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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Gardening: Container plants versus this heat

The blazing heat we are having is making it hard to maintain container plantings. Set up a drip system on a timer to keep the pots watered and provide shade by using umbrellas or floating row cover to shade the plants in the afternoon.  (Pat Munts/For The Spokesman-Review)
The blazing heat we are having is making it hard to maintain container plantings. Set up a drip system on a timer to keep the pots watered and provide shade by using umbrellas or floating row cover to shade the plants in the afternoon. (Pat Munts/For The Spokesman-Review)
By Pat Munts For The Spokesman-Review

I am so done with this heat. At least I have an air-conditioned office to escape to during the day. Not so for the potted plants on my deck. They and every other container planting are stuck where they are. They need us to get through the rest of the summer.

My deck is jammed with four large pots filled with a collection of sweet potato vine, zinnias, sunflowers, cherry tomatoes and dwarf raspberries. My houseplant collection also shares the space and consists of three large Christmas cacti, a large jade plant and a true cactus that came to me when my grandmother had her car shipped up from Arizona in the early ’70s.

Oh, and don’t forget the rouge raspberry cane growing out between the deck boards in the middle of the deck.

Keeping the plants hydrated is the biggest challenge. A dry plant can die in a matter of hours on a windy, hot day. Water needs to be applied slowly so it can soak in and not flow around the root ball. If you are watering by hand, this will mean taking the time to slowly apply the water on a daily basis. That’s a lot of work if you have a busy schedule and you need to do it twice a day.

Another solution is to install drip or microspray heads in each pot and attach the header line to a battery powered timer on a spigot. The drippers can be porous microtubing, in-line emitters or my favorite, miniature adjustable spray heads that cover the pot’s surface. The timers can be set to go off at regular intervals in the morning or evening. I set mine to come on every other day early in the morning for 25 minutes. I check the heads frequently to see that they are working.

With this in place, you can easily go away for the weekend or a vacation, and your plants will be alive when you get home. My system cost me between $60 and $70 when I put it in 10 years ago. The raspberry cane? It soaks up the water draining off the deck.

Shade can be an issue for container plants especially with the exceptional temperatures and blazing sun we’ve been having. A lot of plants got sunburned in the last month. Unless they got completely fried, they will recover when the temperatures start dropping at the end of August. Until then, you may need to provide some artificial shade to help them out.

My jade plant got burnt in the first few days of the heat, so I hauled out a large rain umbrella to cover the sunny side of the plant. Table and beach umbrellas can be repurposed to provide afternoon shade. Floating row cover fabric can also be used to break the sun’s force. Gather the fabric loosely around the plant and tie it together at the base to keep it from blowing away.

As soon as the temperatures start dropping, remove it and enjoy your plant.

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