Big box stores tout that they will save you money and time by grouping annual flowers together in the same container garden. At the store it is a beautiful display, so the idea seems valid. However, within a day of bringing the planted container home, it dries out like the Sahara Desert and I spend the rest of the spring and summer watering it EVERY DAY. This is not sustainable and does not save time or money.
The reason you have to water so much is the plant is usually planted in a soilless mix so the nurseries can water and fertilize more often without the roots rotting in the humid nursery conditions. Once you get the container home and it is placed outside in mixed environmental weather, the annuals require different conditions; they need to hold water near the roots instead of wicking water away from the roots.
Above you see the Wave Petunia Tidal Wave Purple and Double Zahara Cherry Zinnia together in a simple clay pot. I only watered these plants two times per week on average during the regular summer season using the below techniques. More watering will be necessary during drought or extremely hot seasons.
Here’s the secret tip – every year I go to the home and garden store and purchase a container of pre-planted annuals like petunias or coleus, then I take it home and play mad scientist. Here’s what I do –
- I tear apart the annual plant arrangement, pulling each plant out of the pre-planted container.
- I replant the plants in my own containers with my own, preferred, soil mix. I use a mix of 1/3 potting soil, 1/3 rotted manure, and 1/3 compost. And yes, I know this does not follow the “rules” from the books. This is not about rules, this is about what works in my garden. And the above combination retains water very well in the containers.
- If you have very harsh, hot and dry conditions, you might consider mulching the tops of your containers. It helps retain water.
- Water DEEPLY, but infrequently. Watering lightly every day does not help keep the soil wet longer and does not help the root systems of the plants. I water until water comes out the bottom of the container. If the plants are in a clay container I water the outside of the clay as well as the soil in the planter.
- Group containers together. Surprisingly, when you group the containers together they tend to stay moister longer.
What ideas do you have to help keep your container from drying out? Having dead plants because of dry conditions makes container garden. Consider rebuilding your containers with ingredients that help hold moisture for a longer period of time when you water. With the above arrangement, I typically water twice per week unless the heat exceeds 90 degrees and we have significant drought.
Special Note – Because the FTC requires it, I am letting you know that Ball Horticultural supplied the annual plants grown in this garden. I write many instructional stories and videos with their flower and vegetable products and donate a large portion of the vegetables I grow to the local food pantry when harvested.