Growing indoor plants is fun, but watering them well can sometimes be a headache: how do you know when it’s time to water indoor plants? How to avoid overwatering that harms the roots? Which water to use? Is it better to water your plants with a watering can or to bathe them?

Watering houseplants properly is an art, which you can learn from this practical sheet.

1. Give your indoor plants suitable pots

Drainage holes in plants pot

Before you even think about watering a houseplant, give your full attention to the pot you’re growing it in:

  • Preferably choose a terracotta pot, and imperatively a pot pierced with a hole through which the excess water can drain.
  • Line the bottom of the pot with a draining layer (clay balls or gravel), to avoid stagnant water, which is harmful to the roots.
  • Place a saucer under each pot.
  • Quick Tip: to space the waterings a bit, grow your plants in large pots, in which the soil dries less quickly.

2. Best Water for Indoor Plants

  • If you can collect rainwater, it is great for watering your plants.
  • If you are using tap water, it is best to let it sit for a few hours to allow the chlorine to evaporate.
  • In most cases, water your plants with water at room temperature, to prevent them from thermal shock.

3. How Often to Water Indoor Plants

You should monitor your indoor plants and water when they need it, rather than on a schedule. There are several factors that affect the frequency of watering like size and type of pot, the size and type of plant, temperature, humidity and rate of growth.

Living in a small amount of soil that dries out quickly, houseplants need regular watering. However, too much watering is almost more harmful than a lack of water: too much humidity promotes the appearance of fungi that can rot the roots.

Watering Indoor Plants

Always let the soil dry out between 2 waterings

  • As a general rule, water only when the soil is dry on the surface . Touch the soil with your finger: even if you press hard, you should not detect water.
  • Also observe the plant: if the leaves lose their hold, or even wilt slightly, it is necessary to water.

Adapt the frequency of watering to the season

Most houseplants should be watered year-round, but not at the same frequency all year round.

  • Space out the waterings in autumn-winter , a period of vegetative rest: for example, a plant that does well from one watering per week in summer will generally be satisfied with one watering every two weeks in winter.
  • Increase watering in very hot weather  : your plant, used to one watering per week, may need 2 in the middle of summer, in very hot weather: here again, rely on the dryness of the substrate.

Adapt the frequency of watering to the type of plants

  • Plants with very fine foliage generally need to be watered more often.
  • On the other hand, plants with thick, fleshy, waxy leaves are content with more spaced watering.
  • Special case of succulents and cacti: from November to February, do not water your cacti at all and, with some exceptions, do not water your succulents either.

4. Best Watering Can for Indoor Plants

Choose a watering can with a long spout. A watering can with a long spout gives you the best control for directing water all around the soil, while avoiding wetting the leaves. For many plants, wet leaves invite fungus.

5. Best Way to Water House Plants

Water from above, with a watering can

how to water indoor plants

Most of the time, we water the plants from above, with a watering can:

  • Choose a watering can for houseplants, with a fine neck, allowing you to moisten the soil without watering the foliage.
  • Water the plant slowly, to give the soil time to soak up.
  • If the soil is very dry, water several times.
  • Stop watering when water begins to flow into the saucer.
  • Wait a while and empty the saucer to avoid any excess moisture that could cause the roots to rot.
  • Check the saucer again half an hour later.

Water from below, by drenching

Bottom Watering

Another way to water potted plants is to soak them in water (drenching):

  • Soak your plants in a basin of water for at least 15 minutes, until the soil is thoroughly soaked, to the surface .
  • Place the plant back on its saucer.
  • Check after some time that the saucer is not filled with water: if necessary, empty it.

This watering technique is particularly suitable:

  • When the soil is very dry, peeling off from the pot.
  • For plants with downy foliage, which cannot stand a drop of water on it ( cyclamen , saintpaulias, etc.) and for plants with waxy foliage (certain carnivorous plants).

6. What Happens When You Overwater a Plant

Yellow Falling Leaves: If the plant has too much water and then more than it can transpire, it’s gonna turn yellow. You’re going to lose a few leaves.

If the leaves of your plant are turning yellow and the new ones are falling off you must check the soil and recall how often you have watered your plant. It happens due to moisture stress. So the first indication of overwatering is yellowing leaves or yellow spots.

