Plants are complex beings with different needs, so learning how to give them proper attention and care might sometimes become confusing. But one thing they all need is water, no matter how much or how little. Just like us, plants are mostly made up of water, and this resource is crucial for their survival.
But how should we do it? The most common way is top watering, followed by its reverse method, bottom watering. So, which is better? All plants can be bottom watering plants, but should they? We’ll let you know what this alternative method has to offer, how to do it, why it might not be for every plant, and which greenies delight and thrive with it.
What is Bottom Watering? Is it Better for Plants?
This is a no-brainer, really. It is as simple as watering your plants from the bottom. This means you let your plants sit in a container full of water and allow them to drink as much as they want and need. It’s a very effective watering method that works due to the soil’s ability to move water evenly until it’s fully saturated.
The question of which method is better is hard to answer since both methods have pros and cons and focus on different plant characteristics and demands.
Benefits of Bottom Watering Plants
Plant parents will take any tip that might take some pressure off their shoulders and let them enjoy their plants without the stress, and bottom watering has many benefits that will help with just that.
- Plants can control their water intake since they’ll soak up exactly what they need.
- Promotes root growth and health and prevents rolled roots since roots will spread downwards towards the water source.
- Reduced chance of overwatering. Although it can still happen, it is less likely, since the plant will determine how much it needs, and you’ll just have to remove it after that.
- Leaves won’t get wet, and problems such as leaf rot from water accumulation are no longer a problem.
- Evenly moist soil.
- The lack of a wet soil surface can slightly reduce the chance of some pests.
- No more displaced delicate seedlings. We’ve all been there, picking up your watering can and harming fragile younglings, and creating uneven holes in the soil. This will not happen with bottom watering.
- For plants that have been in dry soil for a while, it’s the healthiest way for them to drink again.
Is Bottom Watering Good for All Plants?
You can definitely bottom water all plants since this process is always the same no matter the specimen, and all plants need a drink from time to time, mainly through their roots. Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean this is the best method for all plants. No matter what plant you’re watering, it is important to watch closely after you bottom water and check for any signs of stress and swap methods if needed.
Plants with sensitive leaves that easily show signs of damage when they get wet will benefit from this method. Bottom watering prevents accidental leaf splashes or water retention.
Some plants won’t respond well to this method if they have sensitive roots and can’t tolerate higher levels of salt and mineral buildup. This is the main issue with bottom watering, as the soil doesn’t have a way to dispose of these materials.
As with anything, watering from the bottom also has its weaknesses.
- Salt and mineral build-up. This is the main problem since the accumulation of minerals from fertilizers can be trapped in the soil and start damaging the plant’s root system. Some plants will be more sensitive than others, but long periods without flushing the floor will eventually affect any plant.
- It takes longer, as you need to allow the plants to drink at their own pace. This takes longer than simply pouring water on top, and it gets particularly slow with larger plants.
- Depending on the soil type, you might be overwatering your plants without realizing it. This is only an issue if your plants are not potted in their preferred substrates, but a plant that requires little water planted in soils with good water retention might mean you’re saturating it beyond what’s healthy.
- It’s easier to forget than top watering, as it tends to happen with all time-consuming tasks. You might not have time today, delay it, forget about it, or completely abandon it, but this, of course, is strictly related to one’s forgetfulness.
Which Plants Like Bottom Watering?
You could be watering your houseplant wrong! If you've got any of the greenies in the list below, it's time to make some big changes to your care routine.
Small and not too demanding, this houseplant blooms in beautiful clusters of white, blue, or purplish violet flowers. These plants are picky about water and sensitive to soggy overwatered soils, so bottom water is great for them to decide how much they actually need.
Popular for its watermelon-patterned leaves, this a well-known favorite for indoor plants for its beauty and undemanding nature. Since it’s not a fan of moist soil, bottom watering is perfect for it.
Easy to grow and adaptable, its long spider-leg green and white leaves look good anywhere and will grow faster than you can keep up. It thrives with “just the right amount of water”, so letting it choose is the best you can do.
Beautiful foliage variations characterize this genus, and it won’t be hard to find one that suits your aesthetics. The good thing is the entire genus enjoys bottom watering.
Hardy, acceptive of low light conditions, and beautiful white flowers make this plant a common houseplant choice. The thing is, it will forgive you when you forget to water it and let you know it is thirsty and needs a quick drink.
Outdoor plants might look tougher than their home-grown counterparts, but they can be very picky, too. Scroll down to find out which outdoor species prefer bottom watering.
