How many of your plants have been killed by improper watering? If none, you passed the test for a plant parent certification. Otherwise, if dozens have got drowned or dehydrated, you are not alone! Dehydration is one of the primary murderers of our poor green companion. While watering could be done even with your eyes shut, just how often to water indoor plants, and how much water should you splash each time?
To water or not to water, that is the question! To learn more about the unending narrative of this tricky plant maintenance routine, keep reading as we explain the basics and provide tips on adequately watering your lovely houseplants.
How to Check If the Watering Is Needed?
While various elements may slow down or speed up the rate of the soil's drying, the subsequent regular check-ups should help you determine how often to water indoor plants:
- Dry topsoil. The soil will appear lighter when it is a bit dry. Conversely, slightly wet surfaces appear darker because they absorb most light rather than reflect it. This method is one of the easiest, as you can check it visually or with your finger.
- Lightweight pot. When pots feel less heavy, the water has presumably evaporated or absorbed. A piece of knowledge on your plant's weight before and after requires a bit of experience and muscle memory. If unsure, you can accurately determine the plant's mass with a weighing scale!
- Stick method. Published on many websites, the technique employs poking a chopstick or any rod a few inches (2-3 cm) down the soil. In principle, this stick method should come out clean if dry or will have a few bits of dirt if still wet. This is especially useful for new plant parents who fear that their young green companion gets inadequate water.
- Calendar method. As the name implies, you will follow a strict watering schedule with a few days intervals. Worry not about overwatering because this will guarantee uniform and consistent hydration. If you have stable conditions at home, the calendar method should help determine how often to water house plants.
- Moisture meter. If you are a bit extra with plant parenting, try installing soil moisture meters! This precision agriculture-based tool can help you accurately measure the medium's wetness. Just do not forget to check the readings if your plant needs some splashing.
- Plant parent instinct. Ever wondered why even the above tactics won't work? Most likely, because other unforeseen factors might have influenced the soil's moisture. As a passionate home botanist, you must be a keen observer of what could have been wrong and try to be more fluid or versatile with watering if you feel that plant needs to.
How Often to Water Indoor Plants?
Seasons come and go, and so do your houseplants’ watering regime, such as the following:
Spring is marked by a gradual increase in temperature that stimulates new buds to grow. For this reason, most plants will demand more watering but ensure the soil surface appears dry before thoroughly watering it. Weekly irrigation should work in many indoor plants.
With the arrival of the summer heat, plants get more thirsty, too, like humans. You might need to double the frequency and volume on this occasion, such as every 3-5 days. For desert plants that are a bit drought resistant, please also do not forget to give them a drink at least 1-2 times
In general, plants tend to require less water in fall than in summer. However, as the fall season sometimes comes late with climate change, always keep an eye on the soil’s moisture, ensuring it is hydrated for at least a week if it appears damp or slightly dry.
The cold season will make the plant clutch its roots and close some of its stomates (water vapor outlet in plants). Hence, most tropical plants need the least amount of water in winter. Drench lukewarm water every 7-10 days or if you feel your green companion is thirsty.
How Much Water Does a Plant Need?
After deciphering the seasonal water requirements, let’s get into their daily and weekly needs.
To answer the question of how much water does a plant need per day, it does not need much. Bigger plants tend to be more thirsty with their intensive roots, and contrastingly, smaller plants need a slight drip. For average-sized pots with tropical plants, daily watering is unnecessary (except if it is grown outdoors under the full sun) but ensures it keeps moist throughout the week. Pour water until you see it flows from the bottom holes.
Weekly watering is usually the most followed method, for it commonly allows the soil to dry out. When watering, let the excess run through the drainage holes to hydrate the deep roots. This is recommended for plants grown in large pots where the underground parts have reached the bottom area.
Tips on How to Water Indoor Plants Without Making a Mess
Sometimes, it is not about how often do you water house plants, but changing your watering habits can make a difference, such as the following tips:
- Water until the water flows out from the bottom holes. As previously mentioned, this guarantees that the whole root system gets its watering demand.
- Bottom watering is recommended for dehydrated plants. Parched soil often has a hydrophobic layer and would cause the water to just drench on the pot walls.
- Always check the soil with a finger or use a moisture meter to prevent overwatering.