However, keep in mind that it is normal for plants to shed a leaf. Usually, it’s the oldest leaf when that leaf has been tired because you know leaves actually have a lifespan too. So these leaves will fall naturally.

Brown leaves: If the leaves are turning brown please check the soil. It may happen due to overwatering. Lift up the pot to check the drainage hole and check the soil. If the soil is wet, control your way of watering your plant and only water when the soil is dry.

Edema: If the plant has absorbed more water than it needs, it can cause the plant cells to expand and stress. Often these cells are filled to the point of rupturing. Edema is the type of abnormal water retention in the plant. If you see any such sign in your leaves, please stop watering your plant. Change the plant into a new pot and change the soil as well.

Root Rot: Overwatering affects the root badly. When the soil is dense it limits the ability of the root to breathe. They will then be drawn and begin to rot. It will turn the root grey and slimy and will eventually cause the plant to wilt. 

In this case, you can remove the soil and you should not grow any other plant in the same soil otherwise the soil will rot the new plant as well.

The existing plant can be repotted again. Just dry the roots for one day after removing them from the pot. Put the plant in a shaded area and check for the roots. If the roots are brown or smell like rotting prune them off and repot the plant in a new container.

Wet and Wilting: If your plant looks green, well-watered and still struggling then you may have overwatered it. Insert your finger in the soil for about 2 inches down, you will be able to make it out

that the soil is wet. 

If the soil is wet it means your plant is struggling with overwater and if the soil is dry then please give water to your plant or give some fertilizer.

Fungus or Mold: If you’ve overwatered, Fungus or Mold can grow directly on top of the soil. When you have too much water in your soil and there’s organic material in your soil for sure because plants do need organic material to live and then this organic material will promote bacteria and fungus especially in the presence of water.

So when you have a lot of water sitting in a pot for a very long time you’re probably going to have an infection.

Remember to Aerate Your Soil

Since our loving indoor plants don’t have the benefit of worms and other creatures to aerate the soil, it’s our job to poke some holes in the soil from time to time. This allows the water gets to where it needs to go.

So, how to aerate your soil? Using a chopstick or stick of similar size, poke the chopstick deep into the soil a few times. Don’t worry if you snap a few roots. Then water your plant. Repeat the process every few times you water your plants.

This helps ensure even moisture distribution, break up dry pockets of soil and get airflow to the roots,” 

Frequently Asked Questions About Watering Indoor Plants

When to increase or decrease watering?

Increase watering when your plant:
1. is in the growth period (spring-summer-autumn),
2. has buds or is in bloom,
3. has very fine foliage,
4. is in a small jar.

Reduce watering when your plant:
1. is in a period of plant rest (winter),
2. has thick, waxy leaves and fleshy roots.

Do plants like to be misted?

Some indoor plants love mist, others not so much. Misting plants is a very simple and effective way to boost humidity. Because popular indoor plants hail from jungles with moist air and do well when the humidity is between 30 to 40 per cent.
But Do not mist plants with fuzzy leaves, like African violets and piggyback plants (Tolmiea) and also don’t mist plants that don’t require a lot of moisture, like succulents, dragon trees (Draceana marginata), spider plants, fiddle leaf fig (Ficus lyrata), yucca, pothos, and ponytail plant (Beaucarnea recurvata).

When is the best time to water indoor plants?

The best time to water your plants is in the morning or evening. Watering in the morning is actually preferable to evening watering as the plant gets a lot of time to dry before the sun goes down. At night, water tends to rest in the potting soil, around the roots, and on the foliage, which encourages fungal growth, rot and insects

Should you water your houseplants from top or bottom?

The bottom watering method keeps the plant soil uniformly moist so the entire root structure gets watered, however, the bottom line to this is salt build up over time. The top watering method encourages the presence of fungus and gnats while the water can be drained out of the soil, not being able to reach the entire root structure. However, using both methods together can eliminate these problems.

What houseplants need less water

Snake plant, Ponytail palm, Aloe, Pothos, ZZ plant, Jade plant, Spider plant, Orchids. Almost all types of Cactus & Succulents are drought tolerant indoor plants. But before watering any indoor plant, check the soil with your finger, stick or moisture meter.

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