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How To Water Your Houseplants: The Definitive Tutorial

Watering problems are the main cause of unhealthy houseplants – without the right amount of water, a houseplant will die. Understanding how to water your plants is essential if you want to see them growing and thriving.

Follow these helpful tips to learn how to water your plants the right way.

Know Your Plant's Water Preferences

Each houseplant has different watering needs – you always need to educate yourself on the plant you have or are thinking of buying.

You will get to know your plant with time and experience. You have to experiment, try different solutions, and then pay close attention to your plant's reactions.

Some plants, such as cacti, succulents and several others species (Aloe Vera, Echeveria, Snake Plant, Dumb Cane, Rubber Plant, etc.) like have their soil dry most of the time. They are easier to care for, and an excellent choice for beginners.

On the other hand, other plants (Crispy Wave, African Violets, and Frosty Fern are one of those) need moist soil, and should never dry out.

Some other plants need only the top inch of the soil to dry out in between waterings: Pilea Peperomioides, Cyclamens, Anthurium, and Kalanchoe are some examples.

Observe Your Plant And Interact With It

Although it may be easiest to water on a set routine, plants are not likely to thrive when watered this way. Rather than watering on a schedule, let the plant decide when it's the best time for some water.

Check the soil surface regularly, and learn how often it tends to dry out.

Try sticking a finger or a toothpick in the soil: if the soil sticks to it, it's moist.

On the other hand, if there is a visible gap between the soil and the edge of the pot, it means all the water evaporated, and the soil has completely dried out.

If you prefer, you can consider buying a moisture meter: it will be extremely helpful and tell you each time your plant needs water.

Keep in mind that leaves can be a good indication of both under and overwatering. For example, if the leaves seem to be hanging limp, this often means the plant needs water.

Pay Attention To The Type Of Water You Use

If you use a specific type of water for a while and your plant seems to be suffering, it’s probably time to make a change.

Keep in mind that not all plants can handle the chlorine and fluoride contained in city water, and tap water may be too alkaline.

In this case, you can fill an open container and let the water sit for about a day it will allow the chemicals to evaporate.

Even better, you can consider placing a container outside to catch rainwater, (don't choose this option if you live somewhere that has acid rain). Melted snow is also a good option.

Bottled water is also a good option, although this solution may be too costly.

In any case, you should always use lukewarm water.

To help you with this, you can fill your watering can in advance and let it sit until the next time you water. In this way, the water will have the time to warm up to room temperature.

Always Use Pots With Drainage Holes

Overwatering and bad drainage can easily kill your plants – always choose containers that allow your plant to drain.

Remember that pots without a drainage hole will cause water to stagnate at the bottom of the pot, and the roots will likely rot if soaked for too long.

If you really like a pot without holes, you can consider drilling your own holes into the bottom.

Place A Drainage Pan Under The Pot

You can either purchase a plastic pan specifically designed for plants or use any plates or saucers.

Make sure to empty the drainage pan within a half hour or so after each watering. If you forget to drain the pan, the plant will be soaking in too much water.

Try Different Methods And See What Works Best

Watering Can Method

Pour water from above making sure you are covering the whole surface of the soil, and let the water to filter through the pot by gravity.

Use this method if your plant is happy for its foliage to be wet; most tropical plants and ferns are in this category.

Bottom Watering Method

Place the plant in a drip tray about 2cm (3⁄4in) deep, and fill the tray up. Leave the plant there for 20 minutes – eventually, the water will be drawn up into the dry root ball. Do it until no more water is drawn up, then remove and drain.

Use this method for plants that do not like wet leaves or stems, such as African violets, or if the foliage is covering the soil.

Keep in mind that watering from underneath is usually more homogeneous, less prone to overwatering, and won't drain nutrients out. Also, you can be sure that the water will actually get to the roots.

Immersion Method

Fill either a large container, the sink or the bathtub, and position your plant so that the water level touches the top of the pot.

Bubbles will appear on the surface – once they stop (after a minute or so), you can remove the pot from the water.

This method will allow you to water multiple plants in the same water, but it carries a risk of spreading diseases or pests – make sure all your plants are healthy or ensure to water the damaged plant as the last one.

Self-watering pot

Self-watering pots are incredibly useful and time-saving.

You won't have to worry about overwatering or underwatering anymore – the plant will do it all for itself, drawing up water when it needs it.

You will only need to refill the water reservoir before it's empty.

  • Most houseplants go to a dormant stage during the winter – your plant won't need to be watered as often during the cold season.

  • Mornings are the best time to water your plants. Watering at night can cause your plant to develop diseases since it won't have time to dry out before the temperature cools.

  • Water more often during the summer.

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