For some people the topic of how to water houseplants is just basic knowledge, and they have it all under control. But, there's a whole other group of plant newbies that have no idea on how to do this, so that's why we're here to help! We've compiled a series of... let's call them rules on how to and how not to water our houseplants.
Rule #1: Water your plants only when they need it.
Plants will let you know when they need water (we're working on another blog this week to show how they tell you this) but the easiest sign of knowing is by touching and watching their soil. The potting mix we use for our plants lets us know just by looking at it, and this also happens with a lot of potting and soil mixes, they change colors, as simple as that. Ok, it might not be as simple as that, but here's an example:
Which of these you think needs water? If your answer was the plant on the left, then you are absolutely right! You can see the soil is dry at plain sight. Though, if you don't have another plant to compare, this might be a bit difficult to see, but that's when you touch the soil, and check if the soil feels dry or not. And with time, you'll just know by looking at the soil.
Rule #2: NEVER use a mister or spray bottle to water your plants.
This might be our rule, and some people may seem to differ, but usually it never ends well for your plant. Misters are exactly that, they are to be used only to mist the leaves of your plant when the air is too dry, to clean its leaves, and to provide higher humidity levels. But they are not a tool to use to water the soil of your plants. Even if you think you are giving it enough water with a mister or spray bottle, you are probably just giving it enough water to make the top of the soil look moist, this will not make it down the potting mix and into the roots where it is needed and will often cause under-watering. This also applies when watering small quantities of water, a few ounces of water is not enough for a 4" plant.
Rule #3: Don't be afraid to soak the soil
When watering your plants, don't be afraid to soak the soil if your plant has proper drainage in both potting mix and pot. Potting mix needs to be thoroughly saturated when watered so you make sure that the root system is getting enough water.
Rule #4: Try bottom watering
Ok, this might not be a rule, but if you're unsure on how much water you should give your houseplants, then bottom watering might work for you. This technique consists in letting your plant absorb the water it needs from the bottom up. The pot needs to have drainage holes and it needs to be placed in either a container or a sink (with closed drain) with water up to half or maybe less of the pot. Leave it there for about half an hour to an hour depending on the size of the plant, and the water will disappear, at least the water it needs. It is important to also water at the top to evenly saturate the potting mix.
Rule #5: Don't schedule your waterings.
I'm sorry, but this has to be said, there's no way plants have an exact day of the week that they need water. Stop scheduling your waterings! It will work for sometime to water your plants, let's say, once a week. But at some point your plant will need water less or more frequently. Accept that your plant is growing, the environment and temperature changes often, the light changes, and well, your plant watering requirements will change too. Some plants can be watered once a month, and this will work for them, but tropical plants, which are most of our houseplants, will need water depending on their environment. So water whenever they need it, it's ok if it's been more than a week because it has rained all week and the air is humid, and it's ok if it's been less than a week, because the heat is horrible this summer. (Read #1 again, just in case!)
Rule #6: Plants in pots without drainage wholes have completely different watering requirements.
This is a whole other blog, but basically, plants without drainage in their pots need to be watered way less frequently and very carefully. Always remember to let your plant tell you when it needs water, and in this case, do not soak the soil too much. We'll write more about this later.
Rule #7: What works for you won't necessarily work for other people, and viceversa.
Every space environment is unique, you are unique, so your plant care will be unique. The care of your plant will also vary a lot depending on where you live. For example, caring for plants here in Puerto Rico is very different than caring for plants in a house in North America. Environment is everything, and this will make your plant care unique. Read and follow tips, but use what works for you, it might be very different, and it doesn't make it wrong.
Rule #8: ONLY water plants when they need it.
As simple as that. Most plants do not last because they are under or overwatered. We're 99.9% sure these is the top two ways of houseplant deaths. Always, let your plants be.
Thank you for reading. As always, if you have any questions, we're here to help. Share in the comments what watering rule you follow that works for you, we love to read your insights!