10 Smart Water-Wise Ideas for Your Container Garden

June 11, 2024
10 smart water-wise ideas for your container garden

Here are 10 Smart, Water-Wise Ideas for your Container Garden

We can produce healthier and more resilient plants by using these ten smart water-wise ideas for container gardening. Judicious use of water will produce robust and deeper root systems. You can use these ten ideas no matter what you are growing.

Use your container garden to add plantable space, avoid poor soil or to place your garden in a convenient location. Here they are:

  1. Choose the best Containers.
  2. Add Mulch to Retain Moisture
  3. Use an Automatic Drip Irrigation System
  4. Group Plants With Similar Requirements
  5. Employ Self Watering Containers
  6. Check Soil Moisture Before Watering
  7. Shade Your Containers
  8. Collect Rainwater
  9. Use Nutrient-Rich Soil
  10. Add Trays Under Your Planters

My goal is to discuss the benefits of water-wise container gardening. As a review of overall water in the garden this article from the National Garden Bureau discusses water-wise gardening.

1. Use The Best Containers

band of coleus

When selecting containers try to match the size of the plant’s root ball to the size of the container, this will reduce the size of the soil mass and save water. Use a pot that is about two inches larger than the plant if it is 10″ or smaller and 2-3 inches larger if the pot is larger.

A pot that is too large for the plant can make it difficult to provide the correct amount of water. Over-potted plants tend to dry slowly which can cause roots to remain wet causing root rot or the plant may become too dry.

If a pot is too small for the plant, it can become root-bound and therefore, stunted. here are some samples of sizes for various plants.

  • 10″ pots for small strawberries and herbs.
  • 14″ pot will serve leafy vegetables and larger herbs.
  • 16′ pots will handle larger herbs and small trees.
  • 18″ containers will serve groups of herbs and larger vegetables.
  • 24″ pots will accept a squash, a decorative shrub or an evergreen.
  • 30″ pots will handle trees and large vegetables.

Containers made of glazed ceramic are water-wise because they retain the water you put into them. Ensure the pot has a good drainage hole in the bottom and your plants will be healthy.

Plastic pots will also maintain water and are lightweight. (In our hurricane-prone climate we prefer the heavy containers.)

Avoid the metal containers as they can get hot enough to damage the plants.

2. Mulch Your Container Plants

Mulch your container plants, just as you do your garden beds, and for the same reason; to maintain the soil temperature, retain water, and reduce weeds.

Try to mulch with organic materials, as you would the garden bed; with compost, straw, peat, or coir. The planter will hold water for longer.

3. Use an Automatic Drip System

drip watering system for container garden

A drip irrigation system will water your container garden day in and day out. You can buy them in kit form from your local garden center or the large chain stores.

4. Group Plants With Similar Requirements

Companion plants with similar water requirements

As you select plants for your container garden, consider the water, soil, light, and nutrient requirements of each plant and group those with like needs in the same planter.

5. Use Self Watering Containers

band of coleus
self watering container

A self-watering pot will provide your plants with a consistent water supply and a low rewatering requirement.

The pot is divided into two parts, the top holds soil and the lower part contains the water. Wicking material allows water to be drawn up to where it is needed.

The pots should save time and water while evening out water application.

6. Check Soil Moisture Before Watering

Measuring soil moisture with water meter

Start with your finger, and push down to your second knuckle you should feel moisture or dryness.

If you can learn to integrate this tool into your gardening it will prevent errors of over and under-watering and produce more robust plants.

7. Shade Your Containers

potted herbs in part shade

In the height of summer consider saving water by placing some of your containers in partial shade. This means from 3-6 hours of sun per day. This will slow the process of soil drying and protect the plants from sun damage. This works for partial sun plants and even full-sun plants in southern climates. In our South Florida climate many plants labeled ‘full sun’ are happier in partial sun.

8. Collect Rainwater

water saving rain barrel

Attach a rain barrel with a lid and spigot to the downpipe running from the gutters and have extra water throughout your growing season. I remember when my city gave the barrels away free because no one thought of using them. Now sometimes you have to wait to get one!

9. Use Nutrient Rich Soil

Nutrient rich soil, filled with organic matter will hold more water and supports an diverse microbial ecosystem and the plants grown in it are more vigorous and strong, thus needing less water. The symbols are for the various macro and micronutrients your plants will need.

10. Use Trays Under Your Containers

Use the trays that fit under your planters, they will retain the water that drains out and the plants will take it up into the roots. The trays will also keep your floors and patios clean! Use all the water your plants need but don’t waste a drop!

What to Plant in your Water-Wise Container Gardens

Herbs For The Kitchen

If you locate your herb garden in pots near the kitchen you will find yourself adding fresh herbs to all your meals. Growing in containers will allow you to move your garden to accommodate sun, rain, and temperature conditions. Always make the herb garden convenient and you won’t forget it. You can cut herbs for the day’s meal plan early in the morning and save them in a vase.

“How to Grow Your Own Favorite Herbs for Dinner.”

nasturtum in a raised planter bed

This is the lazy gardener’s version of a raised bed. It is elevated to waist-high, 10′ long, and 2′ wide, and serves up herbs, lettuce, a few vegetables, and some blossoms right outside the kitchen and handy when you leave the pool to make a meal. What more would a lazy gardener want?

Anything you Want to Grow that your Soil Won’t Support

Over the years we have improved our sand and rock, alkaline South Florida soil. But if you have not finished that process and your soil will not support something you want to grow, consider a container garden. You have complete control over the soil, water and nutrients. You will even do less weeding.

Pretty Things

Pretty things to grow in planters

If your soil, sun conditions or climate will not support some of the pretty things you want to grow, try using containers. If the plant will come in for the winter you can include some tropical delights too!

Whenever Space is Tight

When you have a small garden space that needs to serve several purposes try some plants in containers. Here is a tight space that serves many purposes!

For Birds, Walking, Sitting, Eating…

A multi-purpose garden spot with herbs in planters

This tiny side garden has a walkway, seating, flowers, and ground cover. We feed people and the birds and admire a bed of camellias and then a borrowed view of a wide green space!

Planters for When the Gardener’s Day is Done!

For when you are finished work and want to enjoy your garden. This little bench seats two and looks out from the garden to the pond. It is a lovely garden spot to view the sunset.

A Planter for the Gardener, not the Plants.

On each side of the bench is a tiny table made from two clay pots topped with a tray. They are the perfect size for the gardeners’ martinis!


Include a container garden for its many benefits. It’s a great solution for small space gardeners. You can put your container garden anywhere, a balcony, patio or windowsill. ou can plant a basket and hang it on a hook or from a wall or fence. Container gardens can be easily moved to optimize sunlight exposure or to protect plants from adverse weather. Container gardens are flexible and you can bring you plants can be brought indoors when necessary, extending their growing season. Additionally, container gardening can be more manageable for beginners or those with physical limitations, as it requires less bending and weeding compared to traditional gardening.

For information on using hygroscopic humectants to draw water into soil try this: ‘Retaining Soil Moisture-Smart Water with Hygroscopic Humectants.

Overall, container gardening is a practical and rewarding way to cultivate plants in small spaces. It offers flexibility, accessibility, and the joy of growing your own herbs, vegetables, and flowers, making it a worthwhile endeavor for gardening enthusiasts of all experience levels.