How To Water Houseplants

How To Water Houseplants

We know that having interior greenery is good for the body and soul, but this is only true if you can keep those houseplants alive. Seeing a plant die can be stressful! Are you asking how to water houseplants so that they will grow and be happy? This post will help those who struggle with watering to keep their plants growing and thriving: the main reason that people lose their houseplants is because of improper watering. Too much, too little, or uneven moisture will kill plants.

Here are 6 tips for watering houseplants correctly, with photos below that illustrate these points.

  1. Learn to recognize when the soil in your houseplants is dry. When you see that the potting mix is dry, but before the plant wilts, water it throughly.
  2. Make sure your plants are growing in pots with drainage holes. Do not cover those holes or put rocks or other debris in the bottom if you repot your houseplants.
  3. Have a saucer under the pots so that you’re able to water the plant well. That saucer will catch all the excess water. Place pots with small, built-in saucers on larger dishes or trays.
  4. When you water, apply enough so that the entire rootball becomes saturated. Don’t give plants “a lick and a promise” with small amounts of water.
  5. Let a plant sit in a saucer that contains the runoff for a little while. After a couple of hours, remove excess water with an old towel. (If the water is less than 1/2 inch deep, just leave it in the saucer.) Most plants with roots that are kept constantly wet are prone to root-rot, but don’t let this knowledge prevent you from throughly soaking the root ball when you do water .
  6. Wait until you see the soil is dry before watering again.
These pots have built in saucers, which look attractive. But since these saucers are so small they will overflow quickly. Many people will hesitate to water a plant well if the saucer overflows, so their plants never be throughly moistened. Putting such pots on a tray or larger saucer will solve that problem. The tray (we have them in three colors) will catch the over-flow when these plants are well watered.
This is a dry Pilea. See how the soil is light in color and slightly pulled away from the pot? There is a gap between the rootball and the pot on the right, and if you picked this up it would be light in weight. When this plant is watered well, the potting mix will be dark and that gap between rootball and pot will go away as the soil swells with moisture.
This is a dry Dieffenbachia out of its pot. See how the roots fill the container? That tells you that in order to have all of these roots have the moisture needed to take up into the whole plant, this entire pot of soil needs to be well saturated. Right now, all of the soil around those roots is dry. This is a plant that needs watering.
I took the dry Dieffenbachia on the left (also called dumb cane) and the dry Pilea on the right, and gave each a little bit of water. That water ran right through the dry root balls into the plastic saucer underneath. Some people assume that when they see this the plant has gotten well watered, but taking the plants out of their pots shows what has really happened.
Here is the Pilea rootball when it was given “a lick and a promise” watering. See how some of the rootball is wet on the bottom right but the majority is still dry? Those roots in the dry area will die, and the plant is likely to lose leaves or fail.
This Dieffenbachia rootball has some dark, moist potting soil at the bottom but other areas are still dry. This is what happens when a potted plant is given a little bit of water, but not enough to help the plant thrive.
These photos show the importance of watering houseplants throughly, but letting the excess moisture drain out of the pot.
The Dieffenbachia (aka dumb cane) has now been well watered. The excess water went into the ample-sized saucer below the pot. The plant was given time to absorb as much of that water as it needed, but then the excess water was poured out so that the dumb cane’s roots don’t stay too wet and rot. Don’t let houseplants sit in deep dishes of water for more than a couple of hours.
Here is a side-by-side look at the dry, unevenly watered, and well watered rootball.
A larger, clear saucer allows the plant’s caretaker to water this snake plant well, so that the root ball will be fully and evenly saturated.
A light-weight watering can with a thin spout is most useful for watering houseplants. Those cans that come with a perforated “rose” at the end of the spout should have the rose removed for watering houseplants. Those ends are useful for watering flats of seeds or outdoor pots, however, so keep that rose handy.
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