Words: Justin Butts Photos: Rachel Benavides
Potted plants bring beauty, color, and fragrance to outdoor living areas, but they easily become stressed during our sultry Coastal Bend summers.
Potted Plants are Sensitive to Heat and Wind
The intense heat and incessant wind of summer quickly dry out container plants. In nature, the roots of plants are insulated by the ground, which heats or cools gradually. Potted plants have only a small amount of soil for insulation, which means rapid cooling or heating. These plants suffer from extreme heat as well as rapid temperature changes each day.
Potted plants should be well-insulated. Choose containers with the greatest insulation, such as terra cotta, and make sure there are sufficient holes in the bottom to allow excellent drainage.
Soil is the Key to Health in Potted Plants
Use only the highest quality organic potting soil. For best results, try mixing potting soil with organic compost at a 1:1 ratio. Make sure the soil goes to the bottom of the pot (not lined with rocks to save soil) so plant roots have plenty of space to grow.
Leave a couple inches head space at the top of the pot for organic mulch (native leaves are best) to further insulate and protect the soil.
Provide Sufficient Direct Sunlight without Too Much Wind
Plants need a certain amount of direct sunlight each day to conduct photosynthesis. Heat is not the same as light. If potted plants sit in the shade of a covered patio all day, they receive all the stress of the heat without the benefits of direct sunlight needed to grow.
If possible, locate potted plants where they enjoy morning sunshine but are shaded in the afternoon when the heat is at its worst.
Wind rapidly dries out container plants. Place your container plants where they receive enough sunlight each day but are shielded from wind.
How Often and How Much to Water Container Plants
Water your potted plants slowly and deeply to allow full saturation throughout the pot. Let the soil mostly, but not completely, dry out before the next watering. Usually, during summer, outdoor container plants need watering every morning and evening—and sometimes at mid-day!
Use your finger to dig down to check soil moisture. Dry soil causes wilting and browning of the leaves. Lush plant growth indicates that good soil moisture is being maintained.
Container plants bring beauty and joy to your outdoor living areas. Monitor the soil, sun, and water to keep your potted plants lush and healthy all summer long!