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A watering how-to for pot plants

Watering how-to for plants in containers

Even if we do get some rainfall, pot plants will still need to be watered separately to ensure successful growth- follow our watering how-to for best results. Following our ‘waterwise tips’ from June is crucial, however rather than showing you how to  save water, this blog is about how to use it. Knowing the requirements of your plants is vital to their growth and is also ever-changing.

Top tips

Here are our tips on how to assess the watering needs of your plants and respond to them accordingly;

  • plants in various containers– Taking a glance can be misleading; be warned that whilst the top layer of compost in your container may look dry, this may not be the same all of the way through.
  • – Lift them! A simple test on small pots is lifting them up; feeling very light is a clear indication that the need more water.
  • – Inspect the roots. You can also lift the plant out of its pot to check that you have given it a thorough and even watering. This is simply a random check that will confirm that you have the right technique- we don’t recommend doing this to every plant every day!
  • – Root deep! Push your finger right into the compost to get an accurate feeling of how moist the soil is; when you can feel even the slightest bit of moisture it means that there is enough for the plant.
  • – Water the compost and the base of the plant. Watering anywhere other than here, such as onto the foliage or flowers is completely pointless because the plants’ roots never get to use this water.
  • – How established is your plant? Older plants need a drenching once in a while so that the water can spread through the roots and compost. In contrast, young plants need a small amount of water and more often.
  • – Stay away from pressure! High pressure from hoses can prevent the water from percolating into the compost sufficiently and can even misplace compost or damage the roots.
  • – Know when you have overwatered. Overwatering starves roots of air and unfortunately the symptoms are similar to an under watered plant. These include wilt, aborted flowers and stunted growth.

Fixing your mistakes.

  • – For under watered plants; these need to be watered slowly and more than once. Each time check the moisture. If the plant is hugely dry then the water will run straight through the pot without being absorbed. In this case the plant must be submerged in water until the compost is sufficiently moist and then be left in the shade.
  • – For overwatered plants; stop watering these and move them to a shaded area. If its possible to do so then you should lift the plant out of its container. This will allow more water to evaporate. If you can see that a lot of roots have died, simply cut them off and if it is necessary replant the plant into a smaller plant. Also prune the foliage to redirect the plants energy and reduce any added stress.

We have a huge range of watering equipment in store. Including the 6.5L watering can which is now ONLY £3.00! The perfect size for watering pot plants without becoming too much of a strain on your arm.

A Guide to Compost

Our compost guide

All plants are different

All plants have different needs with regard to composts. There are many specific types of composts that fulfil the criteria of what you are growing, however, multipurpose composts can often be adapted to work similarly. This compost guide will work through the common plants, the properties of compost that they need and how to modify multipurpose compost to do a similar job.

To sow seeds

Seeds need a fine compost to help roots spread out and with holding water properties, however not so fine that the water holding becomes water logging. It is best to put this fine compost in tiny cell seed trains. 

Adapting multipurpose compost; sieve the compost to remove any coarse lumps and make it finer, also add vermiculite which is a fine particle that helps to keep roots healthy by letting air into the root zone.

To grow cuttings

You need a free draining and coarse growing media here. 

Adapting multipurpose compost; to ‘open up’ compost is to make it more free draining by increasing the porosity of it. This can be done by incorporating coarse ingredients like coarse grit or perlite.

To grow house plants

A good balance of drainage is needed for house plants. Drainage that is too free can lead to the plants drying out however if the drainage isn’t free enough then accidental overwatering can easily kill the plants. There are numerous specialist composts in this area and many designed for set sub groups like cacti or orchids (see below). Luckily they all come in small bag sizes perfect for 1-5 plants.

Adapting multipurpose compost; the best combination for house plants is a ratio of 80:20 of a peat substitute or peat to perlite. Also add some fertiliser and ground limestone too.

To grow orchids

A pink flowering orchidThey need a very free draining media because they are not specially adapted to living in soil and their roots are hugely sensitive to water logging. Naturally they live in the branches of trees so the best mixes are actually very chunky.

Adapting multipurpose compost; to create this really coarse media you can add bark and even pieces of synthetic sponge to your multipurpose.

To grow trees and shrubs

A rose shrubThese require both good aeration and good drainage. Using fine compost here does not work because it is left for a long time, over this time the finer materials decompose and settle which is known to close air spaces and cause disease or even drown the roots. This is easily prevented by adding in coarse ingredients and loam.

Adapting multipurpose compost; open up the compost with bark chips and also add lime and fertiliser. In this case, it may be best to go with John Innes compost which will be much easier. You can buy multi-purpose compost with added John Innes.

To grow seasonal bedding plants in pots

Summer bedding plantsThis is where you don’t really need to adapt the multi-purpose compost. It does the job nicely, however you may wish to add some water retaining crystals so the compost does not dry out too quickly. 

To grow acid loving plants (like Camellias, Rhododendrons, Leptospermums, heathers etc)

A cameliaYou need an ericaceous compost for these plants.