Patio Planter Care in Mid-Summer

In mid-summer, especially when a hot, dry week is predicted, (like this upcoming week), patio planters and houseplants need a little TLC.  Four actions are involved:

  1. Water them thoroughly, such that about 10% of the water you apply drains out the bottom of the pot.  These plants require light, airy soils, which are great for creating good drainage, but also create a need for frequent checking.  Soil mixture combinations of Canadian peat moss, vermiculite and perlite can dry out quickly, especially the pots in full sun.  They may even require daily watering, or at least every other day. 
  • Pinch and prune – By mid-July, both houseplants and patio plants can become leggy.  Fortunately, it’s easy to correct this with a plant scissors or lightweight hand pruners; simply snip off thin meandering stems next to a strong side shoot.  The new growth will be stockier and  redirected.
  • Fertilize – Once the soil has become fully hydrated, it’s safe to fertilize.  It’s never a good idea to fertilize dry soils, as the roots can be burned by the salts in the product.  Generally, a half rate of an all-purpose houseplant fertilizer applied every 3 weeks is a good routine.
  • Inspect them for bugs and root rot – Turn over a few leaves and look for signs of spider mites, mealy bugs and thrips.  You may need to use a magnifying glass; if you see anything moving, you may have a critter to deal with.  A strong stream of water from the hose will solve most problems, but the tough ones will require an application of an insecticidal soap.  Be sure to read and follow all label directions.
John Fech
Horticulture Extension Educator at Nebraska Extension
John Fech is a horticulturist with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and certified arborist with the International Society of Arboriculture. The author of 2 books and over 200 popular and trade journal articles, he focuses his time on teaching effective landscape maintenance techniques, water conservation, diagnosing turf and ornamental problems and encouraging effective bilingual communication in the green industry. He works extensively with the media to extend the message of landscape sustainability, making over 100 television and radio appearances each year.
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