Is It Better to Water Plants From the Top or Bottom?

If you are an amateur gardener, you are probably spending a lot of time on research. While researching, you’ve probably come across this dilemma – should you water a potted plant from the top, or is watering it from the bottom the right way.

Most gardeners do it in both ways – some plants will prefer watering from the top, while for others you should pour the water onto the plate.

Top Watering – What Is It, Benefits and Drawbacks

Top Watering of plant

When you are watering the plant from the top, you are directly watering the soil.

If you are using this method, you should make sure that the soil is evenly moist.

You should water the plant until you see the water in the saucer. Then remove the water from the saucer after 15-30 minutes, because many plants do not like to sit in water for long periods.

So, how good is this method?

Let’s see some pros of top watering:


1. The method is practical

With top watering, you can easily control the moisture of the soil – after watering, you can easily check whether the soil is equally saturated by sticking your finger in the soil.

Also, the excess water is removed quickly, so the plant doesn’t get damaged by sitting in water.

Plants that are growing new leaves typically need more water when thirsty.

So with top watering, you can quench their thirst quickly, and help them develop new leaves.

2. Washing away the pests

As water leaves the soil through the drainage holes, it can pick up some pests as well – eggs or larvae. So, when you empty the saucer, you will remove pests as well.

3. Getting rid of salts and other accumulated solids

If your plant needs feeding and you are frequently using fertilizers, the salts will start accumulating in the soil and on the edges of the pot.

To get rid of these deposits, soak the soil with water and let it drain out entirely, then repeat the process a few times.


This method has some cons as well – even though it can help you solve many problems, it is also a cause of a few:

1. Damaging the leaves

As said, when you are top watering, you often water the bottom leaves as well – some plants will tolerate this, while others won’t at all.

So, if you see any changes on the bottom leaves, you have probably damaged them when watering.

2. Development of pests

Even though pests can be washed away with top watering, the same method can cause their development as well.

Fungi can easily grow in soggy soil, so if this problem occurs, switch to bottom watering.

To prevent the development of pests, make sure that you aren’t overwatering – the soil should be evenly moist and when the water drains, immediately remove it from the saucer.

3. Compacted soil

This is one of the most common problems created by top watering, and it draws other problems as well.

Firstly, the water can flow so easily through compacted soil – it will start pouring down the pot’s sides.

Secondly, the roots can’t grow properly in this soil – they require air and space, so the compacted soil damages them and causes rotting.

Bottom Watering – What Is It, Benefits and Drawbacks

Plant in  a saucer

There are different ways to bottom water the plant.

Many gardeners are using the less time-consuming method – it will require a pot with holes and a saucer.

All you have to do is fill the saucer, wait until the plant soaks it up and fill it again.

The second method is just as easy but might require a bit more time.

You can fill the bath with water and place all of your houseplants in the bath. Check the soil and if it is evenly saturated, remove the plants from the bath. Do not forget to clean the bath afterward.

If you do not want to move the plants from one room to the other, and deal with bath cleaning, you can use just one big tray – or a few of them. Make sure that it is deep enough, so it can hold a good amount of water, and when the soil has soaked up the water, return the plants to their spots.

Let’s see the benefits of this method:


1. Leaves can’t get damaged in the process

Since the water is poured into the container, and the soil is soaking it up, the leaves aren’t getting damaged.

If you own a species that will suffer from wet leaves, bottom watering is the solution – they will be protected and the plant will get the water it needs for growing.

African violets and Pepermonia are examples of houseplants that grow well when bottom watered.

2. Doesn’t promote the growth of pests

Remember how certain pests are drawn to soggy soils? Well, if you bottom water, you won’t have to worry about spider mites or fungi.

3. Boosts the root’s growth

Since the water is farther from the root system, it has to work extra to reach it.

Thus, the plant develops a bigger and stronger root system.

4. It is less likely to overwater the plant

Overwatering isn’t impossible with bottom watering, it is only less likely to occur.

If you are only refilling the plate when water is no longer present in it, you won’t have to worry about overwatering.

However, if your plant is sitting in water and you are adding more to the tray, you will damage the plant.


Now, let’s talk about the cons:

1. Accumulation of solids

Without flushing (or top watering), you can’t get rid of the accumulated solids.

These salts will slowly damage the roots – it is called the burning.

So, if bottom watering works well for your plants, set a reminder to occasionally flush them – once in two months will be enough.

2. You will probably create a mess

By moving the plants from one room to another, or moving the tray from the bathroom or kitchen, to the plant will create a mess.

Either you will spill water, or disseminate soil by moving the pots. So, after you are done with bottom watering, you will have an extra chore – cleaning the floors.

3. Not practical for bigger plants

Moving the big pot with a big plant is quite difficult.

If you own a bigger plant, get the saucer, so you don’t have to move the pot.

Whether you want to buy, sell or simply reach out to other plant enthusiasts, Plantly is the right place to be!

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