How to Keep Your Container Gardens Alive Over Summer

How to Keep Your Container Gardens Alive Over Summer

Do your pots suffer from summer doldrums? Enjoy planters all through the summer with our easy tips. By Justin Hancock
By Justin Hancock

While the summer season represents vacation time for kids, it’s time to get serious for gardeners, especially if you’re container gardening. Heat, wind, and drought often combine in the form a triple threat for beautiful container gardens. Happily, hope isn’t lost. Check out these tips for keeping your containers thriving through the hot season.

Water Your Container Gardens Wisely
Wondering how to keep your container gardens alive over summer? It’s no surprise that watering is one key to success with container gardens. Warm-weather plants grow fast this time of year, and the faster they grow, the more water they need. To keep them at their best, you may need to water every day. And in some cases, twice a day because you’re not just keeping up with what the plant uses; you also have to make up for water lost to evaporation

When watering, go slow. The drier the potting soil, the more slowly it soaks water. That means when you apply a lot of water at once, such as from the garden hose, more water flows through the drainage holes than the potting soil absorbs. Watering slowly, for a longer period of time, means better absorption so your plants stay moist longer.

Container Gardening: Tips for Watering Less
Another strategy for how to keep your container gardens alive over summer is to apply a layer of mulch over the top of the potting mix to help it stay moist longer. This reduces moisture losses to evaporation. Any kind of organic mulch, such as shredded bark, wood chips, or cocoa hulls works. Avoid rocks or other inorganic mulches, which can absorb more heat.  

If you’re going out of town on vacation or entering a bout of particularly hot, dry weather, move your containers to the shade. Plants use less water when they’re out of the sun and the cooler temperatures will help conserve even more moisture.  

The type of pots you use for container gardening matters, too. Terra cotta is porous, so it’s more susceptible to water loss from evaporation. Decrease this effect by applying a sealant to the inside walls of the pot.

The more you fertilize your container garden, the faster plants grow and the more water they need, but that doesn’t mean your plants can go without fertilizer. For best results, consider a time- or slow-release product, which releases small amounts of nutrients to plants over time. Use it at the start of the season and it can keep your plants going for you.  

Plants don’t care about fertilizer brands or types (for the most part). In general, though, it’s best to use a balanced product, which has a fertilizer analysis of three similar numbers, such as a 20-20-20.

Change Out Container Gardens
If your plants are too far gone, invest in a fresh set of plants. They’ll continue to provide color throughout the summer and fall, especially if you select tough, heat-resistant varieties such as:
  > Angelonia
  > Gaura
  > Lantana
  > Mandevilla
  > Pentas
  > Portulaca (AKA purslane)
  > Salvia
  > Scaevola
  > Torenia
  > Vinca
  > Zinnia

Get More Container Gardening Ideas
  > Container Combo Ideas
  > Hanging Baskets Ideas
  > Palms that Grow in Pots
  > See our Container Gardening Guide

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