Overwatering is the most common reason why indoor plants die.
In this post, you'll learn the easy way to water houseplants just right.
You'll find out:
- Why plants need water: Understand your indoor plants to take better care of them.
- When to water: Set up a simple plan for your plants. 📅
- Signs it's time to water: Spot when your plants are thirsty or have had too much.
- How to water properly: Give your plants the right quality and amount of water. 💧
- Mistakes to avoid: Keep your plants happy by not doing these things. 🚫🌱
Let's get started!
#1 Science Behind Watering 🧑🔬
Water is a critical element in your plant's life. Let's break down why it's such a game-changer for your houseplants.
Photosynthesis: The Power Plant 🌿⚡
What it is: Photosynthesis is the process by which your indoor plants use sunlight to turn carbon dioxide and water into sugars and starches that in turn fuel plant growth.
Why plants need it: They require this process to produce energy. Without energy, a plant cannot grow, repair itself, or even sustain its basic functions.
What happens during the process: Inside the plant's cells, in the chloroplasts, sunlight activates chlorophyll, which then helps convert carbon dioxide and water into glucose. And guess what? This process also gives us fresh oxygen to breathe.
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Transpiration: The Plant's Cooling System 🌬️💦
What it is: Transpiration is the movement of water from the root system to the leaves which results in water vapor being released through the tiny opening on the plants leaves’ surface called stomata.
Why plants need it: This process is critical for nutrient uptake, cooling of the plant, and gas exchange. It essentially drives the flow of water from the roots to the leaves.
What happens during the process: As water evaporates from the surface of the leaves, it pulls more water up through the plant from the roots. This stream carries with it the essential nutrients from the soil. Moreover, as water vapor exits, it cools the plant, and the stomata manage this flow to balance water retention with the need for CO₂ for photosynthesis.
Nutrient Absorption: The Plant's Diet 🌱💊
What it is: Nutrient absorption is the uptake of water-soluble nutrients from the soil through the plant's root system.
Why plants need it: Plants need these nutrients to support essential functions and growth, much like how we need a range of vitamins and minerals.
What happens during the process: As the plant absorbs water with its roots, it also takes in nutrients dissolved in that water. These nutrients are then transported to different parts of the plant where they're used to create new cells and support existing ones.
Shape Forming: The Plant's Skeleton 💧🌵
What it is: Shape forming in plants is largely due to turgor pressure, the water pressure inside plant cells that keeps plants firm and upright.
Why plants need it: Ever seen a dropping plant? Without sufficient water, plants can't maintain turgor pressure, which means they can't hold themselves up.
What happens during the process: When a plant is well-watered, its cells are full and press against the cell walls, creating rigidity. This pressure keeps the plant's stems and leaves firm and in their proper shape.
Now let’s actually talk about how often should you water you plants.
#2 How Often Should You Water? 🤔
When you ask yourself, "How often should I water my indoor plants?", unfortunately, there is no simple answer. Your watering routine depends on a number of factors.
Let's delve into each of them below. 👇
The amount of light affects how much water your plant will need. 🌞
- ⬆More Light: Increased light exposure accelerates photosynthesis, which in turn ups the need for water.
- ⬇Less Light: With lower light levels, your plants will require less frequent watering.
Ambient moisture plays a crucial role in plant watering. 💧
- ⬇High Humidity: Moist air conditions reduce the rate of water evaporation from the leaves, decreasing the need for watering.
- ⬆Low Humidity: Dry air conditions mean more water is lost to evaporation, and plants will need more frequent watering.
Soil composition significantly impacts water retention. 🌱
- ⬇Moisture-Retentive Soils: Potting mixes with high peat and/or coco coir percentage composition hold water longer, meaning less frequent watering is necessary.
- ⬆Well-Draining Soils: On a contrary, mineral substrates (LECA, perlite, pumice etc) or potting mixes that contain them drain quickly and therefore will require you to water your plants more often.
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The material of your plant's pot can influence moisture retention. 🪴
- ⬇Plastic Pots: Typically retain moisture longer, so you might water less frequently.
- ⬆Terracotta and Ceramic Pots: These materials are more porous, allowing soil to dry out faster and potentially increasing the frequency of watering.
- ⬆Drainage Holes: Ensure your pots have drainage holes to allow excess water to escape, preventing root rot.
