Water Gel Crystals

madpenguinmadpenguin Isle of WightPosts: 1,623

I used water gel crystals mixed in with my compost for all my baskets and pots this year.

Does anyone else find that pots seem to dry out even quicker and are virtually impossible to get completely wet again?

“Every day is ordinary, until it isn't.” - Bernard Cornwell-Death of Kings


  • Modern composts are very good at doing what they are designed for, but, it does require that you stay on top of the watering. They are open and therefore free draining to promote quick strong root growth, but that, of course, means that they dry out quickly.  Even the top quality brands (I use and stock peat- free composts), are the same. I'm watering every day, sometimes twice a day at the moment, just to keep the plants alive!  I still maintain that there is no compost available which is as good as what you can make properly, yourself, using clean garden waste and fallen leaves.  It carries a balanced level of nutrients, has good water retention properties and is nigh on free! 


  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 21,525

    I have yet to see any convincing evidence that these crystals have any benefit whatsoever.

  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 55,536

    I bought and used some of the gel crystals once - totally useless - in fact, worse than useless - and I've read that they're considered to be really bad for the environment, so goodness knows how I'm going to get rid of the ones sitting in a tub in the garden shed image

    “I am not lost, for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.” Winnie the Pooh

  • madpenguinmadpenguin Isle of WightPosts: 1,623

    Without the gel crystals I find I can usually get the soil wet again but when I use the crystals they seem to wick the water straight out of the soil keeping the soil dry.

    Don't think I will bother with them again!

    “Every day is ordinary, until it isn't.” - Bernard Cornwell-Death of Kings
  • I also used these crystals - admittedly it was some 20 years ago .  The results were ....underwhelming...... to say the least.  I didn't note any evidence that the containers with crystals in did any better ( or needed less watering ) than those without.  I think the moral of the story is obvious but we are all susceptible to a product which supposedly saves us time, effort and water.

    There wasn't much info on how to dispose of the mass of jelly at the end of the season either - it certainly didn't decompose.

  • madpenguinmadpenguin Isle of WightPosts: 1,623

    I made up my compost using Multi-purpose and John Innes No.3 (4:1).

    Hanging baskets do dry out very quickly,I have ones which have a reservoir in the bottom which holds over a litre of water so is usually OK.

    The plant that has done best in my hanging baskets this year was Heuchera 'Blackberry Jam'.Even when all other plants wilted it still looked great! I only had the one plant but am thinking Heucheras could be the plants for next year!!

    “Every day is ordinary, until it isn't.” - Bernard Cornwell-Death of Kings
  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 17,505

    I never had any success with the water gel so gave up after just a couple of years' trying.  Last year I found a brand of compost with teeny water gel crystals already mixed in and that worked very well in the baskets and troughs in full sun but I didn't find any this year.    

    I line my hanging basket bottoms with a  square of plastic from a compost bag and put a small plastic plant pot in the middle where it's invisible but helps get water straight to the roots.  These days I keep the planting simple too and only use trailing pelargoniums which are forgiving if I have to leave them for a weekend.

    Still, it's best to water at least once every day and twice in a heatwave but that's baskets for you.   Window boxes only get sun and wind on one side so need less frequent watering.

    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • madpenguinmadpenguin Isle of WightPosts: 1,623

    I had some ordinary red Pelargoniums in pots this year (1 plant to a pot with a saucer underneath) and they have been super,in all the heat we have had I have only watered a couple of times but generally forgot them and I must say they have done extremely well.Go around to dead head every now and then and that is about it! I can see why they flourish in the Mediterranean!!

    I think I am going to have to review what plants I get next year,some are just not worth the trouble.I have already taken down and emptied 3 baskets as they were basically over.

    “Every day is ordinary, until it isn't.” - Bernard Cornwell-Death of Kings
  • Bumping up for aymimage

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