As people are spending more time outdoors, and with the increase in smaller yards and apartment living, potted plants are a great way to bring nature and color closer — with less work than creating landscape beds.
Most nurseries and big-box stores have beautiful arrangements of colorful foliage and texture, even tropical plants for adorning porches and patios.
The only thing more eye-catching than a beautiful potted porch plant is a dead porch plant. So let me see a show of hands. How many of us are guilty of killing multiple, once gorgeous potted plants, or have one right now that should be put out of its misery? Yes, my hand is up, too.
So why is that? How can we take a beautiful specimen and so easily and quickly turn it into brown sticks of death? I’d say seven times out of 10 it’s a water issue. Let me explain why.
Potted plants tend to dry out much quicker than in-ground plants, due to the confining structure of the pot, and the hot air temperatures surround the soil rather than just the surface as with in-ground plants. Also, the pots can heat up and lose moisture from all sides. Glazed pots tend to hold moisture better than porous ones.
An interesting tidbit I learned from the online Gardening Know How website is that potting soil can actually begin to repel water, especially once it has been left to dry out completely. This can be a huge reason why people lose so many of their once beautiful potted plants.
If this occurs, it is best to deep water the plant in the pot very slowly, until the soil has once again rehydrated.
The key to keeping healthy potted plants is to check soil moisture often. Use a moisture gauge or do what I do, and stick a finger a knuckle or so down. If the dirt feels dry, water the plant thoroughly and slowly in the morning or evening.
Depending on the outside temperatures and whether or not it is in the sun, watering twice a day may be required.
You must know if your plant is drought tolerant or not, whether it’s a new planting or already established, and if the container is in the wind, direct sunlight or is glazed or not.
Understanding all of these factors will go a long way toward whether or not you have thriving potted plants or baked, shriveled ones.
Darla Horner Menking is a Texas Master Gardener and Master Naturalist. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org