Watering your houseplants sounds easy. Yet it is something that many people struggle with, especially when it comes to doing it the right way. There are so many factors that make it difficult to know exactly when and how often to water, let alone how much each plant needs. We would therefore like to help you get a better idea of how to water your plants correctly.
How much water does my plant need?
Not all plants need the same amount of water, so if you are not sure how much yours needs, think again about where the plant is originally from. Many popular houseplants come from tropical regions where it rains regularly. These species usually have large leaves which require a lot of water to look good. Plants like these need more water than desert inhabitants like cacti and succulents, which often do better if you let the soil dry out between waterings.
The time of year can also make a difference. Many houseplants grow more in spring and summer but less in autumn and winter. If you notice that your plants grow less than usual, give them less water until they start growing more again. There are 3 requirements that you can divide houseplants into to make it a little clearer for yourself. These are the 3 requirements:
- Heavy: the potting soil of the plant must always remain moist.
- Average: the potting soil of the plant should always be allowed to dry out before you water it again. Bear in mind that the soil can be dry on top, but not underneath.
- Little: you should always allow the plant's potting soil to dry out for a while.
Check our care per family pages to be more certain about how much water your plant needs.
What factors influence the water requirements of my plant?
As already mentioned, there really are many different factors influencing the ultimate water requirements of houseplants. We would like to let you know which factors these are:
1. The size of the plant
A large houseplant will use much more water than a similar small houseplant. A houseplant with larger leaves will also consume more water.
2. Size of the pot
The larger the pot, the more potting soil and the more water it can absorb and distribute.
3. Type of soil/substrate the plant is growing in
There are special kinds of substrates that can absorb water much better, so these will ensure that a plant or actually the roots will not get too much water in one go. Check our page about the differences between potting soil and substrates to be well informed about this!
The lighter the location of the houseplant, the more water the plant will use.
Many houseplants grow less in autumn and winter. If you notice that your plants grow less than usual, they will also use less water.
6. Air conditioning and heating
Heating or air-conditioning causes the air humidity to drop, which in turn causes the houseplant to use more water. Regular spraying will also do the trick.
When should I water my houseplants?
Once you have determined your plant's watering requirements, it's time to check how moist the soil is. This way you also know if it really is time to water your plant already.
- Heavy: has the top of the potting soil become a little paler and does soil no longer stick to your finger when you stick it in the soil to check? Then it is time to water your plant. It is best to give them a good 'tropical rain' in one go, so that the entire pot is thoroughly moist, after which it will slowly dry out again.
- Average: plants that need to be dry now and then get similar water in summer to the group above. The difference is that this category is not so quick to dry out. In winter, however, it is important that the soil is dry for a few days. Then wait for +/- 3 days before watering the plant. It is best to give them a good 'tropical rain' in one go, so that the whole pot is thoroughly moist, after which it will slowly dry out again.
- Little: has the watering been done at least a week ago and has the top of the potting soil become paler? Then wait at least 3 days (or longer) in summer and 3 weeks in winter before watering the plant.
Ways of watering my houseplants
We would like to explain to you how you can water your plants. This is also possible in various ways!
The soil feels dry, so what now? You fill your watering can with water at room temperature. You might be tempted to just sprinkle a little water. This is so that you do not run the risk of over-watering. Unfortunately, this will not do your plants much good, because most of the roots are not directly on the soil surface. So it is better to give enough water and completely drench the soil around each plant. You do this by watering until the water starts to run out of the drainage holes in the pot. If you collect the extra water in a saucer, the soil around your plant will sometimes absorb a little more (the plant only does this if it needs it). Make sure that you throw away the saucer with water after about 10 minutes, otherwise the roots of your plant may start to rot and you don't want that!
The roots of a plant are at the bottom of the pot. So, watering a little every day is pointless, because the water will never reach the lower roots. This way, the plant/roots can dry out and that is a shame of course. To make sure all roots get water, try watering 'from below'. For instance by placing your inner pot (with holes in the bottom) on a saucer (or another type of basin) and then pouring water into the saucer. Your plant will then suck up the required amount of water itself. So pour water into the saucer as often as necessary until the plant no longer sucks it up. This works especially well with smaller plants and pots.
Larger plants are easier to put in a bucket or other large container with water. Make sure the water reaches about halfway up the plant's pot. After a while (wait for an hour or more) the plant will have absorbed all this water. Keep an eye on the water in the bucket or container, it should become less and less. When this is no longer the case for 20 minutes, this is the sign that the plant has absorbed enough water.
To keep an eye on the water level of your plants, the use of water meters is quite a handy way. There are water meters that consist of a plastic tube with a sort of polystyrene float and a meter stick inside. As soon as the water meter comes into contact with water or damp soil, the polystyrene floats and the meter rises.
There are also water meters that change colour so you can see if the plant still has enough water or if it needs a little water again. Usually, the colour of the display changes from blue to red when watering is required. But our Tessa water meter changes to a white colour when she’d like a sip!
What kind of water should I give my plant?
You think you have covered everything and then doubt suddenly sets in. Can I give my plants ordinary tap water? Yes you can, but... prepare your watering can at least 24 hours earlier, so the chlorine and fluoride can evaporate from the water and the water is also at room temperature before your plants get it. Tap water contains very small amounts of chlorine and fluoride and some plants are more sensitive to this than others. If your plant has brown spots/edges, it could be that it is caused by watering too often with chlorine and fluoride.
If possible, give your plants rainwater. Rainwater contains more oxygen than tap water, so the plant can absorb nutrients even better. Do you have a rain barrel? Then drain the water in an empty bottle and let it come to room temperature for at least 24 hours. Do you have regular rain showers in your country? Then you could also put a bucket outside to catch the rainwater.
The best thing for your plant is actually sparkling water. Yes, plants are actually quite demanding! The presence of carbon dioxide makes it easier for the roots to absorb the nutrients. This ensures better growth and development of the root system. Your plant will therefore grow faster and form more beautiful, greener and larger leaves. Only the best is good enough for your plant children, right?
Tips on watering
The biggest reason for plants to die is too much water and therefore root rot. It is for this reason that it is often better to give too little water than too much. Root rot is difficult to repair and dehydration only really occurs when plants are structurally without water for long periods.
The best and easiest way to check whether your plant needs water is to simply stick a finger or a wooden stick, at least 3 centimetres (watch out for the roots), into the potting soil. If the soil sticks to your finger or the wooden stick, it is still moist enough. If your finger/stick comes out clean, you know it's time (or almost time) to water your plant.
Another way to check your plants is by lifting the pot. A plant with dry soil does not weigh that much. After weighing it a few times, you will get a feeling for it and you will also be able to feel if the plant needs water by the weight of the pot.
The best time to water your plants is in the morning. If the leaves get wet then, they have all day to dry out. It is much harder for plant diseases to gain a foothold when the leaves are dry. If you cannot water in the morning, the best alternative is in the evening.
When you water your plant with a watering can from above, make sure that you water well around the plant. Do not water just one spot. Preferably not too close to the plant/the stem itself. There are many plants that do not like it when they get wet or stay wet for a long time.
Last but not least, ALWAYS put your plant in a pot with a drainage hole. This allows excess water to drain away. Many beautiful pots do not have a drainage hole. So put your plant in an inner pot with holes that fits into that lovely decorative pot. This way, the plant is still in a good pot.