zebra-striped cannas
Photo: Mark Lohman
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On Caring for Plants

Q: How often do I need to water?

A: This is the most frequent question ever. The answer: when your garden needs it. Stick a finger in the soil and see if it's dry. People want a schedule, but nature doesn't work on a schedule. It either rained or it was hot. Plan your garden so that a lot of it can survive on rainfall once it is established. You will need to water new plants and container plants, though. Use a wand on a hose. That way you can rearrange pots as plants go out of bloom and you don't have to fuss with technology. I think people with watering systems spend most of their summer repairing them. And most systems turn on whether it rains or not, so they waste water.

If you have a lot of containers, group them so that you can water efficiently. I have 250 to 300 containers, but they are in three main areas. Even in the hottest part of the summer, watering by hand takes at most an hour and a half every three days—and this is in Denver, where the air is very dry.

Shown: Proctor delights in being able to create a lush, tropical look even in dry, high-altitude Denver. He works this magic in a way gardeners everywhere can: by growing his zebra-striped cannas and other exotic plants in pots. Cannas die back in fall, so Proctor overwinters the rootstocks in his basement.
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