- The Fantastic Team
- 9min read
- Published: July 23, 2020
- Views: 733
The Complete Guide to Watering Plants
Are you a serial killer of succulents and begonias? Have you tried multiple times to have a beautiful indoor plant space but somehow they all die from mysterious causes? Well, we understand your struggle. Watering your indoor plants might seem like the easiest task ever but in reality, there are a lot of things you can mess up. Fret not and don’t lose hope! In this helpful guide, we have gathered the most important information you might need for your plant children.
So, if you:
- Are aiming to provide the best possible conditions for your green babies;
- Want to know how to water houseplants properly;
- Are looking for the signs of over or underwatered plants,
then look no further, because this guide is just for you!
Table of Contents:
Why do plants need water?
Along with sunlight, water is essential to any plant’s wellbeing. But do you know exactly how it helps a plant thrive and how it’s being used?
One of the primary purposes of water is to help feed a plant. It draws nutrients from the soil and helps transport them to the plant through the root system. Not only that, but it also fills the plant cells, creating support and helping the plant stay upright.
Plants absorb water through their roots, which is why proper watering is essential. It may seem daunting at first, but don’t worry! Learning how to water your plants is quite simple once you get the hang of it. So, are you ready? Let’s get right into it!
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How to water houseplants
While watering plants is not all that difficult, there are some aspects to consider, such as the weather, the placement of your plant, the species, the type of water, etc. All of these things play a part in how and how often you should water your greenery.
Yes, there are many things to keep in mind, but once you do some research and practice a bit, watering your plants will become second nature to you! Besides, we’re here to help guide you on your way to becoming a master in plant care.
So, let’s start with…
What kind of water should you use?
You might not be paying much attention to the type of water you give to your plants, but in some cases, this can have disastrous consequences. You wouldn’t drink water that could harm you, so why should your plants?
Not all water is equal, and your green babies can be quite sensitive to some of its contents. So, what kind should you use to water your plants? Well, there are several things to keep in mind.
Plants will thrive when given water with a neutral pH level. That’s around 6,5 to 7,5. You can easily check your water’s pH levels with a test kit. You just dip a test strip into the water, wait for it to change colour and there compare it to the given scale. Anything below 6,5 is considered too acidic, while results above 7,5 are basic.
Apart from the pH levels, you need to consider the water’s contents. In general, the purer the water, the better, but it still needs to provide your plant with some nutrients, otherwise it will survive, but it won’t thrive. So, what kind of water can you use?
- Tap water – You may be tempted to use tap water to water your plants, and why not? It’s the easiest option. However, you should try and resist this temptation, as some tap water can be very dangerous for your plants, depending on the quality and purity of the water where you live. Tap water can be fine for some plants, but other, more sensitive ones, can suffer adverse effects such as chlorine toxicity. You should avoid using tap water especially if you live in an area with hard water, as the minerals found in it can damage your plants. Softened water isn’t the best choice, either, because of the added salts.
- Rainwater – Rainwater and melted snow are by far the best options when it comes to watering plants. They are full of the nutrients your greenery needs and are pure enough to prevent damage. However, acid rain may be an issue in some areas.
- Distilled water – While distilled or purified water won’t harm your plants, it won’t do much to help them thrive, either. It has simply been stripped of everything, both harmful minerals and helpful nutrients have been removed. So, using distilled water is safe, but not very effective.
What about water temperature?
When it comes to temperature, be safe and use room temperature water. Hot and cold water can damage your plants’ roots. Chill damage is common in cases where cold water has been used on tropical plants. Filling your watering can and letting it sit for a few hours will help the water reach the preferred temperature and avoid damage to your plants.
When is the best time to water plants?
Wondering when is the best time of day to water plants? You’re not alone. Many novice gardeners ask themselves the same question.
In general, the best time to water your plants is early in the morning. This is when the temperature is favourable and the plants start using up water, while the pores (stomata) through which water evaporates close at night. Watering in the evening is also acceptable if your morning schedule doesn’t give you enough time.
Avoid watering your plants during the hottest time of the day, as the water will quickly evaporate from the surface of the soil and won’t have enough time to reach the roots.
How often should you water plants?
Chances are, all of your green babies have different needs when it comes to watering. So, how often you do it will depend on various factors, such as the species, the plant’s age, the size of the pot and the type of potting soil.