- Use pots with bottom holes. Overwatering usually occurs with persistently wet pot media due to the absence of drains. Hence, a good strategy is to always grow your plants in perforated pots.
- Empty the saucer. Always discard the excess water from the catch basin to prevent the backflow of water, which is one of the primary causes of root rot.
- Get to know your plant. The watering intuition will develop as you become acquainted with your plant better with time. Often, tropical plants will need constantly wet ground, while succulents are more forgiving.
3 Techniques to Water Your Plant from Below
Watering plants from below rejects the typical question for newbies on how much water do plants need, as you only need to soak it for a few minutes, such as the following:
- Tray method. Simply fill a shallow to medium-deep tray with water. Grab your dehydrated plant and place it over the water-filled basin. Allow the greenie to sit for a few minutes until the moisture has seeped through the medium. You can check it by poking the topsoil with a finger to see if it is already wet.
- Immersion method. It might sound shocking, but this method is fool-proof and is popularized by many plant influencers. It works for many plants but is more beneficial to orchids, cacti, and succulents. Submerge the entire pot in a bucket and pull it out once the bubbles are gone, indicating that the large air pores have been filled with water. Drench it for a few minutes before putting it back in the plant’s decorative pot.
- Self-watering pots. A less popular bottom watering is a self-watering pot which is based on the capillary action of the plant dirt. Just be sure to fill the reservoir up to the indicated line to ensure the water flow is not cut.
Plants get overwatered either with recurrent watering even if the soil is still dry or the absence of drainage holes. However, it rarely happens if you allow parched soil to have a deep and thorough watering. So do not be afraid about giving an overflowing amount of water. The medium has a clear understanding of how much it will retain, which is safe for plants if potholes are present. In the case that you suspect an overwatered plant, one immediate first aid is to drill some holes or replant it to a new pot.
Did you know that annual or bi-annual repotting of plants can also help reduce the risk of overwatering? As the soil medium becomes old, the roots become dense and compact, which could reduce the water absorption efficiency of the roots. In addition, tiny organic particles get decomposed and may become smaller and smaller in size, which might be the cause of compaction (i.e., orchids and succulents). Hence, your plant would be happy with regular refreshments of its medium.
Six Tips For Watering Your Garden
Outdoor plants in your garden have different watering requirements than indoor plants. Hence it is crucial to follow the tips below to provide adequate watering:
- Water your plant an inch or 2.5 cm. This general rule refers to the volume of water your plant should get. It is the actual displacement of water from the top multiplied by an approximate area of a square foot (30 x 30 cm). To simplify it, your plant should get at least half a gallon (2.25 liters) weekly in order to meet its needs.
- Familiarize the plants that are thirsty and not. Desert plants (cacti and succulents) and semi-arid herbs (lavenders, aromatic herbs) generally need less water than other typical garden plants once they have been established.
- Drench the water directly into the roots. Pouring the water as close to the stem as possible will reduce water splashes, soil erosion, and diseases. Also, it makes watering more efficient as the moisture is less likely to evaporate and conserves more in the ground.
- Water the established plants less. Most often, established plants have already sent their roots down into the ground, which can independently source out water. Hence, cut back the watering after your newly-transplanted plants appear to have acclimated into the new soil.
- Irrigate sandy soils daily. If you have sandy soil, try watering it daily or every other day to compensate for the water loss through gravity. However, keep in mind that this would only apply to thirsty plants and not to sandy-loving desert plants.
How to Tell If a Plant Is Overwatered or Underwatered?
While other variables and symptoms should be considered, the leaves will give a hint. Droopy plants with dry tips signal dehydration. Similarly, overwatered ones also show dry tips but will appear water-soaked.
Is Too Much Water Bad for Indoor Plants?
Absolutely. Excessive watering can show some underwatering symptoms, but perhaps one of the most fatal ones is the asphyxiation of the roots. If you are unlucky, the water-saturated medium favors the attack of root rot pathogens.
Why Do Indoor Plants Get Brown Tips?
Indoor plants typically get brown tips because of improper watering, either done excessively or insufficiently. However, other factors such as stress, diseases like rotting, lack of humidity, and sunshine may also result in leaf tip browning.