summer is heating up, and all those pots stuffed with annual flowers that were so lush even a few weeks ago are looking worn out and faded. It’s time to give your containers some tender loving care, if you want them hanging around in the fall.
Check your pots at least once daily, use the finger test and water accordingly. With so many plants sharing a small amount of real estate, it becomes crucial to manage your watering. Water deeply until water begins to drain out the pot’s drainage holes.
Plant experts say just one day of inadequate watering and hot temperatures can cause irreparable damage to container plants. Wind and heat will cause moisture to evaporate, and you must water regularly for plants to grow. On really hot days, you’ll notice leaves wilting or curling up, even if the plant has been kept well watered. Don’t panic. This is the plant’s way of conserving water.
Smaller pots, overstuffed pots and full-sun locations mean more frequent watering. Containers dry out quickly, especially hanging baskets, and most require daily watering. But watering can be tricky. Unglazed pots are thirstier than glazed pots. Plastic pots are better for holding water, but if the plastic is thin or dark, plant roots can steam. Resin pots are good, too. Hanging baskets may need twice-daily watering when days are particularly windy or hot.
Adequate drainage and good soil are musts. Plant roots need oxygen, so potting soil should be light enough to allow air and water to percolate through and allow plant tissue to move water and nutrients to the roots. If the soil is too dense, or drainage holes inadequate or non-existent, a heavy rainstorm or deep watering can drown plants by suffocating the roots.
Too-wet soil can cause root rot and other fungal and disease problems, too. If a pot becomes waterlogged, or the soil never seems to dry out or begins to stink, remove the plants and dump the soil. Drill or open drainage holes, fill the pot with fresh potting soil and repot the plants.
Most potting soil contains fertilizer that is supposed to feed plants for “up to three months.” But I’ve found that the nutritive value is flushed away more quickly with frequent watering. So once every week or so, I’ll dilute water-soluble fertilizer in my watering can and use that, instead of the hose, to water containers. Some gardeners prefer to place a teaspoon or two of fertilizer into pots once a month or so, scratch it into the soil and water.
I always deadhead flowers, removing spent or dried up blooms from petunias, geraniums and other plants to keep them looking nice, as well as encouraging more blooms and branching for fuller plants.
And don’t be afraid to trim or cut back plants in containers. You may miss the blooms for a few weeks, but the plants will recover.