Older plants and ones with more leaves will require more water, simply because they use up more of it. Plants in smaller pots will also require frequent watering, as the container holds less soil, meaning it will dry out a lot faster.
The type of soil also plays a part here. Sandy soils and potting mixes with increased drainage will hold less water, so your plants may need watering more often. Clay soil, on the other hand, holds on to moisture well and won’t need as much water to stay damp.
Here’s something else to keep in mind – does your plant like consistently moist soil, or does it prefer that its potting mix dries out between waterings? Some plants that come from naturally wet areas, such as ferns, will thrive in damp soil, while most others would rather breathe for a bit longer before you water them again. Moist soil provides less oxygen to the roots, so research your specific plants’ requirements and be careful not to drown them accidentally.
How to water potted plants
The first thing you have to do is check the soil to see if your plants need water. How do you do that? By using your finger! Stick it a couple of knuckles deep into the soil. Does it feel dry? If yes, give your plant a drink. If the soil is moist, hold off on the watering for now and check back again later.
There are several ways to water your houseplants, be it simply using a watering can or investing in a complex irrigation system. However, in this guide, we will talk about the two most popular methods – top-down and bottom-up watering.
This is perhaps the most common method, as it appears to be the easiest. You just pour the water into the pot and forget about it, right? Well, not exactly.
Top-down watering is perfectly fine in most situations, as long as you do it properly. For example, if you have plants that have different watering needs, you can control how much water each individual pot gets. It may get a bit tedious, however, if you have an abundance of plants and need to water each one separately.
- When applying this method, use a rose head on your watering can or bottle to provide a gentle flow of water. This will help you avoid displacing the soil and exposing the roots. The same goes for hose watering, where a spray or rainfall setting is best.
- Water your plants slowly and thoroughly to ensure that the moisture reaches all parts of the pot. Keep watering until about 10% of the water leaks out of the pot’s drainage holes. Pour any remaining water out of the saucer and place the plant back in its place.
- When watering your plants top-down, make sure you go all around the plant and thoroughly wet all of the soil. If you only water in one spot, not all of the roots will receive enough moisture and your plant may start to dry out in spots.
Bottom watering plants
This is another popular way to water plants. While it can be pretty helpful, as the water goes straight to the bottom of the pot where the roots are, it may not be the best choice for plants that prefer the soil to dry out first. However, this depends on the exact way you apply this method.
One way to do this is to fill the saucer with water. Keep filling it until the soil stops absorbing moisture. Dump out the remaining water from the saucer and put the plant back.
Another method is to use reservoirs with felt covers to water multiple pots at once. However, this solution tends to keep the soil consistently moist.
Bottom-up watering is a great option for plants that don’t like getting their leaves wet. For example, plants with fuzzy leaves (such as African violets) and succulents do well when watered from the bottom.
Are you watering your plants too much or too little?
It goes without saying that too much or too little water isn’t good for your green babies. Striking that perfect balance when watering is important and your plants will be thankful.
But are you giving them too much water, or not enough? How can you tell? Well, you just need to look out for the signs! Your plants will always let you know what they need if you learn to recognise the symptoms.
The main thing you have to know is that wilting can be a sign of both over and underwatering. If you notice your plants’ leaves drooping, check the soil. Is it moist or wet? In this case, you’ve overwatered your plants. Cut back a bit and let the soil dry out before watering again. If the soil is bone dry, then you’ve underwatered and you need to give your plant a good drink.
Keep in mind that underwatering is always better than giving your plants too much. If you’ve forgotten to water them for a bit longer, they will almost certainly spring back to life once you give them a drink. However, if you have been consistently overwatering them, root rot may have already set in and it might be too late to save your plants.
Signs of overwatering
- Wilting with wet soil
- Mushy brown leaves
- Yellowing falling leaves
- Root rot
- Slow growth
- Wart-like growths on the leaves
Signs of underwatering
- Wilting with dry soil
- Dry, brittle leaves and leaf tips
- Small, slow-growing leaves
- Curled leaves
- Rainwater is the best option. Avoid tap water if you live in an area with hard water.
- Use room temperature water when giving your plants a drink.
- Water early in the morning.
- Use your finger to check if the soil is dry and if the plant needs water.
- You can water your plants from the top or from the bottom.
- Wilting can be a sign of both under and overwatering.
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- Last update: February 28, 2022
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