Entry to back yard Irrigation or Hand Water by The Potted Desert
You decide to add a couple of pots to your home’s landscape. You know you need the soil, pots and plants. As excitement about our project escalates, do we think about how to water them once they are in place?


In many climates, water is often not an issue. In cities like Seattle where there are 340 days of rain, potted gardens only need occasional supplemental water. However, for those of us living in desert climates and other climates continue to change with more and more areas experiencing drought conditions, we do need to consider how we are going to get the water to our containers.
Your choices are
  • A watering can
  • A hose
  • Add to your existing
  • A new irrigation system

I am not going to get into irrigating your pots in this post. That is a much larger subject than I am willing to tackle today. But I will leave you with the knowledge that 90% of the time when using irrigation, you need a dedicated valve and line to water pots correctly.

You might also have recently seen olla’s or glass balls that distribute water as the soil dries. I don’t have much personal experience with these. Having lived in the middle desert for 20 years I am somewhat leery of possible solutions where I cannot be sure that the water or moisture will be distributed throughout the full body of soil. I understand that this method is based on old ways of ‘the early days’ of gardening for food.
Let’s move back to the original topic of when it is best to hand water.


The Succulent, Pedilanthus or "Lady Slipper" in a long raised planter by The Potted Desert

The Succulent, Pedilanthus or “Lady Slipper”

Cacti and Succulents – No Irrigation Please

When you are potting up cactus and other succulents, hand watering is definitely the way to go. The frequency of water needed depends on the specific plant, the size of the pot and the amount of sun it receives every day. A basic guide is to water cacti and succulents monthly during the cooler seasons and bi-weekly in hot months.
It is best to err on too little water, not over-watering.


A single plant such as this Pampas grass can easily be hand watered, Photo by the Potted Desert

Ornamental Plants

When hand watering ornamental shrubs, trees, vegetables, herbs and flowers, I recommend hose watering rather than using a bucket or watering can.
A hose with a good nozzle can provide a rain shower that is not only gentle in its application but thorough in distributing water to the entire soil volume.
A good nozzle is one that has a shower, jet and mist settings. Most have five to seven methods of water distribution, but these three are the most useful.


Hand watering recommended for Container Gardens
Preventative Care
A hose nozzle also provides a jet spray which will improve plant health when used daily during hot spells to aerate the plant and send off any pests that are lurking in the cool shade of the leaves.
The mist setting on the nozzle will provide cooling respite for hot afternoons when the soil itself has not dried out enough to need to water.




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  1. Barbara Wirth on at

    Hi Marylee. It is always exciting for me to get your email. I am a hand waterer. It is my way of personally looking at each container of which I have many. It is also because I like to do it. In the heat of summer I may incorporate my oscillating sprinkler to augment or take the place of the second watering of the day. I have many hoses and currently like one called Zero G because it is lightweight and has a good guaranty. https://www.amazon.com/4001-50-Lightweight-Flexible-Durable-Kink-Free/dp/B014M9PEXC/ref=sr_1_2?keywords=zero+hose&qid=1584061371&sr=8-2
    I always have to have a good nozzle with all the spray abilities. I don’t spend a lot on them because I replace them every year or two depending on how they are. The sun and calcium in the water are murder on the nozzles as you know. You saw my new potting table which I am in love with. Next week I get a sink installed and shelving. I will be in potter’s heaven. I also ordered a drafting chair so I can sit if I want. I hope your move goes well.

  2. Patricia Pearson on at

    Thank you Marylee, always fun to read!

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