Do I still need to water plants in containers if it rains? Experts reveal the best watering practices

Contrary to popular belief, Mother Nature alone doesn't quite cut it

Detail of a selection of herbs in terracotta pots on black wooden shelves in garden
(Image credit: Getty Images)

'Do I still need to water plants in containers if it rains?' is a question that may strike your mind given how unpredictable British weather can be. One minute the sun is beaming and you're trying to figure out how often you should water your garden in hot weather, and the next, it's pouring outside, leaving you dumbfounded on which watering schedule to stick to.

If you're taking the time to learn how to grow your own, from researching the best vegetables to grow in pots or going down the more flowery route of growing Wisteria in pots, it pays to be clued up on how to navigate your watering habits.

We've asked the experts (so you don't have to – you're welcome) about the best practice for watering your potted plants, even if the rain has got to them first, so you don't unknowingly commit a garden watering mistake.

Detail of a selection of herbs in terracotta pots on black wooden shelves in garden

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Do I still need to my water plants in containers if it rains?

'Don't be fooled! After a heavy night of rainfall, you might assume that your outdoor potted plants are nicely watered, and you won't need to treat them to a top-up today. But there are so many external factors that could mean your plant still needs hydration despite the rain,' explains Jo Lambell, founder of Beards and Daisies.

William Mitchell, owner of Sutton Manor Nursery adds, 'Potted plants will dry out much quicker than those placed in the ground, meaning they require extra care and attention, even after a period of rain.'

Various potted plants and flowers

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Although the weather is always switching up on us, given the fact that the UK has just been thrown into the extremities of continuous hot weather, your plants will need all the hydration they can get.

Jo Lambell at Beards and Daisies adds, 'Its' compost may be feeling quite dried out, particularly lower down into the pot, and therefore the rain might quite literally only touch the surface and not get down the roots of your plant.'

Garden seating corner with potted plants by patio

(Image credit: Future PLC/David Giles)

The same goes for plants with bigger leaves. They may seem as though they are being watered when it rains, but William Mitchell at Sutton Manor Nursery warns that 'the leafy can mean that minimal water reaches the soil or compost surface.'

William adds, 'Trees in containers will also dry out far more quickly than those growing in the ground and will need regular watering, while multiple waterings may be needed to ensure the full depth of the compost is moistened.'

Garden bench in front of brick wall with potted plants surrounding

(Image credit: Future PLC/Tim Young)

Of course, if it's been continuously raining, that's a whole other ballpark, and admittedly, it can be tricky to keep an eye on exactly how much rain has fallen to know just how much you need to water.

'To track it accurately and prevent over or underwatering, install a rain gauge in a clear area of your garden. This simple tool is cheap but very useful!' suggests Angharad James, product manager at Phostrogen.

'Generally speaking, 1mm of rain represents one litre of water per metre square, so you can measure how much water your plants have already received each day. You may often be surprised when taking water readings from your gauge – heavy rainfall lasting a few minutes often brings less saturation than a fine drizzle that lasts for several hours,' explains Angharad.

Tildenet Rain Gauge | £7.99 at Amazon

Tildenet Rain Gauge | £7.99 at Amazon

Get ahead of the rain and avoid under or overwatering again with this rain gauge for your garden.

'Ultimately, though, whether you should water your pot plants following a downfall will depend on the amount of moisture in the soil,' says William Mitchell at Sutton Manor Nursery.

You can test this using the simple finger dip test, as many experts recommend. Simply stick an index finger in the pot, and if it comes out mostly dry, then it's definitely time to water.

Various succulents in pots in garden

(Image credit: Future PLC/Nicola Stocken)

So, the short answer to the question 'Do I still need to water my plant pots if it rains?' – yes, you do. However, how much you need to water varies massively and all depends on the above factors.

Jullia Joson
Junior Writer

Jullia Joson is a Junior Writer at Ideal Home. She's always loved all things homes and interiors, graduating with a bachelor's degree in Architectural Studies from the University of Nottingham where her love for journalism blossomed following her internship at ArchDaily. Now focused on home tech, Jullia works on writing features and explainers to help people make the most of their home appliance investments. When she isn't writing, she loves exploring the city, coffee shop hopping, and losing hours to a cosy game.