Experts reveal a tip for keeping garden planters cool in a heatwave

Plants in pots and containers are a highlight of any garden or backyard, but they need special care when the mercury starts to climb in a heatwave

summer containers against a blue painted wall
(Image credit: Dobbies)

Temperatures in the UK and US are hitting record heights this summer and the first garden plants to suffer from intense heat and drying out are those in containers, which lack the resources to weather a heatwave. 

So if you don’t want to risk losing your container plants to the heat, this handy hack will help them survive the intense summer heat.

natural planting in large zinc container

Planting by The English Potted Plant Company (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: The English Potted Plant Company)

Pick the perfect pot

Toby Schulz, a gardener and lawn care expert in the hot, dry climate of Australia – he’s CEO and co-founder of Lawn.com.au (opens in new tab) – says you should always choose light-colored pots for your container gardening ideas if you experience particularly hot summers. 

'They absorb less heat and reflect more sunlight,' he says. 'You might also try double-potting, remembering to make sure that both pots have drainage holes, as this will also keep planters cool.'

It can also be a good idea to avoid plastic, as it’s notorious for retaining heat and chose natural, absorbent materials for your garden planters instead such as eco-friendly fibres like coir.

ornamental grass growing in a light grey garden planter

Go for light-colored planters, such as this one from Crocus (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: Crocus)

Safety in numbers

Grouping your containers together not only creates a more coherent and impressive display, it’s also a neat trick to combat the heat. Pick a spot which benefits from natural shade and allow your plants to look after each other.

'Grouping allows all your plants to shade one another while decreasing how much heat hits the sides of each container, and this will help to keep them cooler,' says Jen Stark, founder of gardening and DIY advice website Happy DIY Home (opens in new tab)

'You also find that pulling your plants together reduces evaporation and water loss so you don't have to water as much.'

several terracotta pots filled with plants and grouped together

Grouping containers together can be a simple way to beat the heat. Planters by The English Potted Plant Company (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: The English Potted Plant Company)

Take extra care with terracotta

'They look great, but plants in terracotta pots need to be watered more frequently than other pots because terracotta is a porous material – so try watering plants early in the morning and give each pot a good soak every few days as opposed to a sprinkling every day,' says Julia Lamberth, owner of The English Potted Plant Company (opens in new tab)

If you have a lot of terracotta pots, you might want to consider setting up a drip-feed or automatic self-watering system. This will provide a constant supply of water so sudden hot weather won’t catch you out, especially if you’re worried about watering plants while away on vacation.

Jayne Dowle
Freelance writer

Jayne Dowle is an award-winning gardening, homes and property writer who writes for publications including Sunday Times Home, Times Bricks & Mortar, Grand Designs, House Beautiful and The Spectator. She was awarded the Garden Journalist of the Year accolade at the Property Press Awards in 2021.