New RHS Water Scientist urges gardeners to harness the power of rainwater

The new Senior Water Scientist for the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), Dr Nicholas Cryer, is urging gardeners to harvest as much rainwater as possible during summer wet spells, ready for hot and dry periods later in the season.

Dr Cryer joined this RHS in July, having previously worked in academia and industry on tropical agriculture focussed on optimising water, nutrition, and light use. As part of the RHS Environmental Horticulture team he will lead research and application of sustainable water management techniques within domestic gardens, RHS Gardens and the UK horticulture and landscape industry. Focus areas include understanding water use in domestic and RHS gardens, and applying this knowledge to help deliver the RHS Sustainability target of being water neutral by 2030.

The charity is highlighting the multiple benefits of using rainwater in the garden. Harvesting rainwater reduces the demand on treated water supplies which are running low in many parts of the country this summer. Water butts and a garden with more plants and less hard landscaping will slow the flow during more extreme rainfall events, helping reduce the tendency for drainage systems to be overwhelmed and for sewerage to spill into our rivers and seas.

To make the most of rainfall, gardeners can get creative with containers, using anything from saucepans to teapots and buckets to collect rainwater to be used on plants. This means greater volumes of water stored in water butts can be saved for drier times. Importantly, placing plant pots on drip trays can help capture ten litres of water per pot per year.

To be water wise with what they have collected, Dr Cryer suggests gardeners should direct water to plants that need it most, especially new plantings and plants in containers. For thirsty plants in established beds and borders, a good soak every two weeks with water directed to the roots should be sufficient. Keeping soil healthy is a hugely important factor in containing water and making it available to grow healthy plants. Improving soil quality and reducing water evaporation by adding an organic mulch or homemade compost is also very beneficial.

The charity also advises giving houseplants a holiday outside while it’s raining, as long as the rain is not too heavy or it is windy which could damage more delicate indoor plants. Many of the most-loved houseplants including spider plants and peace lilies are sensitive to the fluoride in tap water which makes them turn brown at the tips. So a regular rain shower could benefit their appearance.

Dr Mark Gush, RHS Head of Environmental Horticulture, said: “We’re delighted to have Dr Nicholas Cryer join the Environmental Horticulture team, especially at a time when water use and shortages are at the forefront of many gardener’s minds. Research into water use in the RHS gardens, alongside usage in domestic gardens will be vital in providing the best advice to the nation’s 28 million gardeners. Dr Cryer’s findings will help ensure we maximise the effectiveness and efficiency with which we use our rainwater and reduce consumption of mains water, benefitting both the climate and wildlife.”

For more advice on collecting and using rainwater to keep your garden in blooming health and take the pledge to switch from mains to rains, visit:


Notes to editors

For further information or images contact Claire Thorpe in the RHS Press Office [email protected]  

About the RHS 

Since our formation in 1804, the RHS has grown into the UK’s leading gardening charity, touching the lives of millions of people. Perhaps the secret to our longevity is that we’ve never stood still. In the last decade alone we’ve taken on the largest hands-on project the RHS has ever tackled by opening the new RHS Garden Bridgewater in Salford, Greater Manchester, and invested in the science that underpins all our work by building RHS Hilltop – The Home of Gardening Science. 

We have committed to being net positive for nature and people by 2030. We are also committed to being truly inclusive and to reflect all the communities of the UK. 

Across our five RHS gardens we welcome more than three million visitors each year to enjoy over 34,000 different cultivated plants. Events such as the world famous RHS Chelsea Flower Show, other national shows, our schools and community work, and partnerships such as Britain in Bloom, all spread the shared joy of gardening to wide-reaching audiences.
Throughout it all we’ve held true to our charitable core – to encourage and improve the science, art and practice of horticulture – to share the love of gardening and the positive benefits it brings. 

For more information visit

RHS Registered Charity No. 222879/SC038262

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The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.