How to water a plant
Plants need water! That much is obvious. How much and when? That’s definitely less obvious. Every plant has its own requirements when it comes to proper hydration. Here we will discuss:
- How often to water plants
- When to water
- How much water to use
- Ways to water a plant
- What water to choose
- Advice for popular plants
- Common problems related to watering issues
How often to water plants
How often you water a plant depends on what level of moisture it needs. Good rules of thumb? Flowering annuals dislike being too dry. Succulents like to be a bit dry. Vegetables, particularly those that are juicy like tomatoes, cucumbers, and melons, like to be kept moist and need lots of hydration. Herbs like basil, rosemary, thyme, dill, oregano, and cilantro like to dry out a little between waterings. Other herbs like more moisture.
There are also factors like the season, temperature, and the plant’s container that play a role in watering frequency. During the growing season (often the spring and summer), more hydration is required for plants to thrive. The hotter and drier the indoor climate, the more frequently you’ll need to water. And if a plant is living in a clay pot or moss basket, they’ll tend to need moisture more often, too. Watch plants in these types of containers closely, and hydrate them more often than you would otherwise.
Large containers with plenty of potting soil will hold more moisture and provide roots with ample space to soak up water. The smaller the pot, the more careful you will need to be regarding checking the soil for moisture levels.
When to water
Before watering your plants, check to see if they really need it. An easy test to determine whether your green buddy might need a drink is to stick your forefinger into the soil, about two knuckles deep. Water only if the soil is dry to the touch. Depending on the day’s climate, a pot that feels moist enough in the morning may need moisture later in the afternoon.
Another aspect to consider is the time of day. The roots of plants are more receptive to being watered in the morning and the evening, rather than midday. Morning is best, since watering in the evening can allow water to sit on the leaves overnight – which can encourage fungal diseases such as powdery mildew.
How much water to use
Like the information above, how much moisture a plant requires depends on the plant itself. Most species enjoy a good, long drink. And it’s best if excess can drain through holes in the bottom of the planter. Since the roots usually reside towards the bottom of its container, a good drenching ensures that liquid will reach the roots.
This isn’t a hard and fast rule, though – because the amount required depends on the plant. As an example, succulents and cacti can actually die from too much water. Sometimes a spoonful is too much!
What is pretty universal is that plants should not sit in water unless they are bog plants. We recommend that containers have drainage holes and that plant trays be emptied of excess water. Not only can soaking in water cause root rot, it can kill plants.
Ways to water a plant
Some easy-to-use techniques include:
- Water over the soil, rather than over the plant itself. Use a long-necked watering can to water at the soil level – without wetting the leaves. For plants that prefer long drinks, add water until it comes through the drainage holes. For plants that prefer dry conditions, use smaller amounts of water. Remember, a spoonful will do! Don’t let plants sit in water. Empty drainage plates of excess water.
- Certain species prefer water baths. Submerge their pot in lukewarm water, until it reaches the stem. Lift the pot out once water bubbles stop emerging.
- Other plants prefer bottom watering. Place your potted plant in a sink or tub with a few inches of water in it and allow water to be absorbed through the planter’s drainage holes.
What water to choose
Some plants cannot tolerate chlorinated tap water, while others struggle with soft water. Use the purest water you can find, such as rainwater, water that has been dechlorinated, or reverse osmosis water. Although distilled water will not damage your plants, it can cause them to grow slower than plants watered with rainwater or bottled spring water. It can happen because spring water contains natural minerals and provides your green friends with essential nutrients.
Room-temperature liquid is preferable to either warm or cold water. Just refill your watering can after the next session and leave it until the next time. In this way, it will have plenty of time to reach the ideal temperature. Keep in mind that a plant can be shocked by both very hot and very cold water.
Advice for popular plants
Before watering your plants, check the ‘watering’ section of their listing in the Blossom app. Each plant has specific moisture needs. You can get a general idea of what succulents, cacti, and ferns like by looking at the list below.
Water succulents more in the summer than during the other seasons. Let the potting mix dry between waterings, but be sure not to underwater the plants. When they go dormant in the winter, cut back on watering to once every other month.
When your cactus is actively growing and blooming (or both) in the spring and summer, water it thoroughly whenever the compost begins to dry. Watering should be reduced to a minimum during the winter rest season. Hydrate your cactus only when it starts to shrivel.
During periods without rains, water ferns regularly and don't let the soil dry out completely. A two-inch-thick layer of mulch around the roots can help keep them cool and damp. When grown indoors, water your ferns slightly every day.