How to Water Houseplants | Water Your Plants the Right Way

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This post is all about how to water houseplants. Learn how to water your plants the right way.

how to water houseplants

Have you ever wondered if you’re watering your plants properly? Have you ever heard someone say to “thoroughly” water your plants? What does that even mean?

If you’ve asked yourself any of these questions, then chances are you might be doing it wrong. But don’t worry! Read this post to the end, learn how to water your houseplants, and change your watering ways!

But First, Decide When To Water

Deciding when to water your plants is crucial. Some plants need to dry out completely. Some need the top inches of soil to dry out. And, some plants like their soil to stay slightly moist.

First find out what your specific plant needs in terms of soil moisture. You can refer to our specific plant guides for moisture requirements.

To test soil moisture, we recommend 3 different ways to do this:

  1. Use a soil moisture meter. These are easy to find online.
  2. Do the Chopstick Test. Insert a wooden chopstick or dowel into the top 2 inches of soil. If the chopstick comes out dry and clean, it’s time to water. If there’s any moisture or soil sticking to the stick, then wait to water.
  3. Finger test. Insert your finger into the top 2 inches of soil. If you feel any moisture whatsoever, wait to water.
how to water houseplants
Using a soil moisture meter to decide when it’s time to water.

How to Water Houseplants – What kind of water should I use?

Yes, the kind of water you use matters when it comes to optimal health of your plant.

Rain Water

The best kind of water for aroids is rain water. Aroids are tropical plants that grow in rainforests, so it makes sense that rain water is the best for them. If you have the luxury of being able to collect rain water in a rain barrel, then you’re all set. If, however, you don’t have room for a rain barrel in your yard or live in an apartment or condo, then that is okay.

Distilled or Reverse Osmosis Water

The next best water for your houseplants is distilled water or reverse osmosis water. Distilled water does not contain any minerals such as chlorine and fluoride. So that means it is the second best option for your houseplants after rain water. In fact, some Calatheas (prayer plants) demand distilled water for best looking leaves. If you have a Calathea and notice its leaf tips are brown, it’s asking for distilled water, please! If you have a reverse osmosis system in place at your home, then you can use the water straight from your tap.

Does tap water need to sit overnight?

In the past, it has been suggested to let tap water sit overnight in order to allow chlorine and fluoride to dissipate from the water. However, nowadays, water treatment plants use chemicals that no longer dissipate, making that suggestion useless. The only benefit to allowing tap water to sit overnight is that it will be at room temperature when you’re ready to water your plants. And that is important. Don’t use water that is too cold or too hot as these extreme temperatures may shock your plant.

What if I can’t provide special water for my plants?

Is providing rain water or distilled water going to make or break your plant? Probably not, in most cases. But using the best kind of water for your plant will help it grow its best. On the other hand, don’t let this overwhelm you either. Just do and provide what you are able to for your plant. Regular tap water should be fine for most plants. Keep in mind that if your plant is not looking its best, you can try to switch up your water source to see if that will help it out.

How to Properly Water Houseplants

Now that you’ve decided it’s time to water and what water source you will be using (rain, distilled or tap), let’s get down to how to water your houseplants – the right way.

Location

The next thing you’ll need to do is find the best location to water your plants. If you have a yard and will be using tap water, choose a closest shady area to your garden hose. You will need to let your houseplants drain before bringing them back inside, so make you’re in an area that won’t receive direct sunlight while it’s draining.

If you will be watering your plants in your bathroom tub, a handheld shower head will help out quite a bit. Also make sure to have a mesh drain cover to catch runaway soil pieces, as these could eventually clog your drain.

If you will be using a watering can, fill it up and make sure that the water is at room temperature. Make sure to add enough water to your watering can because you’ll be using quite a bit in order to water your plants thoroughly.

How to Thoroughly Water Houseplants

You may have heard or read that plants need to be watered ‘thoroughly’. But what does that even mean? If I get the soil evenly wet, shouldn’t that be enough? While wetting the soil evenly may keep your plant alive for some time, it’s unfortunately, not enough to keep your plant healthy in the long run.

To water your houseplant thoroughly, place your hose or watering can spout directly above the soil and water. Make sure to rotate the plant pot and get water all soil areas. In other words, don’t simply water one side of the soil and expect the water to disperse itself evenly. Get in there as much as you can, and water every square inch of soil you possibly can.

The other part of watering ‘thoroughly’ is to allow water to flow out of the drainage holes for a several seconds. This helps to flush out any build up of salts and minerals in the soil.

Water running through the soil and out the drainage holes.

Drainage is Key

Good drainage encompasses these few factors:

Pot size. Choose the proper size pot for your plant size. If you have a small plant, use a small pot. This will ensure that there isn’t too much soil surrounding the plant’s roots, which could lead to root rot.

Drainage holes. The pot you choose for your plant should have several drainage holes to allow water to drain out to prevent root rot.

Well-draining soil. The soil you use for your houseplants, especially aroids, should be chunky and well-draining. Plant roots do not like to sit in moisture for too long, so providing a well-draining soil is important for your plant’s health. Try our recipe for the best well-draining aroid soil mix.

Let excess water drain out. After you’ve thoroughly and evenly watered your houseplant, allow excess water to drain out of the pot. You can do this by tilting the pot slightly on its side to allow water to drain out of the drainage holes. You can also let the plant sit on a rack for a couple of hours to let extra water drain out. After draining, you can return your plant to it’s cache pot or saucer. The goal is to never let your plant sit in water for prolonged periods of time.

Add pebbles or marble nuggets to bottom of cache pot. There have been several instances where this has saved my plants. Adding marble nuggets to the bottom of your cache pot will allow any excess water to sit below the bottom of the nursery pot, thus keep your plant’s roots from drowning in water.

how to water houseplants tips
Fill bottom of cache pot with pebbles or marble nuggets to keep extra water drainage away from plant roots.

More Tips on How to Water Houseplants

Time of Day

The best time to water houseplants is in the morning. This will give your plants’ soil enough time to dry out before nightfall.

Don’t water the leaves

Water the soil during your plants regular watering sessions. Sometimes it’s easier said than done, but try to keep water away from the leaves. Point your hose or watering can spout directly at the soil to avoid the leaves. This will help you prevent fungal infections and damage to your plant. However, an occasional spray down of the entire plant may help keep some pests away. Just make sure your particular plant is okay with getting their leaves wet. Some begonias don’t like water on their textured leaves.

Now that you’ve made it to the end of this post, you can be confident that you now know how to water your houseplants. Best of luck!

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