Potted plants and containers can thrive (even when it’s hot) when you add an olla to help you with watering. Ollas are the best way to water outdoor potted plants.
Planting in containers is a simple way to add beauty and additional growing areas to your yard. However, plants in containers dry out more quickly than those in the ground or in raised beds. I have tried many methods for watering outdoor potted plants through the years, and I’ve found the best way to water outdoor potted plants is by using ollas.
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The best way to water outdoor potted plants
Problems with watering outdoor potted plants
- It isn’t easy to run drip lines to pots. In addition, the drip lines are often unsightly.
- Containers on drip irrigation need their own timer because they must be watered more frequently than plants in the ground.
- Containers dry out quickly and need to be watered often. For example, in hot, dry places like where I live in Arizona, containers dry out very quickly during the summer and may need to be watered twice a day.
- Hanging baskets need to be watered twice a day to keep plants from dying in the hottest months of the year in Arizona.
- Hand watering containers is time-consuming (especially if you have to do it more than once a day!).
- Watering just the top of the outdoor potted plants isn’t effective, but watering until water runs out the bottom can waste water.
- If containers are only watered shallowly, the water doesn’t get to the roots.
- Finally, potting soil often becomes hydrophobic and does not absorb water. Instead, the water passes through the container and out the drain hole. The soil in containers with an olla is less likely to dry out and become hydrophobic.
What is an olla?
Ollas are terracotta pots that you bury in your garden or container and fill with water. The porous nature of the terra cotta allows the water inside to seep out slowly to water plants at the roots.
I use ollas from Growoya. I’ve used them in different areas around my garden and have found them the best way to water outdoor potted plants. If you would like more information about using ollas, check out their website.
The best way to water outdoor potted plants is by using ollas
For example, I planted this container in Arizona at the beginning of July. It gets full sun. I refill the ollas 2-3 times per week, and the plants are thriving, even though I planted them during the hottest month of the year.
Why are ollas the best way to water outdoor potted plants?
- Ollas do not need water lines going to or from the plants.
- The plants’ roots draw water as needed from the ollas.
- Refill ollas as often as needed. Ollas must be refilled more often in warm, windy, and/or dry weather — less often in humid or cool weather.
- Using ollas prevents water loss by over-watering the pots. Fill the olla to the top rather than flooding the plant until water is lost in the drain hole.
- Refilling ollas is easy. It’s an excellent job for kids to do in the garden. When the olla is full, stop watering. This takes the guesswork out of wondering how much to water.
- Using an olla allows the potting soil to absorb the water slowly, rather than passing through the soil quickly to the drainage hole. As a result, the roots retain more moisture.
Things to keep in mind when using ollas to water outdoor potted plants
- During the summer here in Arizona, I refill my ollas every other day or sometimes every day. As the humidity increases and temperatures drop, I fill them less frequently.
- During the winter, I fill them once every week (or less).
- Because wind is very drying for plants if it is windy, check your plants more often to ensure they are watered enough.
- The type of container or pot used will also determine how often to water pots. If using terracotta, clay, or other porous pots, they dry out more quickly, and the ollas need to be filled more often. Metal, glazed, and other non-porous containers do not dry out as quickly.
- Be sure to use the correct size olla for the container. Ollas come in several sizes. So a very large container will need a large size olla or several small ones.
- Keep the lids on the ollas because standing uncovered water is a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
- Use mulch (compost, bark, rocks) to slow container evaporation.
SPECIAL NOTE: If you live where there are freezing temperatures, take the ollas out of the garden and bring your ollas indoors during the coldest months of the year.
Use ollas to keep hanging baskets from drying out
- When using an olla in a hanging basket, consider using a liner that retains moisture as well.
- Hanging baskets are heavier with a filled olla inside – make sure the plant hanger can support the additional weight.
Directions for using an olla in a hanging basket:
- Place coconut coir liner in the basket.
- Add olla.
- Fill the hanging basket about half full with potting soil.
- Add plants.
- Fill in the rest of the hanging basket with potting soil to the level of the coir liner.
- Hang the basket on the hook.
- Fill olla with water.
This hanging basket was planted with an olla inside at the beginning of July. I refill the olla with water each morning. It gets full sun and yet the plants are thriving.
Want to give ollas a try?
I’m using ollas from Growoya. I’ve used them in different areas around my garden, and have found them the best way to water outdoor potted plants. If you would like more information about using ollas, check out their website.