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DO PLANTS IN POTS USE LESS WATER THAN IN A GARDEN?

Generally, plants in pots tend to require more water than plants in a garden in South Africa, regardless of the specific location within the country.

However, it’s not always a straightforward answer as several factors can influence this.

Here’s why:
Factors supporting more watering for potted plants:

Limited soil volume: Pots restrict the amount of soil available to hold water, meaning it dries out faster than in open ground.
Exposed environment: Pots lack the surrounding soil and vegetation in gardens that help retain moisture and provide shade. Sun and wind directly evaporate water from the pot.
Drainage holes: Most pots have drainage holes to prevent waterlogging, but this also means water readily drains out, unlike ground where it can penetrate deeper.

However, consider these nuances:

Plant type: Some drought-tolerant or indigenous plants might require less water in pots, even compared to water-demanding garden plants.
Pot material: Porous materials like terracotta dry out faster than glazed ceramics or plastic.
Pot size: Larger pots hold more soil and retain moisture better.
Soil type: Well-draining potting mixes dry out quicker than heavier garden soil.
Weather: Hotter, drier seasons naturally increase water needs for both potted and garden plants.

Unfortunately, reliable statistics comparing specific water use for potted vs. garden plants are difficult to find due to the vast range of variables involved.

Here are some references with general water-saving tips for South African gardens and potted plants:

Waterwise Gardeners
Pot Shack
Grounded Landscaping
Life is a Garden

Remember, it’s very important to observe your specific plants and adjust watering according to their needs and your local conditions.

Using a moisture meter, grouping plants by water requirements, and avoiding midday watering can all help conserve water in South Africa, whether you’re gardening in pots or the ground.
Why use pots for you plants?
Pots have a specific purpose of which the main one is that it is the best way to bring a garden into a building.

Pots are also a good solution for limited spaces outside such as at restaurants and offices where space is expensive and where there are not extensive gardens.

It is impractical to create indoor gardens in all living spaces such as complexes, houses and small offices.

Pot plants bring the outdoors inside in a cost-effective and practical way.

The question is not whether pots use more water per volume than gardens. The question is what is the most feasible way to bring plants into homes and limited spaces.

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