Temperature can affect how quickly your plant uses water. 🔥❄️
- ⬆Higher Temperatures: As temperatures rise, plants may require more water to stay hydrated and cool.
- ⬇Lower Temperatures: Cooler temperatures slow down water use, so your plants will need less water.
Plants' water needs change with their growth cycles. 🌱🍂
- ⬆Active Growth Period: During the growing seasons of spring and summer, plants are actively growing and generally require more water.
- ⬇Dormancy Period: In the dormant seasons of fall and winter, plants grow less and need less water.
Feeling overwhelmed yet? Thinking if there is a simple way to figure out when exactly to water?
Keep reading to learn below! 👇
#3 How Do You Know When It’s Time to Water? ⌛
In order to know when it’s time to water your indoor plant, you need to understand what sort of plant it is.
In general, there are three main categories of indoor plants, each with its own watering needs:
Drought-Tolerant Plants 🌵
Some popular indoor plants from this category are: Succulents, Cacti, ZZ Plants, Jade Plants. These plant prefer to dry out completely between waterings. You can also tell it’s a drought tolerant plant, if it has relatively thick leaves that store water inside of them.Signs to Water:
Complete Dryness: Allow the soil to dry out completely between waterings.
Pot Weight: Lift the pot. A light feel means the soil is dry and indicates it's time to water.
Moisture Meter Use: Insert the moisture meter about halfway into the pot's soil. Try not to damage the roots. Readings near zero are your cue to water.
Bamboo Chopstick Method: Stick it in the soil for 10 minutes. Pull it out - if no soil particles stick to it, it means the soil is dry and it’s time to water.
Leaf Check: Plump and firm leaves suggest they are hydrated. Wrinkled leaves mean grab that watering can!
Wait to Water: When in doubt, it's better to wait a few more days than to overwater.
Moisture-Loving Indoor Plants 🌿
Some popular houseplants include: Alocasia, Spider Plant, Pothos, Anthurium, Monstera, Philodendron, Aglaonema, Bromeliads, Arrowhead Plant, Dracaena. So the majority of tropical indoor plants will fall into this category.
Signs to Water:
- Soil Test: Let the top 30% of soil dry out. Stick your finger in to check - if the soil feels dry, it's time to water.
- Moisture Meter Use: Insert the probe up to 2-3 inches deep. Try not to damage the roots. A reading between 3 and 4 means water me please.
- Bamboo Chopstick Test: Leave the chopstick in the soil ⅓ deep for 10 minutes. Moisture at the tip? Hold off on watering.
- Leaf Signs: Slightly droopy leaves can indicate thirst.
Thirsty Indoor Plants 💦
Most popular examples are: Peace Lily, Different Types of Ferns, Calatheas, Spathiphyllum (Peace Lily), Prayer Plants. These plants prefer consistently moist soil (but not standing in water!).
Signs to Water:
- Topsoil Dryness: These plants love their soil to be consistently moist. If the top feels dry, it's time to water.
- Regular Check-ins: Touch the soil every few days to gauge moisture levels.
- Moisture Meter Reading: Aim for readings around 5 or 6. That’s the sweet spot for moisture without sogginess.
- Maintenance: Keep the soil from drying out completely, but also avoid waterlogging.
🌱 How to Use a Moisture Meter:
- Insert the meter probe into the soil up to the root level, usually about halfway down the pot. Try not to damage the roots - keep close to the pot walls.
- Read the dial and water according to the plant’s category needs (read above).
- Clean the probe with a dry cloth after each use, and occasionally polish with fine sandpaper to remove any residue.
Ok, now as we understand when to water, let’s deep dive into how we do this.
#4 How Exactly Do You Water? Best Practices💧
Here are a few practical tips on how exactly to water your plants.
Saturating Your Plants Soil: 🌊
Give a Good Soak: Thoroughly water your plants, ensuring even succulents get a drenching.
Wait for Drainage: Allow the excess water to drain out of the bottom to ensure the roots aren't sitting in water, which can cause root rot.
Excess Water: Remove any standing water from the saucer or catch tray within 20-30 minutes to prevent over-saturation and pests.
Helpful tools: Place a saucer, or tray underneath the tray. Collect the water 20-30 minutes later with a turkey baster or simply by carrying around an empty bucket for these needs.
Promotes Root Health: Deep watering ensures the water goes to the entire root system, encouraging roots to grow downward, creating a stable and healthy plant.
