When is the best time to water plants? Expert tips on the perfect time to water your garden

Find out when is the best time to water plants and nurture them through summer heatwaves

when is the best time to water plants
(Image credit: Getty Images)

There’s a lot of advice out there about when is the best time to water plants and everyone has an opinion on the subject. But if your plants are shrivelling in the heat of summer despite the fact you seem to be constantly outside watering, maybe you need to up your game.

The general consensus among experts is that watering plants is best done in the mornings if you can. As the temperature rises and the sun comes out, plants start to transpire and lose water through evaporation. So if you don’t give them a morning shower it can lead to parched plants with shrivelled leaves. 

'Sometimes extreme summer temperatures leaving plants struggling to survive,' says Hozelock’s Sarah Dixon. 'Many plants can withstand temperatures up to the high 20˚C mark (around 80˚F) before they begin to suffer. By watering your plants at the right time of day, you can help them survive a heatwave and continue to flourish.'

When is the best time to water plants?

'I always recommend watering in the morning when asked when is the best time to water plants,' says Kate Turner, Miracle-Gro's Gardening Guru. 'It’s obviously a lot cooler in the early hours of the day, so the water has more of a chance to work its magic, without being evaporated by the heat of the day. This ensures the water gets down to the roots, helping the plant stay hydrated.' 

Plants use water more efficiently if watered when it’s cooler in the early morning. But sometimes it’s not possible to devote time and energy to watering garden borders and patio pots with the best garden hose first thing in the day. So what’s the next best thing?

If morning watering doesn’t fit in with your schedule, the early evening is the next best option once the peak heat of the sun has gone. 'Particularly in the summer, the best time to water plants and vegetable patches is early in the morning or evening,' says David Andersen of David Andersen Garden Design. “This is because it’s typically cooler at these times of day, which allows the water to soak down into the soil, keeping it moist for longer.’

If you water your plants or kitchen garden ideas on a warm sunny afternoon, much of that moisture is likely to evaporate before it can effectively penetrate deep into the soil, so do remember that if considering when is the best time of day to water plants. 

woman watering garden with a hosepipe

(Image credit: Hozelock)

When is the best time of day to water plants in hot weather?

'I recommend watering your garden at the start or end of the day when the sun isn’t so hot,' says Hozelock's Sarah Dixon. 'This will prevent water from being wasted through evaporation, which can leave your plants dehydrated.' 

plants being watered with a hosepipe

(Image credit: Hozelock)

When is the best time to water plants when it's not hot?

'Outside of summer, you can water at any time during the day,' says Stephen Pitcher, Trading Director for Garden & Seasonal at Homebase. 'It’s really important to make sure that your garden is getting enough water, especially in dry weather. I recommend using a sprinkler to make this easier and then top any flower beds with bark or peat-free compost to help hold the moisture in.'

You'll find the best garden sprinklers for the job in our buying guide, or check out today's top deals below.

What’s the worse time of day to water plants?

Watering in the middle of a hot day is never a good idea as however much you sprinkle it’s quickly lost through evaporation and plants end up dry as before. It's not good for conserving water either, so one to avoid if you're following our garden water saving tips

Is it a good idea to water plants at night?  

If you can't water first thing on the morning, the next best option is late afternoon when plants are out of direct sunlight. 'But leave it too late in the day and this can be risky, as it doesn’t allow your plants much time to dry before nightfall,' says the team at The Outdoor Look garden centre. 'This can sometimes be detrimental as it encourages fungus problems including mildew and mould.' 

Be careful, as evening watering can create a damp atmosphere around plants in your flowerbed ideas. If it remains like this overnight it's not just mildew that's a problem. If the foliage and soil surface stays wet at night this encourages slugs and snails too. You might find you then need to follow our tips on how to get rid of slugs to solve the issue. 

Time your watering according to the weather too. If it’s warm and breezy you can water in the early evening, as this will give your plants plenty of time to dry out. So when it comes to when is the best time to water plants, always gauge what's going on with the weather.

garden hose with tap

(Image credit: Hozelock)

When is the best time to water plants in summer?

'The best time to water plants in summer is certainly early in the morning,' says Dani Turner of plant delivery experts Bunches. 'Giving them a thorough drench before the day warms up allows the water to run through the soil down to the roots ensuring you don’t lose water to evaporation.' 

Blooming Lucky blogger Louise Findlay-Wilson agrees: 'If considering when is the best time to water plants, I always recommend the morning – but I don’t mean after brunch! You need to do your watering early, before the sun’s out. It’s a cooler part of the day, so there’s less chance of evaporation and wasted water, and you’re giving the plant lots of time to take up the water.'

Watering your plants and patio gardening ideas in the early morning while it's still cool will allow the water to run down into the soil and reach the roots of the plant without too much excess water lost to evaporation. Watering in the early morning will also make the water available to the plants throughout the day, so that the plants will be able to deal better with the heat of the sun. 

watering the garden with a watering can

(Image credit: Getty Images)

How do I water plants properly?

Get the water to the part of the plant that most needs it. This means the roots not the leaves. It might be tempting to spray the leaves but this can lead to fungal problems. Water the base of the plant, not the leaves. 

