Inside: Are you wondering what’s the correct way to water your houseplant? Are you struggling with trying to figure out if you’re overwatering? Find out the exact process to help you determine when you should water your houseplants.
Whoever would have thought you could be killing your plants by giving them a nice drink of water. Well, that’s exactly what you’re doing when you overwater your plants.
Plant parenthood (or plant keeping) is a pretty easy hobby. How hard can it be to keep a plant alive?
Technically, it’s not that difficult however, the number one enemy and destructor of your plant posse, is you and the way you water your houseplants.
I’m not saying you’re a bad plant parent. What I’m saying is most new plant parents will kill their plant babies with too much love (aka, overwatering).
How many times a week should you water your houseplants
Just like every other breathing entity in the world, every human, animal, and insect have different feeding requirements. Houseplants are no different.
When you think about the watering needs of your houseplant, you first have to determine each plant’s specific needs, the temperature of your home, and the location in your house, before you can figure out when you should water your houseplants.
The key to successful watering is to try to give your plant the same moisture level as it would get if it was in its natural habitat.
Tropical plants (which most houseplants are), and succulents both have different requirements that need to be considered when you determine your watering schedule.
You should get into the habit of looking at your plants daily and checking the soil every few days or so.
Types of houseplants
Classifying your houseplants isn’t a requirement when it comes to watering your plants; however, it may make the watering process easier.
Examples of tropical houseplants would be, Chinese Evergreen, Philodendron, Pothos, Alocasia, and Arrowheads.
Tropical houseplants tend to have thin leaves and thin stems.
Tropical houseplants have different watering requirements than succulents, and these tend to be a tad more finicky when it comes to being watered.
Most tropical houseplants like to be watered when the top 1-1/2 to 2 inches of soil is dry.
Examples of succulents – Echeveria, Haworthia, Aloe Vera, Jade Plant, Snake Plant (Sansevieria, now classified as a dracaena), and Hoya (classified as a tropical succulent).
Succulents are characterized by having thick leaves that will hold a lot of water. Cactuses have a lot of spines with thick stems.
Depending on the temperature of your home and location, most succulents and/or cacti can be watered every 3 to 4 weeks.
My succulents and cacti get a good drenching on the first day of every month.
Houseplants that are confusing
ZZ plants and Hoya’s are two confusing species. They’re both considered “tropical succulents” which means, they’re houseplants with the watering needs of a succulent.
Listen to your plant
It’s hard to believe but your plants do tell you what they need. The thing is, you have to pay attention to what they’re saying.
Unfortunately, when some plants are thirsty they can’t scream at you, or ring a bell to tell you they need a drink, but some are so dramatic they should be given an Academy Award.
4 plants I can think of off the top of my head that like to present themselves as drama-queens and/or kings:
- Peace Lilly
- Fittonia (nerve plant)
- Polka Dot Plant
- Purple Waffle Plant
Talk about being overly dramatic. You can look at them one minute, then 20 seconds later look at them again and they’re wilted and look dead. I assure you if you give them a nice drink, within an hour they’ll be all perky again ready to say, “look at me; aren’t I beautiful”.
How to tell if your houseplant needs to be watered
The best and easiest way to check to see if your plant needs to be watered is to shove your index finger up to your knuckle into the soil. If it feels a little moist, check back again in a few days. If it feels dry, give it a good little drink.
Now, if you look at the soil and it looks very dry and it’s pulling away from the sides of the planter, your plant is severely dry and needs to be watered.
How do I know how much water to give my houseplant?
The best tip I can offer when it comes to how much water to give your houseplant is to water it until the water comes out through the drainage holes in the pot.
Now there’s a caveat here.
If the soil is too dry the water will immediately flow out of the drainage holes. This will give you a false/positive where you’re going to think you watered your plant enough when in essence, the perimeter of the soil absorbed the water but none of the water reached the roots.
The easiest way to tell if your plant has an adequate amount of water in the pot is to lift the plant. If the pot feels light or slightly heavier, it more than likely needs more water. If the pot feels a lot heavier, then it’s more than likely been watered sufficiently.
When watering your plants, you’ll want to make sure the soil is moist and not wet.
PEACHY TIP: When it comes to how much water to give your plants. It’s better to underwater than to overwater. Remember, you can always add more water, but you can’t take away the water.
What’s the difference between wet soil and moist soil?
Wet soil is fully saturated soil; sort of muddy, whereas, moist soil is damp.
Some tropical houseplants love to have their “feet wet”, and others, like to dry out before wanting to be watered.
Feet wet, or wet feet is just another term for keeping the soil moist (not too wet, but moist).
How often should new plants be watered?
When you bring home your new plant, there’s a good chance it’s either been overwatered or it’s sitting in a plastic liner filled with water. Examine your plants when you bring them home and do the finger test. If it feels moist, don’t water it. If you hear or see water sloshing around; pour out the excess water.
If you’re bringing home a succulent and/or cactus and the soil is starting to pull away from the sides of the pot or the leaves are looking a little puckered, give it a good drink.
If you live in a dry, warm climate, or if it’s winter and you have your heat going, you may have to water your plants every few days. This is due to the water drying quicker in a dry environment.
How do you know if you’re overwatering your plant?
Each plant has different signs, but the most common signs of an overwatered plant are:
- Your plant looks waterlogged. It’s wilted, looks dead and the soil is wet.
- Root rot. The roots of your plant are black and if you touch them, they’ll fall off.
- Yellowing of the leaves. (This can also mean your plant isn’t getting enough water).
- Brown tips on the leaves. (This can also mean your water has too many chemicals and the plant doesn’t like it).
Can plants be watered at night?
The morning is typically the best time of the day to water your plants.
Due to the sun’s rays or supplemental light not hitting your plant at night, the rate of evaporation will slow down, causing your plant to remain moister. This will allow your plant to absorb more moisture before the sun takes it from them.
If you’re going to water your houseplants at night, try to avoid getting water on the leaves as this can cause some fungus to develop.
The key to night-time watering is to keep tabs on your houseplant. If you see they’re not experiencing any problems, then you can continue with your nighttime watering routine. If problems do arise, switch to a morning routine.
Best water for houseplants
Some houseplants are extremely temperamental (that’s right Calathea’s, I’m talking to you), and will not accept tap water. The best water you can give your houseplant would be rainwater. Unless you have a huge giant barrel, catching rainwater isn’t so easy to collect.
Every time I put my container out during a rainstorm, it gets knocked down and I may have collected a few drops. After 5 attempts, I stopped even trying.
Distilled water is another great option. If you have a lot of houseplants, this may not be cost-effective. You may want to give only your temperamental plants distilled water. Filtered water from the refrigerator is another option, but don’t give them the water directly from the fridge, as it may be too cold for them, and it can harm their root system.
If rainwater, distilled water, filtered water, or even spring water (that’s what my Calathea’s get), isn’t an option, use tap water.
Every municipal water system uses different chemicals. Your water may have a neutral pH level and your plants won’t mind the tap water.
The water where I live is extremely hard; however, all of my plants are doing well with me using tap water.
Peachy Tip: If using tap water, fill up a huge pot and boil the water for 15 minutes to remove the added chemicals. Let the water come to room temperature before watering your houseplants.
Being a plant parent is all about testing to see what works and what doesn’t work.
What are your struggles when it comes to watering your houseplants? Share with a comment.