Water Conservation for Container Gardens

Water conservation for container gardens can be achieved through plant choice, efficient irrigation, and pot choice.

Containers offer many advantages and alternatives to traditional gardens grown in the ground.

Benefits of Container Gardening

  • Provides a gardening opportunity for space constrained landscapes
  • Allows for tender plants to be moved and grown inside
  • Easier, more effective soil structure (drainage) manipulation
  • Soil pH manipulation
  • Easier pest management
  • Greater ability to group plants with similar growing needs together in the correct microclimate
  • Can use drip or micro spray irrigation to efficiently and effectively water containers
water wise herbs in clay pots along a wall
Water-wise herbs are a great choice for containers in areas where space is limited. Photo credit: nociveglia, Flickr CC BY 2.0
Non water-wise plants use more water in containers. Photo credit: edgeplot Flickr CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Pot Choice

  • Clay – attractive but breakable and susceptible to freeze/thaw damage (cover or store inside for the winter)
  • Cast concrete – long lasting and a range of styles and sizes, but heavy
  • Plastic – lightweight and inexpensive, durable and available in many sizes
  • Wood – natural looking, root protection again temperature changes, make sure to choose a rot resistant wood
  • Metal – strong but not insulated against temperature fluctuations, must be lined with plastic when growing vegetables

Size will be important if you are planning on moving the pots inside for winter or enjoy rearranging them on a patio or deck. Many attractive lightweight pots are now available to make moving easier.

Container pots often need to be watered more frequently than in ground plants. This is due to the limited root space for water uptake and great heat load on the pot. In very hot areas, consider putting containers in the shade and use shade tolerant plants to reduce water use.

Conserving water in container gardens is attainable through correct water-wise principles such as plant choice and moisture retention measures.

Additional Resources:


Colorado: Container Gardens
Nevada: Container Gardening
Oregon: Container Planting


Missouri: Container Gardening
Illinois – Successful Container Gardens