Watering Plants


Grouping water-loving plants together looks beautiful and natural and makes your job easier.

Along with sunlight and soil, water is essential to the success of your garden. For a healthy garden, you must make sure the plants are getting enough water without overdoing it and flooding the soil. To make matters more complicated, different plants, different climates, and different weather require different amounts of water.

When planning your garden, choose plants with similar water needs and plant them together. This way, you are not planting water-hogging impatiens next to dryland plants and trying to keep them both happy at the same time. Keep the water lovers in the wetter exposures of your garden or near your garden hose. Drought-tolerant plants can be grouped in areas farther from your sources of water. Moisture-loving plants include Louisiana and Japanese irises, foamflowers, marsh marigolds, Solomon's seal, sweet flag, horsetails, swamp hibiscus, cardinal flower, hostas, mosses, and ferns.

There are a few basic guildelines to keep in mind when it comes to watering your garden. Later on, we'll discuss the best way to use a garden hose to provide your plants with the moisture they need. On the next page, learn some helpful techniques for keeping your plants watered and happy.

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Garden Watering Techniques

Use rain gauges to make sure your sprinklers are watering evenly.

When watering your lawn and garden, remember that as a general rule, most garden plants and lawn grasses need an inch of water a week. The idea is to keep the soil lightly moist and to prevent it from drying out completely, which can be damaging to most plants. However, plants don't always follow the rules, so here are exceptions to this guideline:

  • Hot weather, dry sandy soil, or crowded intensive plantings or containers may require more than an inch of water a week.
  • When the weather is cool, the plants are widely spaced, or the soil is heavy and holds moisture well, less water may be required.
  • Young or new plantings require more moisture at the soil surface to help their budding roots get started. Water lightly and more frequently to accommodate their needs.
  • Mature plantings with large root systems can be watered heavily and less often than younger plants. The moisture soaks deep into the soil and encourages the roots to thrive.

Avoid watering disease-susceptible plants at night. If water sits on plant foliage for hours, it can encourage fungal diseases to attack leaves, buds, flowers, and fruit. Plants susceptible to leaf spots, fruit rots, and flower blights are best watered in the morning, when the warming sun will quickly dry the leaves and discourage fungus development.

Soaker hoses slowly release water all along the length of the hose. On the next page, learn how to use a soaker hose to water your plants.

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Using Garden Hoses

Use soaker hoses to efficiently water your garden.

Soaker hoses are a good way to keep your garden watered. These hoses are made of water-permeable fabrics, perforated recycled rubber, or other porous materials. When attached to a spigot with the water turned on low or medium, moisture droplets weep out along the length of the hose.

Soaker hoses are more efficient than overhead sprinklers because they provide water directly to plant roots. Very little water evaporates and none sprays on plant foliage, which helps discourage diseases. But it may take an hour or more to thoroughly moisten the part of the garden that is in reach of the hose.

Soaker hoses require a little special attention if you want them to work properly. Here are some hints:

  • Run soaker hoses straight through the garden. If set to turn or curve too sharply, they will kink and won't fill with water.
  • Expect more water to be released from the end closest to the hose and less to be released from the far end.
  • If the hose is moistening only one side of a plant root system, move the hose to water the dry side before you consider the job done.
  • To determine if the soil has been watered enough, dig into the soil beside the hose. If the water has seeped 12 inches down, it's time to turn off the hose. Remember how long this took for the next time around.
  • For faster results, look for flat hoses that are peppered with small holes. Of course, there's a trade-off: These hoses provide water more quickly, but they are not as gentle on the soil.

If you like soaker hose results, you can upgrade to permanent or semipermanent drip irrigation systems. Although more expensive, these systems are custom designed for varying soil types and individual plant water needs. And you won't need to move them around the garden.

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