With big, hard, and pointy green leaves and a long textured trunk, this is a simplistic outdoor plant. It enjoys even moisture and shouldn’t be watered regularly, so bottom watering is perfect for it.
A well-known diverse group of beautiful and colorful flowering plants, some do better indoors and others outdoors. Outdoor orchids shouldn’t be watered too regularly, and they don’t like wet leaves and flowers, making them great bottom water plants.
Pothos are often confused with Philodendrons due to their leaf shape and exuberant green foliage. Easy to care for, they can be both indoor and outdoor plants. They require minimal watering, so bottom watering will give them enough water for a while without the risk of overwatering.
How to Bottom Water Plants?
Now, the real question. How do you do it? Yes, it is easy and rather straightforward, but when it comes to actually doing it, it’s important to know how to water plants from the bottom and what to look for instead of just winging it. It’s your plant’s health that’s at stake.
Outdoor plants that are not in pots or movable containers can’t be bottom watered. This is pretty self-explanatory.
- Choose a bowl or container for the plant to sit in. This can be a bathtub, your kitchen sink, or anything large enough for your pot to fit and tall enough for water to be somewhat deep.
- Fill it up halfway with room-temperature water. It should be filled until about halfway the size of the pot, and water should be at room temperature unless your plant requires different needs.
- Put the plant in water.
- After a few minutes, check the first layer of soil for moisture. Depending on the size of the pot, this will take around 10 to 15 minutes. If still dry, allow the plant to soak until moisture is just below the soil surface.
- Let the plant drain a bit, and then return it to its usual spot.
- Get rid of the water that wasn’t soaked; it’s no longer needed.
Tips for Watering Plants from the Bottom
Besides the normal steps of this process, there are also smaller things to keep in mind to ensure everything goes well and the final result is healthy and happy plants.
- Bottom watering planters must have drainage holes, otherwise, the water won't be soaked up.
- Plants will need to be periodically flushed by thoroughly watering from the top. This will avoid the buildup of minerals and salts that can damage the plant, and bottom watering can still be your primary method.
- Compact soil can make the process difficult or at least take longer to get fully watered.
- Don't let plants sit too long, as it will have the same effect as overwatering and can cause root decay and other issues. Never let plants sit permanently in water.
- Lookout for any stress signs after bottom watering.
- Newly transplanted, propagated, or repotted plants might have some difficulties with bottom watering.
- Your plants can also be bottom feeding plants, as fertilization can be done by mixing feeds in the water. Make sure to choose dilutable feeds and to use half-strength.
- If you use tap water, let it sit in the bathtub or bowl overnight. This will allow for some of the harsh chemicals, such as chlorine, to evaporate partially, reducing the risk of harming your plants.
Bottom Watering vs Top Watering
Still not completely sure what makes bottom watering and top watering so different? Well, they serve different purposes, and a mix of both is the best for your plants to thrive, so here are some of the main distinctions and purposes.
- Bottom watering is done from the bottom layers of the soil until the top, while top watering is the reverse, with the water going from the upper layers of the soil to the bottom.
- Dry leaves. Bottom watering is great for this, while top watering will increase the chances of leaving water on the leaves.
- Speed. Top watering is faster than bottom watering, especially with bigger plants.
- Overwatering. Although it can happen in both, bottom watering reduces the risk of overwatering.
- Mineral buildup. Top watering flushes the soil out of excessive salts and minerals from fertilization, reducing the risk of damage.
- Even moisture. Bottom watering assures evenly moisturized soil, which is a must for many plants.
- Healthy root development. Not that top watering doesn’t promote healthy roots, but bottom watering promotes even spread and growth towards the base of the pot, which is what’s most natural to plants.
- Fertilization. You can bottom feed plants, but this process is easier with top watering.
How Long Should You Bottom Water Plants?
This depends on the plant's size and how thirsty they are. Small plants drink faster than bigger ones, and drier plants need longer to satisfy themselves. Let them sit there until the soil is moist just below the surface to ensure they're done.
How Often Should You Bottom Water Plants?
This will depend on each plant’s needs, time of the year, and overall growing conditions. But don’t panic; plants will usually show you in some way when they’re thirsty, and you can always check for dry soil, especially if several layers are dry, a clear indication of a lack of water.
Can We Overwater a Plant by Watering From the Bottom?
Yes, definitely. Keeping a plant in water for longer than it needs will lead to overwatering. Although it is a controlled method and has a reduced risk compared with top water, it can still happen. Having the wrong soil type for your plant can also lead to overwatering.