The Q&A Archives: Watering Flowers In Clay Pots

Question: I have quite a few flowers and herbs in clay pots on my deck. They are on the North side of the house and get sun all day in the summer.
I am wondering if I need to water them everyday. Sometimes I will check the soil in the mornings, and it still feels moist, so I won't water them. But when I return in the evening, the plants look really bad.
Should I water them every morning even if the soil is still moist and not totally dry yet?
Thank you.

Answer: In a word, yes, you propbably need to water more often if the plants are wilting on a longer interval.

It is important to protect the plants from water stress. Often, no matter what type of pot, it is necessary to water daily. In the heat of the summer or on a windy hot day, you may need to water twice. If pots are undersized or a porous clay, the problem may be especially difficult especially with plants that prefer an evenly moist soil -- as most do.

However, some plants will suffer from heat stress and wilt in the afternoon on hot days, then once the temperatures drop they recover. Cool season plants are most susceptible to this sort of heat prostration, and interestingly enough, if the soil moisture is adequate they will be upright the following morning without additional water in the afternoon.

In any case, eventually, the tissues will become damaged from the repeated wilting and the plant will no longer be able to survive. So you need to keep them from wilting if at all possible.

Most plants do best in a soil that is evenly moist but not sopping wet. The potting soil will have a lot to do with how often you must water. The soilless mixes often require watering daily unless the temperatures are cool or it is raining or in some cases if the plant is shaded all day.

You might try some experiments and see what works best for you. You might water each morning, you might try moving the pots to a location with afternoon shade, you might try protecting them from wind. You might evaluate pot size in relation to plant size and move some to larger pots. You might try grouping plants with similar water needs together in one large container such as a half barrel. (Large containers dry out more slowly than small ones.) You might also consider using plastic pots hidden inside the clay pots because the plastic is not porous and thus helps the soil stay moist. Finally, make sure you are using a good quality potting mix.

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