By Sarah Buchanan. First published by Rattan Direct on 13 May 2016.
Why water garden plants and pots?
Plants are 90% water. They may need your help to get what they need, that is why we water garden plants and pots and why you need to know what’s what in watering.
Plants need water to carry food from roots to shoots, to ‘breathe’ out from their leaves, and to keep upright. Water movement through a plant is called transpiration. The plant that flops during the day isn’t getting enough. And water is part of the chemical reaction (photosynthesis) that gives the plant energy. Soil, sun and wind affect the water a plant can reach and use.
How to make sure our plants get the water they need
Water garden plants and pots to make sure they have the right amount of water in the soil they live in.
Choose plants for the right place. Plants that thrive in dry ground or pots, baked by full sun, include:
- plants with grey or silver leaves: artemesia, senecio or lavender and ‘Mediterranean’ plants (but some may not like wet winters and frosts so read the label before you buy)
- plants with fleshy leaves: sempervivums, bergenia or euphorbia
- many annuals (after the risk of frosts has): pelargoniums, cosmos, Californian poppy or marigolds.
And some plants are just tough: hebe seems to be the plant that can grow well in most places.
Improving the soil, by adding lots of leaf mould or garden compost, before you plant, and adding a mulch afterwards helps water stay in the ground ready for your plants.
Top tips for watering plants
Watering pots and containers, hanging baskets, and plants in the wrong place, is essential to keep them going. In high summer you may need to water hanging baskets twice a day. Water in the early evening, or very early morning before the sun is on your plants. Put plant saucers under your pots and add water there to encourage roots to reach down.
Rainwater is the best all-round choice. It is free from additives in tap water (such as chlorine and fluoride, added for our health and safety reasons) or your water softener. It is just right for acid-loving or ericaceous plants such as azaleas and camellias. And it is not too cold. If you need to use tap water, fill your watering can and leave it outside the day before you water your plants. Cold water from your tap is as much of a shock to a plant as it is to you!
Q: OK, it rains a lot here, but where do I get rainwater when I need it?
A: Collect and store water in covered water butts or containers.
Buy one for the job or make your own.
Ready made water butts come in different shapes and sizes, usually barrel-shaped but also slim-line. Most have a tap at the bottom. Pipework adaptor kits direct water from your gutters into the butt until it is full and then into the drains.
Make your own water butt from an old water tank and use the pipework adaptor kit to fit it to the gutter downpipe.
And if any sort of water butt isn’t an option, leave buckets or a plastic dustbin outside when rain is forecast. You may not collect much but every little helps. Put a cover on them when the rain stops to keep the water in and keep animals and birds safe from drowning.
Pro tip. Stored rainwater is not good for seeds and seedlings because it may carry pests and diseases harmful to plants.
Pro tip. Use the water from your dehumidifier or tumble dryer to water your plants.
- Always use a lid on your water butt: it prevents birds falling in as they seek water on hot days
- Make sure your watering can fits under the tap on a water butt, before the rain falls!