Guide to watering plants in containers

We discussed about top 20 gardening mistakes gardeners make, in the last post. Turnout several people liked it and many wanted ways to correct their mistakes.

This post is about the most basic thing about gardening. Watering plants in containers.

You will learn

  • How to water the plants that are in containers
  • How much to water them 
  • When to water 

So if we know the mistakes and we correct them, there is no reason one should fail in gardening.

Too much water/Too little water

Water is essential for plants. But sometimes too much or too little water can kill the plants.

When is it too much water

 It is natural to show your love for plants by watering them too frequently. If this is what you are doing, You gotta stop. When we water the plants, the nutrients in the soil dissolve in the water and plants take up with solution. If you water too much, you are leaching away the nutrients in the soil/potting mixture and all you are left with is soil that is very poor. Also, watering the plants too much leaves the soil with less oxygen causing the roots to choke and suffocate.

How much to water the plants?

Water the plants just enough to see the water coming out of the drainage hole in the bottom of the container. This assumes you have made a drainage hole in the bottom or the container you purchased came with a pre-drilled hole. If there is no drainage hole and you are over watering.. you are in whole lot of trouble. Please ensure there is at least one drainage hole in the bottom of the container.

So to recap, start watering the plants and stop when you see the water coming out of the drainage hole.

Symptoms of too much watering

  • Stunted growth
  • Yellowing of leaves
  • Root rot (happens if the water doesn’t drain).
  • Too much algae formation on the soil
  • Soil always soggy wet.

Too less water

There are multiple reasons why plants don’t get enough water.

  • You don’t water them.

There is no excuse to not watering the plants. If you are too busy to water your plants, be smart and setup an irrigation system that is automated. There are very easy to operate timers available that will play your role for the plants. Seriously! Spend some time watering the plants, you will really enjoy it.

  • You water them only on the top.

I have seen this happen with several people. They water the top for like couple of seconds and then they move to another plant. Trouble! Remember the rule. Water should drain from the bottom.

And don’t water the plants using a fine sprayer. It is too fine and it will not wet the soil thoroughly.

  • Potting medium is so coarse.

Some potting media are very coarse and they are meant to be like that. For crops like orchids, cacti and succulents etc, the potting soil is so different and they are designed to not hold water. Using such a mix for growing vegetables will result in containers that remain dry all the time. Do not make that mistake. Choose the right potting mix for the crop.

  • False drainage.

This is a special case and often found in containers with soil that get very hard and compact over time. They become so compact that they create a space between the inner surface of the container and the soil itself. With a container like that,whenever you water the plants, the water will come right through the sides straight to the bottom without even wetting any part of the soil. So ensure the whole medium gets wet and the water drains.

How to water the plants

Frequency of watering

Daily watering is essential but it also depends on where you live. I cannot give you a frequency of watering because you know it better than I do. Yes you really do. To know whether to water or not, stick your finger in the soil about couple of inches deep and if you feel the soil is wet, then you don’t need to water that day. Some places are very hot and there is a need to water the plants may be twice a day.



To summarize,

  • Water the root zone
  • Water only when needed but do it thoroughly
  • Water in the mornings
  • Mulch your soil surface to avoid evaporation 

That’s all there is to it. Hope you learnt about watering plants.

So simple isn’t it? If you enjoyed this post and learnt from it, Please share this post in your social network. It will help some one from not making those mistakes again. I would appreciate it. 

More answers to common mistakes on the next post.


Share this with your garden buddies:

20 Responses

  1. Regularly send me the technology updates for kitchen/ terrace gardening of plants and applying fertilisers and organic cultivation

  2. Any specific reasoning on why you are recommending watering in the mornings. There are suggestions to water late in the afternoon (around 4PM) for better water retention. Can you pls clarify.

    • The idea behind watering in the morning is the plants will have enough water when the photosynthesis is at its peak. It also keeps the plant dry in the darker part of the day. Too much moisture in the night can cause fungal infection to develop.

  3. Dear GG,
    Amazing piece of information. It’s amazing the kind of work you do !
    Have a small question, what seed sowing chart do people from Mumbai follow ?

  4. Excellent post CG !!
    Good approach to start from the basics. I really got helped by this post as I planted a lemon seed a month back and it had grown into a plant but the soil surface has developed green algae… now I know that is is because of my over watering…
    Got question CG… still after a month.. the plant is only about an inch high with 3 small leaves… any suggestions please…

    • Stunted growth is due to lack of fertilizer. Apply fertilizer such as 19-19-19 at 1g/liter. It should pickup. Lemon grows little slow comparing to vegetables.

  5. Dear GG can you please write one article like this on potting mix and then how to supply nutrients which nutrients and when ( growth period ) and amount.

  6. Thanks for this information. Different plants have different needs and it is best to check the soil and then water. I have a question. Soil in some of my plants remains moist for a couple of days. Or even more, depending upon weather. So, should I not water the plant at all as long as the soil is wet? I usually pour very small amount of water in such pots everyday. These plants are doing fine as of now. Please suggest.

  7. Hi GG,

    Thanks for the info.
    I am in Hyderabad where we get Hard water. For plants hard water is okay or it affects?
    on my earthen pots’ outer sides , I could observe white patches.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Hydroponics Starter Kit For Sale