Taking Care of Your Container Plants

Container plants require the same care as plants in a yard garden or flower bed, with one important difference: Any plant growing in a container can't do what regular, in-ground plants do, which is rely on a boost from rainfall, send roots off far or deep in search of moisture, and/or derive what they need from a wider area. When you live in a pot, it's a small world after all.

Container-grown plants that endure drastic cycles where they dry out and then get drenched are generally unhappy customers. The extremes stress out the plants. And of course, if you rush in to rehydrate a plant wilting in distress and you're too late, it drops all its leaves, swoons, and dies. Be consistent! The most vulnerable container plants are:

1 Newly-potted or exposed plants: These babies need the help of regular water to establish themselves, to send their roots out into their new home, to get their legs under them. Plants grown in full sun or windy, exposed locations, are vulnerable, too, because they dry out so fast.

i Plants grown in dark-colored pots: Dark colors absorb more heat. Plants in light-colored containers have a slightly easier time of it because the pot reflects light and therefore heat.

i Plants with large, thin leaves: Plants whose leaves have a lot of surface area really rely on water to remain hydrated and plump as can be. Plants with small leaves, succulent leaves, or needle-like foliage are better able to cope with dry times.

i Plants in lighter soil mixes: Light soil mixes drain moisture away faster.

i Plants that are root-bound: Plants whose roots take up most of the pot don't have enough soil to hold moisture for them to use as needed, and they should be transplanted. To know when to transplant — turn the container upside down and knock the plant out of the container by thumping the bottom. Examine the roots. If the roots have hit the outside of the pot and are starting to mat together, it's is a good time to transplant. Don't wait until the roots start to circle the inside of the pot. Another telltale sign: Roots shooting up at the surface or out the bottom of the pot.

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