Everything You Need To Know About Watering Your Plants

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Key Tip:

Underwatering is better than overwatering.

 

Watering your plants is the hardest thing to get right. When your plant needs water it will show physical signs immediately. When you overwater, you might not know until it’s too late. Develop a routine, but learning to be observant is the best process. Watering in the morning is ideal, so the plant can use the water throughout the day.

 

HOW TO WATER

Water plants thoroughly and slowly until it runs out from the bottom of the pot. For plants that need continuously moist soil, this is not a hard rule. Small waterings tend to be insufficient because they only reach the top soil, which can rot the top roots and stunt growth. When watering, you are essentially trying to mimic a rainfall which floods deep into the soil.

HOW OFTEN TO WATER

There is no exact answer for when to water any plant because of the many varying factors. Some of these factors include the needs of the individual plant/species, the time of year (i.e: dormancy), soil mix, humidity, pot material or size, temperature, and airflow. These factors change the speed at which the soil dries out. Some plants need to have continuously moist soil, others need to go through a cycle of dry soil before watering again. Of course, keep in mind what you already know about your plants’ watering needs, but some observant flexibility is helpful.

 

HOW TO CHECK SOIL MOISTURE

  • Stick your finger into the soil an inch or two deep (only for plants that need water when topsoil is dry). A darker brown that sticks to your finger means it’s wet enough.
  • Test with a wooden chopstick or toothpick by sticking it in the soil. Leave in soil for 10 minutes. Chopstick will come up dampor dry depending on moisture. The wood will be a darker color. Sharpen the end of the chopstick to avoid crushing roots on its way down into the soil.

 

WATERING FREQUENCY

Underwatering signs

  • Yellowing leaves
  • Leaf edges become brown and dried out
  • Flowers fade and fall quickly
  • Leaves appear droopy, curled, or wrinkled (cacti/succulents)

Overwatering signs

  • Plant remains wilted after watering
  • Plant loses healthy looking leaves
  • Leaf tips turn brown
  • Root/stem rot (mushy trunks and sometimes smells)

When to increase watering

  • Plants with lots of leaves will use more water
  • A sunny day will increase water consumption by the plant
  • Plants are showing new growth. (i.e. plant is in it’s growing season and not in dormancy)
  • Pot is too small. Less soil = less water holding potential.
  • Roots have taken over the pot so there is no soil left to hold the water

When to decrease watering

  • When the sun is less powerful since water will be evaporating slower
  • Plants that are dormant require less water
  • Long periods of rain may mean the air is more humid if your windows are open

 

TYPES OF WATER

Rain – best: If you can, collect it or put plants outside when it rains. It has the perfect pH, is high in nitrogen, and has other nutrients beneficial for plants.

Filtered water – 2nd best: When water is filtered, the chlorine is removed. Chlorine damages the soil’s ecosystem and roots.

Tap water – 3rd best: Let tap water stand for a couple hours so the chlorine will have time to evaporate out. You can let the water sit out for a full day if you think the chlorine levels are high. I keep a 2.5 gallon bucket filled with water sitting out to use when I water all of my plants.

Distilled water: A must for carnivorous plants. You can buy it at most grocery stores. You can use it with other plants as long as you’re actively adding organic fertilizer which has secondary nutrients and micronutrients that are lost in the distilling process. If you’re unsure, just use tap water.

 

HUMIDITY

The humidity needs of a plant goes hand in hand with watering needs. Most homes are drier than desired because of temperature regulating systems and a lack of constant airflow.

How to increase humidity:

  • Mist leaves with a spray bottle
  • Put plants closer together
  • Use a humidifier
  • Open windows when it rains
  • Raise the temperature in your home
  • Put plants in a partially enclosed glass container, vase, or terrarium. Make sure they can still get some air.
  • You can create a humidity tray (shown in picture). Find a shallow tray and fill it with a layer of rocks. Fill the tray with water and be sure it doesn’t rise above the rocks. The water shouldn’t touch the pot. Refill the tray with water when it evaporates. This will help to create a more humid environment around the plant.

MISTING

Many homes have low humidity levels, so it can be a good idea to mist your plants in between waterings. Plants can also absorb water through their leaves which is called foliar feeding. It’s better to mist during the morning, to mimic a morning dew. Your run-of-the-mill spray bottle will do the trick.

Misting tropicals, air plants, and orchids often if not daily can be really beneficial. Fruits, herbs, and veggies will like a mist occasionally and especially before a hot day. It’s not recommended to mist cacti or succulents except if their roots have been damaged, or during dormancy if they look wrinkled from drought.


Brass Mister – $29.95

 

If you like this post, Please read: 4 Watering tools to make your plants happier and your life easier

 

Want to learn the basics of indoor gardening? Check out these posts:

Everything You Need to Know About Water

Everything You Need to Know About Light

Everything You Need to Know About Soil

Everything You Need to Know About Fertilizer

Everything You Need to Know About Plant Pots

How to Repot Plants

How to Get Rid of Pests Naturally