Watering and caring for container plants

Mon. Jul. 15, 2019

Click below to listen to my 2 min. Garden Bite radio show: Watering and caring for container plants

It’s been hot, it’s been humid and our containers are looking a bit bedraggled. I’m not EVEN going to talk about what I look like in this tropical weather! It happens in midSummer.

Petunia in a tub

 Don’t be afraid to pinch those petunias. Right about now they’re getting a bit leggy, you can pinch them back and watch for more growth. We should be fertilizing our annuals now as all the watering you we must do, leaches out any fertilizer they had when planted.

2019 container kong coleus, celosia, impatiens in bucket

For overall health, use an all-purpose fertilizer, something like 5-5-5. Soluble fertilizers are easy to use and are a good choice for container plants, where rooting space is at a premium and nutrients are often lost through frequent watering. I used fish emulsion but I’ll warn you… it stinks for a bit!

Large, fast-growing plants may need more nutrients than slow-release fertilizers can provide, so keep an eye on your plants and supplement if needed. Think WAVE petunia!

Also, be sure to read the directions for fertilizing on the package. Over fertilizing will damage the plant, browning the leaves.

overfertilized outdoor container by U of MN
2019 container in burlap petunia, calibrachoa, osteospermum

Right now, we’re watering at a minimum of once a day, I’m watering some of my containers twice a day (it’s been in the upper 80’s to low 90’s and humid), in particular those plants in small pots where they really don’t have any room to send their roots in search of more moisture.

These 4 small containers dry out very quickly

One suggestion I’d not heard before comes from the University of MN Extension – mulch your containers! Not only does mulch minimize water loss from evaporation, but it also moderates soil surface temperatures, keeping plant roots a bit cooler in the hot summer sun.

Mulched pepper plants in containers.
Photo: Anne Sawyer, UMN Extension

Furthermore, mulch prevents soil from splashing onto plant leaves during rain or watering. I mulch my veggies in the garden but hadn’t thought to do that with container plants. Anne Sawyer said she’s amazed at how much the mulch has cut down on her watering!

Small mulched raised bed with flowers.
Photo: Anne Sawyer
5 different annuals including the pink geranium photo by Teri Knight