Potted plants do not have much soil volume to work with.

Potted plants can be a problem any time of the year. Some want more water than get. Most get too much water or do not drain adequately. Large plants get constricted roots if pots are too small. The roots of some plants get cooked in exposed pots that collect too much heat from sunlight. Besides, too many pots just seem to be in the way in otherwise useful spaces on decks, patios and anywhere else trendsetting landscape designers want to put them.

Now that the weather is getting cool and rainy, potted plants are not as active as they were during warm weather. Many are dormant. Although few demand the attention that they got during warmer weather, plants still need to be tended to appropriately through autumn and winter.

Cool season annuals, which are also known as ‘winter’ annuals, should get groomed as long as they are performing in the garden, just like warm season annuals get groomed through summer. Deteriorating flowers should be plucked from pansy, viola, primrose, Iceland poppy, calendula, dianthus, stock, chrysanthemum and cyclamen because they can mildew and spread mildew to developing flowers and foliage. Unplucked cyclamen and calendula can develop seed which diverts resources from bloom.

Pots that are out in exposed areas will not need to be watered while they get enough water from rain. The problem is that many that do not drain adequately can get too much water from rain and stay saturated. Dormant and defoliated plants do not need much moisture at all. Even evergreen plants do not need as much as they do while active during warm weather, because cool and humid weather inhibits evapotranspiration (evaporation from foliar surfaces).

Potted plants under eaves also need less water while the weather is cool and humid, but need to be watered nonetheless because they are sheltered from rain. Plants in hanging pots typically drain and dry more efficiently, so probably want a bit more water. Even a few sheltered small plants in the ground may occasionally want to be watered during rainy weather if they do not extend enough roots where they can get moisture from rain beyond the sheltered area. Sheltered plants are actually the most likely to be neglected because watering does not seem so important when it is raining.

7 thoughts on “Potted Plants Need Work Too

    1. That is why I do no do much of it if it is at all avoidable. There is much canned around here just because the garden is not ready for it. Once it gets settled in, I want little more than houseplants to be potted. In this mild climate almost everything can grow in the ground. If it can not, I probably do not want to grow it.

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  1. Great post as always. My potted plants are all inside now and different “types” are in different rooms. Some need it cooler with no water but still need bright light. Some need a similar situation but still needs water, although not as often. Some plants have to be continually monitored for parasites while inside that have no issues with them when they are outside during the summer. It’s a challenge and most of the plants get neglected because they are better off that way during the winter months… Thanks for sharing and take care, my friend!

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    1. Thank you. This article is from the gardening column, which is for the West Coast between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Some of the information in some articles may not apply to other climates or regions. This particular topic frustrates me because so many who live here believe that the soil is inadequate for what they want to grow. Container gardening is a majorly overrated fad.

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      1. The soil of the Santa Clara Valley needs no improvement. It only needs minor amendment so that some plants can get started into it. The region used to be famous for orchard production, and attracted tourists during bloom like New England gets tourists for autumn. People who live here now do not know what they are doing, and are so disconnected from what is natural.

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