How and When to Water Houseplants
If you struggle with how and when to water houseplants, this article is for you! One major thing that probably every houseplant owner will discover is that watering can be both the best thing for your plants and also the worst. A lot of people will claim that they essentially watered their plants to death OR completely abandoned them until they dried up, there is really no in between. It’s important to watch your plants for signs they need water instead of watering on a set schedule.
How often you water houseplants will depends on their preferences, but it will also depend on a huge number of other variables. Pot size and type, temperature, humidity, light levels, season of the year: all of these things will change how often your plant needs water.
Tools to water your plants
You can get as fancy as you want with this and buy yourself allllll the watering accessories, or you can use what you have around the house.
Things you’ll need for watering
- Measuring cup or watering can
- Sink, bathtub, or large receptacle to catch water runoff
- Appropriate water for your plants. If you have city water, you may want to filter it or leave it out for a while for the chlorine to evaporate.
- Soil moisture gauge
- Wooden skewers or chopsticks
Check by weight
This is a simple method to decide how to water: by picking the pots up and seeing if they’re light! Of course, this only will work for houseplants that you can physically lift.
There’s a considerable difference in weight when a plant is completely dry versus when it has just been watered! This weight difference may be a little tricky to discern at first, but it will become easier with time.
Get in to a routine to check your plants every other day, or every 3-4 days in cooler weather, walking around and picking up each pot and evaluating the weight. You can also take this time to rotate your plants so every side gets the same amount of light.
Checking with a moisture gauge
If you have a moisture gauge, this will remove the guess work from seeing whether your houseplant is ready for water. Pairing a moisture gauge with other methods of checking to see if a plant is ready to water will make you an expert in no time. It’ll also keep you from “loving” your plants to death by watering them too much. A moisture gauge is especially helpful for hanging plants, plants with a top dressing or plants that are too heavy to lift! When using a moisture gauge, insert the tip of the probe near the roots of the plant for the most accurate read results.
This is a simple way to ascertain if the plant’s soil is wet or dry. Gently pop the skewer in the soil and press down towards the bottom of the pot, if the skewer is clean then the soil is dry, if the skewer comes out dirty, the soil is still moist or even wet.
Visual clues your plant needs water
Once your plant has been in your family for a while, you’ll start to notice when it needs water simply by looking at it. You’ll find that many houseplants get droopy or wilted looking stems and leaves when it’s time for a water, Peace lilies are a perfect example of this.
However some plants show off their need for water more dramatically than others! Succulents and cacti tend to go slightly soft and wrinkled looking, once they’ve been given a drink they’ll ‘plump’ back to their normal size.
Water the right way for your plant
Once you’ve checked to see if the plant needs watering, it’s time to get down to business!
The most important part of watering is making sure you wet the soil all the way through so that the roots get fully saturated. The only sure way to do this is to use a pot with drainage holes and water until you see runoff from the bottom of the pot. If possible, water houseplants over your sink, but you can also use a large bowl to catch the runoff. If you want to water a hanging plant, but don’t want to take it down, using a bowl to catch the excess water is a good idea.
Pour water gently onto the soil until the water reaches the top edge of the pot, then let the water sink into the soil. Repeat this process until you see runoff. Don’t worry if the runoff isn’t clear – that’s normal! Once runoff has started, hold the plant over your receptacle until it stops dripping.
Keep in mind that some plants react badly to water sitting on their leaves and/or stems, so be careful to water the soil more than the actual plant.
Watering your plants from the bottom
In order to water houseplants from the bottom, place your plant into a large bowl or plant saucer and pour water around the pot. Let it sit for up to an hour (depending on the size of the pot and how dry the soil is) and then let the plant drain as normal.
Watering succulents and cacti
Like any other plant, how often you water a succulent or cactus will depend on the season, the size of the pot it is in, the temperature, the humidity, and the light it gets. Succulents and cacti like to be watered like your typical houseplant: deeply and until runoff is achieved.
The main difference here is that succulents and cacti like to go much longer in between waterings. A good way to think about this is to consider how they live in their natural environments. Succulents and cacti thrive in rocky, sandy, and dry areas with very little rainfall, so they’re used to getting one big drink every once in a while.
In winter, you’ll want to water houseplants even less often. Many cacti and succulents go dormant during the winter due to colder temperatures and shorter days.
In general, good watering for succulents and cacti come down to one major rule: never, ever water until the soil is completely dry. They have very shallow roots and are extremely susceptible to root rot, so it is very important to let them have a dry period between waterings.