Complete guide to watering
‘How often should I water my houseplants?’ is a question we’re asked more than any other. Watering causes a lot of confusion, but we promise it’s very simple.
Plants can’t survive without water, but they probably don’t need as much as you think. When it comes to watering your plants, the key things to remember are:
- Check your plants at least once per week
- Only water when the top two inches of soil feel dry
- In summer, plants may dry out quickly
- Cut back watering in winter, when plants aren’t growing
- Remember plants like soil that’s lightly moist, never soggy
That’s the basics, but let’s do a deep dive on watering. Also, a quick tip if you always forget to water: try an (almost) unkillable plant.
How often should you water your plants?
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Plants need different amounts of water depending on time of year and species.
In dry, hot summers they may need water every couple of days. In winter, maybe every few weeks.
The general rule is: water when the top two inches of soil feel completely dry. That will stop you overwatering. Note: Some plants, including zz plants and corn plants, prefer their soil to dry out completely between drinks. Check your plant’s page to check how thirsty it is.
How should you water your houseplants?
Water the soil, not the leaves. This ensures it goes straight to the roots (and doesn’t splash everywhere).
Some people like to pour water into the plant’s saucer (if it has one), so the roots suck it up through the pot’s drainage holes. We don’t use this method, but if it works for you then we support you.
Some plants prefer filtered water to hard tap water, fussy devils (check your plant’s page to see if that’s yours). If you don’t have a filter, you can boil water, then let it cool fully before you use it.
When is the best time to water your plants?
Honestly, with houseplants it doesn’t make a huge amount of difference what time of day you water. That said, first thing in the morning is the absolute best time for watering.
This is because your plant is preparing for a day of growing and will be ready to suck up all that water. If you water at night your plant will wait until the next morning to start drinking.
How do you know if you’ve overwatered your plants?
It’s pretty easy to tell if your plant has been overwatered. Some of the clear signs are:
- Lots of leaves are yellow and limp
- Very floppy leaves
- Dropping lots of leaves. A waterlogged plant may shed leaves from stress
- Soil that feels very soggy, even days after watering
- Moldy soil. Mold and fungus love damp conditions
What should you do if you’ve overwatered your plant?
An overwatered plant can usually be saved if you stop watering and let it dry out fully before you give it another drink.
In severe cases your plant may get root rot. That requires a bit more work to fix. Find out how to tell if your plant has root rot and how to fix it here.
Signs of underwatering
The signs of underwatering are probably what you’d expect:
- Dry, wilted leaves
- Soil feels dry and is pulling away from the edges of the pot
- No growth. A plant can’t grow without water
- Light brown, faded leaves
What should you do if you’ve under-watered your plant?
Very easy. Just water more regularly, but still stick to only watering when the top two inches of soil feel dry.
If your plant is constantly drying out very quickly, it may mean the pot is too small to sustain it. Check if it needs repotting here.
Solutions for forgetful waterers
It’s easy to forget to water your plants, so you could make life easy for yourself by getting plants that don’t mind drying out. Cacti are great bets, or any of these plants on our (Almost) Unkillable list.
You could also invest in water dispensers, or hydrospikes, which water your plants gradually with no effort from you.
Don’t forget misting
One final tip: Plants also like to suck up moisture from the air, so give them a regular mist or boost the humidity in your home. You can learn more about humidity here.
Congratulations, you’re now an expert on watering! You might say you’ve just completed your H2O-levels (we’re very sorry).
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