Guide To Watering Indoor Plants Properly

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Whether you tend to overwater out of enthusiasm or are too occupied to attend to your plants regularly, you must learn when and how to water them. Knowing this guide is crucial to prevent potential issues or, worse yet, the death of your plant.

The fact that you’re bringing plants into your home shows that you value these green friends. So, let’s make sure they’re taken care of.

Factors to Consider Before Watering Your Plants

potted succulents and a watering can

Different types of plants, different watering schedules

While convenient, a more than one-size-fits-all watering schedule is needed for houseplants’ variable needs. Succulents and cacti store water in stems and leaves, thriving with infrequent or missed watering. Meanwhile, plants like peace lilies and calathea require consistently moist soil and wilt without enough water. 

The nerve plant ( fittonia )  is the most dramatic plant without water I’ve watched. It will plump back up in a few minutes once it tastes water due to the almost dry soil.

If you’re new to plant parenting, learn when to water instead of overdoing it out of excitement. This is a common mistake novice gardeners, including myself, make. I’ve lost countless plants by being too eager to water when I was just starting. Hey, who did learn the first time, right?

Types of pots used matter

Pots from porous materials like terracotta pots allow water to evaporate through the sides. Plants in these pots need more frequent watering. 

Pots made from glazed ceramics or plastic are less porous. They retain moisture longer, so plants need less frequent watering. The pot’s size also matters – smaller pots hold less soil and dry out faster. 

Considering factors like material and size when choosing pots helps ensure proper watering for indoor plants.

Indoor and Outdoor Plants

Outdoor plants need less frequent watering than indoor plants. Outdoor plants get water from rain and have more extensive root systems to absorb moisture. Indoor plants rely solely on manual watering, so their soil dries out faster, requiring more watering than outdoor plants.

How To Water Your Indoor Plants Correctly

Water Thoroughly

watering potted plant

Check the soil by touching it. If the soil is completely dried, it’s time to water the plant. When watering, thoroughly soak the soil until water drains from the bottom of the pot into the saucer below. 

Don’t allow the pot to sit in standing water for extended periods, as this can lead to root rot. Pour out any excess water from the saucer after watering.

Don’t Worry About Overwatering

Contrary to popular belief, overwatering does not directly kill plants through root rot. The real culprit is poor drainage from an inappropriate pot and soil mix. If the pot lacks adequate holes and the soil does not drain well, excess water will saturate the roots, leading to rot. 

However, with porous, fast-draining soil in a pot with drainage holes, any excess water will flow out, preventing the oversaturated conditions that cause root rot.

Water the Soil for Potted Plants, Not the leaves

While plant leaves and stems have pores that absorb water during photosynthesis, indoor potted plants do not exist in rainforests. When caring for houseplants, it is best to water the soil directly rather than the leaves. 

watering the soil of the plant

Though leaves and stems can take in some moisture, drenching the leaves can easily lead to issues like mold, fungus, and rot due to the excess hydration. Instead, focus watering efforts at the soil level. 

This allows indoor plants to absorb the water they need through the roots and avoids potential problems from oversaturating the leaves.

When to Water Your Indoor Plants

The general rule is to water plants when the topsoil has dried out. However, some plants, like succulents and cacti, store water in their stems and leaves. For these plants, let the topsoil dry out completely, then check moisture more deeply in the soil by sticking your finger in before watering again. 

Cacti are adapted to thrive in desert climates, so they do not need frequent watering, even if the topsoil is dry. Other plants like philodendrons may be more forgiving if you miss a watering, but don’t make it a habit. Tropical plants like calathea need consistently moist, but not soggy, soil. 

Check these plants daily and water when the topsoil has dried out. The takeaway is that watering needs vary by plant. Learn your plant’s needs by checking soil moisture before watering, not just surface dryness.

Best Water for Indoor Plants

Rainwater is ideal for watering indoor and outdoor plants, as it has been throughout history. However, when rainwater is scarce, tap water can be used as long as it is left to sit for 24 hours first. This allows time for compounds like chlorine and fluoride to dissipate. 

Do not use softened water, as sodium can accumulate in the soil over time. High sodium levels cause leaf wilting and poor growth in potted plants. Letting tap water sit before use allows the chlorine to evaporate while avoiding the risks of excess sodium from softened water

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