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Aug 172012
 
water can

Water is key to container plant health

Principles for maintaining healthy plants in containers are no different than for plants in a garden. However, in practice, container plants require greater attention to detail. Limited soil volume and potential stress create requirements for frequent irrigation and fertilizer and constant monitoring for pests.

Irrigation

There is no easy way to schedule watering of container plants. During hot weather, irrigation may be needed every day. However, it should be recognized that overwatering of container plants is a more common cause of death than is underwatering. With that said, a rule of thumb is to let the top 1-2 inches of soil completely dry between irrigations. When applying water, add a sufficient quantity to allow some water to drain out the bottom of the pot.

Fertilization

A high level of fertility must be constantly maintained in containers to keep plants healthy and attractive. The two best methods for applying fertilizer are to 1) mix a slow-release granular fertilizer into the top few inches of soil in the spring and again in mid-summer, or 2) use a solution of a complete fertilizer once a week when irrigating the containers.

Pest Control

Many insect pests infest container plants to a greater degree than garden-grown plants, especially spider mites. Diseases also can become problematic, especially if plants are stressed. Plants should be monitored frequently to identify pest problems before damage becomes severe. Pest control methods for container plants are identical to those described in the other places in this web site (annuals, perennials, bulbs, Insect and Disease Pests).

Excellent information on container gardening is provided Chapter 19 of the Idaho Master Gardener Handbook.

Kansas State University provides detailed container garden instruction.

 August 17, 2012