Prevents Salt Build-up: Flushing the soil with water can prevent salt and mineral accumulation that can harm your plant.
Selecting the Perfect Water 💧
Tap Water Concerns: Tap water contains certain chemical elements. Depending on where you live, these elements may be insignificant to impact your plants. However, some plants are very sensitive to fluoride and chlorine (Dracaenas, Peace Lilies, Spider Plants).
Fluoride and Chlorine: Let tap water sit overnight to allow chlorine to evaporate. Use filtered or rainwater for plants sensitive to fluoride.
Temperature Matters: Always use room temperature water to avoid shocking your plants' roots.
Timing Your Watering ⏰
Morning Glory: Water in the morning or during the day to align with your plants' natural photosynthetic cycle, ensuring optimal absorption and health.
Ok, now as you’ve learned how exactly to water, let’s talk about overwatering and underwatering signs.
#5 Checking Your Watering Routine: Too Much or Too Little? 💧🌿
Watering your plants the right amount is like hitting the sweet spot – too much or too little can cause problems.
Here’s how you can tell if you’re off mark:
If You’re Overwatering: 💦🛑
Leaves: Yellowing leaves are often a precursor to more serious issues like root rot. Soft, mushy leaves lose their structural integrity, compromising the plant's ability to photosynthesize effectively.
Soil: Soil that remains wet for too long can suffocate plant roots, preventing them from absorbing oxygen necessary for growth.
Roots: Brown and mushy roots are unable to absorb nutrients or water, essentially starving the plant and leaving it vulnerable to diseases.
Pests: Moist environments attract pests that live in soil such as fungus gnats, which can damage plants by eating roots and spreading disease.
If You’re Underwatering: 🌵💔
Leaves: Dry and brittle leaves indicate that the plant cannot maintain proper cell pressure, leading to a breakdown in essential functions like nutrient transportation and photosynthesis.
Soil: Soil that is too dry can cause a plant to dehydrate quickly, as there is insufficient moisture available for the roots to absorb.
Roots: Brittle roots can die off, diminishing a plant's ability to support itself and absorb water, leading to a gradual decline in health.
Growth: Inadequate water supply stunts growth because the plant conserves resources, leading to weakened structures and reduced vitality.
#6 Common Watering Mistakes to Avoid 🚫💦
Proper watering is very important for plant health, yet certain errors are frequently made.
Pay attention to the following pitfalls:
Allowing Water to Collect in the Saucer 💧🛑
Why it’s a mistake: Standing water in the saucer leads to over-saturation of the soil as it absorbs this moisture back, which will lead to the overstaurated soil.
Potential consequences: The risk of root rot and fungal diseases increase, as roots are deprived of necessary oxygen, that is also needed for a healthy root system.
Using Pots Without Drainage Holes 🚱
Why it’s a mistake: Lack of drainage traps water on the bottom of the pot, oversaturating the soil.
Potential consequences: This may result in waterlogged soil, promoting root, fungal diseases and potentially killing the plant 🚫🌱.
Insufficient Watering 🚰✖
Why it’s a mistake: Very little watering fails to hydrate the root zone adequately. Always make sure to water until you see the excess water draining out of drainage holes.
Potential consequences: The plant may develop a limited root system, suffer from dry roots, and exhibit nutrient uptake issues and stunted growth.
Choosing an Overly Large Pot 🏺🔍
Why it’s a mistake: An excessively large pot retains more water than necessary for the plant’s needs.
Potential consequences: The plant's roots may rot due to prolonged dampness, fungal disease can emerge and nutrients may be washed away before they can be utilized 🌱.
Final Thoughts 💭
Throughout this comprehensive guide, we’ve delved into the intricacies of watering indoor plants – a vital aspect of plant care that requires attention and understanding. We discussed:
- The significance of soil type, pot materials, lighting, and temperature, among other factors, in determining your watering schedule.
- How to discern when it's time to water your plants, using methods suited to different plant categories.
- The best techniques for watering your green friends and the best type of water to use for optimal plant health.
- Recognizing the signs of incorrect watering practices and how to adjust your routine accordingly.
- Finally, we highlighted common watering mistakes to avoid, ensuring you steer clear of pitfalls that could compromise the well-being of your indoor plants.
🌱📚 Sharing is caring!
If you found this guide helpful, please feel free to share it with your friends, family, or anyone you know who shares a passion for indoor gardening.
Happy planting! 🌸