How to Water Container Gardens

Learn the basics of watering container gardens—including simple tips for making it less of a chore.
Watering Hanging Basket

Watering Wand

A long-handled watering wand extends your reach when watering hanging baskets.

Photo by: Gardener's Supply Co. at

Gardener's Supply Co. at

A long-handled watering wand extends your reach when watering hanging baskets.

Give outdoor living spaces pizzazz with pots, window boxes and hanging baskets. Bright and perky container gardens dress a home with living color that’s tough to beat. The secret to keeping container gardens looking their best hinges on one activity: watering. Water too much or too little, and your pots will quickly become eyesores.

How do you know when to water? If plants wilt, that’s usually a sign soil is dry, but plants succumbing to root rot also wilt, so you need to check soil to know if it’s dry. Double-check by looking at soil (dry soil is lighter colored) or slipping a finger into pots. Another way to check for soil dryness is to gently lift the edge of a pot. Dry pots weigh less (lift one just after watering to learn how it feels when wet).

At the start of the growing season, plants need to be watered less frequently. As summer heat starts to sizzle and plants become lush, you may be watering containers once or even twice daily. Larger pots need watering less often than smaller ones, so it pays to embrace a bigger-is-better theme when it comes to containers.

Commercial bagged potting mixes designed for use in containers give the best results in terms of plant growth. These are soilless mixes, using a blend of various materials, including ground bark, coir, peat moss and perlite. Container blends don’t get waterlogged easily, which also means they need to be watered more frequently.

You can improve the way that commercial container mixes retain moisture in several ways. Blend water absorbing crystals into soil. These crystals turn into gel as they absorb water and slowly release it to plant roots. Or try using water-absorbent mats in the base of pots. These mats absorb and retain moisture, making it available to plant roots over the course of several days.

You’ll find several different types of water-absorbent mats. Hydromats are usually made from slow-to-biodegrade materials and offer variable degrees of longevity and reusability. Coir mats, sometimes sold as coco mats, biodegrade eventually. Hydromats made from polyethylene batting (similar to quilt batting) are washable and reusable from year to year, offering sustainability.

Self-watering conversion kits transform any container into a self-watering pot, or you can skip the kit and simply buy self-watering pots. These pots contain a reservoir in the bottom for holding water that keeps soil moist.

Drip irrigation systems for containers can make watering a hands-free affair. Install traditional microtubing systems that supply water via a hose and timer, or slip an inverted water-filled container, like a bottle of some type, into soil. Water moves or drips into soil as needed.

Many gardeners grab watering cans to irrigate pots or outfit a hose with a watering wand. Invest in a high-quality wand that allows you to buy replacement parts. That saves you money over the long haul, so that instead of replacing a wand each year, you might only need to replace the nozzle or turn-off valve every few years.

Next Up

The Best Self-Watering Planters for Your Home, Deck or Patio

Take the work and worry out of watering flowers, veggies and herbs when you use a planter that gives plant roots the right amount of moisture.

How to Choose the Best Garden Watering System

What is the best watering system for your yard? Use this helpful guide to save water, money and time.

How to Design a Container Garden

Follow this simple design concept and boost the impact of your container gardens with plants of various sizes, textures and color combinations.

4 Clever Container Garden Combos to Try

You don’t need a big yard to grow your dream garden — just a big planter.

How to Water Your Lawn the Right Way

Learn the ins and outs of lawn irrigation, including expert tips on how long to run the sprinkler.

The Proper Way to Water Your Garden

Keep your plants happy. Here are the top 10 do's and don’ts for watering plants efficiently.

How Often Do You Water New Sod?

Thorough watering is crucial to your new lawn’s ability to develop strong roots. We’ll help you develop a system to stay on top of the most important part of lawn care.

How to Grow Sweet Potatoes in Containers

Short on garden space? You'll be happy to know sweet potatoes can be grown in flower pots.

How to Grow Potatoes in Containers

Irish potatoes are easy to grow in containers on a sunny porch or patio.

How to Grow and Care for Calibrachoas

Whether you call them million bells or baby petunias, easy-to-grow calibrachoas may be small, but they pack a big punch of color in the garden.

Go Shopping

Get product recommendations from HGTV editors, plus can’t-miss sales and deals.


Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.