We have several plants we care for in a local business. One morning a large, split leaf philodendron had a new leaf emerge that had turned yellow. I knew this had to do with watering, but didn’t know if the problem was overwatering or underwatering. The plant was in a liner, inside a pot. I’d tried before to pull the liner out of the pot, but didn’t succeed because the plant was too big. This time I knew I had to find out if there was water in the bottom of the pot. So I wrestled the liner out of the pot. Good thing I did because there was water in the bottom of the pot. The problem? I was watering the plant too much.
In my experience, most plants die of drowning before they die of thirst. If a plant isn’t doing well, usually people will think it needs more water, but oftentimes, it needs less water.
When to Water Your Plants
For 95% of your plants, you’ll want to wait until the top ½” of potting soil is dry–and I mean DRY. I have 40 plus plants at home and most of them need to be watered about once a week. But there are times when I’ll leave a plant go for a few days longer or even another week. As I go about the house, I might check a plant. If it’s dry, I’ll take a minute and water it.
The other 5% of plants like to have soil that stays moist and be in a more humid environment. Check the label on the plant you purchase for what type of moisture it likes to have.
Also, suppress the urge to give your plant a little water because you’re not sure if it needs water or not. When in doubt, don’t water, and your plants will thank you for it.
Plants Watering Needs Change
Your plant’s watering needs might change over the seasons. We had a Norfolk pine tree in our guest room in front of a south facing window. In the winter it got direct sunlight, so I needed to water it more than in the summer.
Large Plant, Small Pot, More Water
As your plant grows, more roots will push out the soil. If your plant is pot-bound it will probably need more water. If you find your plant is wilting between normal waterings, and/or roots are coming out the bottom or the top, then it’s probably time to re-pot your plant.
Drainage Holes are a Must
Make sure you have good drainage holes in your pot. I cover the holes with a piece of a sponge before I put in soil.
Use Unsoftened Water on Your Plants
Don’t use distilled water, etc. In fact, distilled water usually has minerals taken out of it making it worse for the plants than regular water. Normal, unsoftened tap water usually works great for plants.
Water Your Plant Thoroughly
When you do water, water your plant well! Water enough so you have water coming out the bottom of the pot. I use a plastic tub to put my plants in when I water them. This way I know when water comes out the bottom. I can dry off the bottom of the plant and put it back in place.
Know Your Plant
I got a peace lily several years ago and was trying to figure out how often to water it. Some people online said to water it when the soil is dry. Others said don’t let the soil dry out completely. Still others said they wait until the leaves droop. What was I to do? I started watering when the top ½” of the soil was dry like my other plants and watched the plant. It did fine in my environment, so I’ve continued with that watering schedule.
You can find watering tips for specific plants online, but the size of your pot, the location in your house, and your environment will all play a factor in how much you water it. So don’t be afraid to switch things up a little bit and see what works for your plant.
Less Water Than You Think
Most plants need less water than you might think. Let the top ½” of the soil dry out, then water the plant thoroughly and you’re more likely to have healthy, happy plants.