Liam Lapping from Edinburgh-based flower company Flowercard advises the following: 'Give your outdoor plants a really good soak in the morning, ideally before 10am, as this is a good way to keep the roots full of lovely moisture. Additional watering is key to keeping your plants happy if temperatures rise. But leave it too late and watering in the extreme heat can stress your plants.'

Watering more thoroughly, but less often, gets water down to the roots where it’s most needed. But the soil doesn’t have to be really wet all the time because plant roots need air as well as water to grow well. 

'Water your plants more thoroughly but only once a day, in the morning or the evening,' suggests Hozelock's Sarah Dixon. 'Do it from a lower angle to allow more water into the soil and it will also encourage plants to grow deeper roots, keeping them hydrated from the bottom up.'

main watering plants with a hosepipe

(Image credit: Ghislain & Marie David de Lossy/Getty Images)

How often should plants be watered?

The advice on when is the best time to water plants generally factors in the weather conditions and always keep plants well watered if it's very dry. But how do you know if your plants are getting enough?

All plants are different and there isn’t one rule for all. Container gardening ideas may need watering several times daily in scorching temperatures, whereas a established shrub in a shady spot might only need dousing in extreme drought. 

Plants don’t like being wet all the time so even in the heat of summer make sure they dry out in between times.

'To make water go further, water thoroughly less frequently, rather than little and often,' easy says Marcus Eyles, Horticultural Director at Dobbies Garden Centres. 'This means a few times a week rather than every day, depending on rainfall of course. Help save water by placing buckets under your hanging basket ideas to catch excess water that can be used in other areas of your garden.' 

Should I water my plants if it rained last night?

You might think you've got a day off from watering duty if it has rained, but sadly that's not always the case. In fact the best time to water is after it's rained, when the soil is softened and more receptive to a good soaking from the hose. 

Extra water after a downpour tops up the rainfall, so it can penetrate further down into the soil. This is a great way to build up moisture around plant roots.

When is the best time to water your vegetable plants?

Whether you're growing vegetables in pots or raised garden bed ideas, many of the same rules apply when it comes to watering your crops. 'Try to water them in the morning,' says Callum Maddock of garden landscaping experts HomeHow. 'This will moisturize them completely before they're exposed to the sun. 

'If you don't have time in the morning, check and water your plants later on in the day. If the soil is dry when you reach an inch below the surface, it's too dry and can increase the risk of wilting. On particularly hot days, water your plants again in the early evening.'

watering vegetable plants

(Image credit: Getty Images)

When is the best time to water your tomato plants?

The best time to water tomato plants is early in the morning. This will allow any moisture on the leaves time to dry before the heat of the day. This can help to prevent diseases and scorching of the plants. 

Don't forget, there's more tips on how to grow tomatoes in our guide. 

tomato plants being watered

(Image credit: Getty Images)

When is the best time to water container plants?

'Ideally, the best time to water your containers is in the morning before the sun gets hot and exposes the plants to heat,' says Callum Maddock. 'This will enable better water absorption without the risk of evaporation. 

'You should try to water containers twice a day in the summer months - once in the morning and again in the evening. The second watering should replenish the plants and give them a hydration boost after a particularly hot day.'

Always consider what your garden planter ideas are made of. If they're fibreglass or plastic they're probably porous and therefore retain water well. With these materials, you should check the plant first before watering to avoid overwatering which can lead to the roots rotting.  

garden tap with hose and sprinkler

(Image credit: Hozelock)

What should I do if I’m going on holiday?

The best advice for watering plants while away on vacation is to make sure that you water them well before going on holiday, and don't leave it to the last minute as choosing when is the best time to water plants is key. 

Darran Oakley of Squire's Garden Centres suggests the following: 'If you can, it's best to water plants early in the morning or late in the evening, and give them a good soaking at their base. Avoid watering in the heat of the day as it will scorch the leaves.'

Darran also suggests moving pots into shadier spots and adding pot saucers to retain water at the roots. Or try one of the best self-watering systems such as an automated irrigation system or pot watering kit. You could also consider using moisture-retaining crystals.

Using an automated irrigation system to kep garden container plants watered during a holiday

Try an automated irrigation system if you're going away on holiday

(Image credit: Future/Ruth Hayes)

When is the best time to water plants in winter?

Plants lose less water in winter, so don’t need watering as much as during the warmer months. Nevertheless, it's important to adjust your watering schedule according to the weather.

It can be tricky choosing when is the best time to water plants in winter. Avoid watering early in the morning or late at night, keeping to the middle of the day wherever possible as the soil around plants should be dry at night.

If you've been planting bare root trees, new shrubs or plants in autumn keep a careful eye on them. Roots can dry out even if it's cold and still cause damage to the plant. So deciding when is the best time to water plants doesn't stop once summer is over!

Sarah Wilson
Sarah Wilson

Sarah Wilson has been a lifestyle journalist for many years, writing about gardens since 2015. She's written for Gardeningetc.com, Livingetc, Homes & Gardens, as well as Country Homes & Interiors and Modern Gardens magazines. 

Her own (small urban) garden is a work in progress  - so many ideas, not enough space to cram them in. Hero plants include her ever growing collection of ornamental grasses, black bamboo and ferns, and the perennials like salvias and penstemons that come back reliably year after year. All very restrained though when in fact she'd love to pack her garden with gaudy dahlias and giant cannas, so these are top of her wish list for what to grow next.