Watering House Plants

Probably the most vital component of plant care is that of watering. Coincidently, this is also one of the trickiest parts to figure out. Most plants are often killed due to improper watering, than any other cause. Most often this comes in the form of overwatering, rather than underwatering.

Different plants have different watering requirements. However, here are some of the more common categories of soil moisture requirements.

  1. Moderately moist soil preferred: Plants falling in this category like to have slightly moist soil all the time(please note the difference between moist and soaking wet). Do not allow soil to dry out completely.
  2. Allow soil to dry between waterings: These plants can tolerate being more on the dry side. They should be watered when the top inches of soil feel dry to the touch.
  3. Keep dry: Plants in this category include cacti and succulents. These plants evolved in deserts and other dry environments. As a result, they are able to store water for long periods of time. These plants should be kept dry and watered infrequently.

A plant’s moisture needs will also vary depending on its environment. For instance, a plant in a small container will dry out faster than one in a large container, and a plant in bright light will dry out faster than one in low light. Additionally, a plant may need more water during its active growth period (usually in the spring/summer), whereas most plants will need less water during their rest period (usually during the winter). Therefore, amount and frequency of watering is dependent upon individual environmental conditions, and a plant’s particular care requirements.

Types of watering methods:

  1. Top-watering à This is the most common watering method in which the plant is watered from above. When watering this way, be sure to continue watering until water comes out the drainage holes on the bottom of the pot. This way you know that the water has penetrated all the way through the soil to the roots.
  2. Bottom watering à With the bottom watering method, fill the saucer under the plant with water. The plant’s roots will suck up water from the saucer. This method works well for plants such as African Violets.
  3. Water submersal à Sometimes, water does not soak into the plant’s soil, instead it runs down the side of the pot around the rootball. This often happens when the soil becomes severely dry. In these cases, the best way to water the plant is to submerge the whole pot in water. This way, the roots will take up water from its surroundings. Remove the plant from the water when the soil has become moist.
  4. Wick watering à For wick watering, a wick of water-absorbent fabric is used. One end of the wick is placed in the pot, near the plant’s roots, and the other end of the wick is placed in a reservoir of water. The roots take up water from the reservoir via the wick.

General watering tips:

  • Always use lukewarm, room temperature water, never use cold water
  • Never allow plants to sit in water, always empty saucers after watering plants
  • It is better to water in the morning or afternoon rather than at night
  • Get to know your plants water needs. You can tell if a plant needs to be watered by sticking your finger into the soil, or by using a moisture meter to tell when the soil gets dry. Also observing how long your plant can go before drying may also be helpful. Water only when the plant needs it.
  • Know the signs of water-induced stress. For example, if you plant suddenly becomes limp and wilted, this is a sign that your plant is not getting enough water, so check to see if the soil has dried out.

Written by Adrienne Kleintop

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