Watering Wisely – The Ultimate Guide for Hydrating Your Indoor Plants
If you think about it, most challenges faced by new plant parents at the beginning of their journey stem from incorrect watering issues.
In fact, we’d go as far as saying if you can find the perfect watering balance, your plant baby will have everything it needs to fend off those pesky common indoor plant problems.
Just imagine it like giving your plant a superpower! 🌱💪😄
It is for this reason that mastering your indoor plant watering technique forms part of the 3 successful Plant Parenting Laws (Lighting Awareness Watering) that we teach at the Garden Bench Top community.
It is also the driving force why we put together this ultimate indoor plant watering guide!
To help you, and other new plant parents, tackle those common obstacles and level up your plant parenting skills.
In this guide, you will learn about:
- why water means life for indoor plants
- watering and drainage – a delicate balance
- other factors that contribute to watering indoor plants (humidity, soil, temperature, pots)
- good housekeeping and how to tell when your plant is thirsty (and how to test for moisture levels)
- how to avoid common mistakes
- answering those common questions about watering indoor plants
So, make yourself a coffee and get comfortable because we’re about to get our hands wet! 🌿💧
Why is Water Important for Indoor Plants?
Before we get into the actual techniques, let’s talk about water, a vitally important ingredient in keeping your new plant babies happy and healthy.
Just like us humans, plants need water to survive and thrive. So here’s the deal on why water is such a big deal for your indoor plants:
- Staying hydrated 💦: Plants are made up of a large percentage (around 90% or more) of water. Ensuring they have enough water helps maintain their structure and keeps them looking fresh and vibrant.
- Nutrients on the move 🍽️: You know how we need food to grow strong? Well, plants need nutrients too! Water acts like a delivery service, transporting essential nutrients from the soil through the roots and all around the plant.
- Photosynthesis party 🌞: We all know that plants love sunlight, right? They use this sunlight to perform photosynthesis – where they create their own food (glucose) using light energy, carbon dioxide from the air, and… you guessed it – water!
- Keeping cool 😎: During hot days or when there is lots of sunlight, plants can lose quite a bit of water as they release it into the air through tiny pores called stomata (this process is called transpiration). This helps them stay cool and maintain their internal temperature.
So now you might be wondering how much water is enough for your indoor plants.
It varies depending on factors like size, type of plant, potting mix used etc., and we’ll discuss the roles of these factors in detail throughout this guide.
Remember, it might take some trial and error to figure out the perfect watering routine for your plants but don’t worry – with this guide and the right attitude, you’ll be a master plant parent in no time. 🌱💚
Watering and Drainage – The Goldilocks Principle
Drainage is a critical part of mastering the art of watering your indoor plants.
As you navigate through this exciting journey as a new plant parent, you may find yourself asking what’s the point in watering your plants, if it just means that it all just drains out of your plant’s containers.
To help us answer this conundrum, we’re going to introduce you to the Goldilocks Principle.
You know how in the story of Goldilocks, she’s looking for the porridge, chair, and bed that are “just right” for her?
We want to do the same with our indoor plants and provide them with:
- the right pot (or container), and
- suitable soil that drains excess water, but also retains enough water available so that it is… just right.
Choosing the Right Pot
First off, let’s talk about what makes drainage holes so essential.
Simply put, they allow excess water to escape from the pot. This is super important because plants can be quite sensitive when it comes to their watering needs.
- Avoid overwatering: When there are no drainage holes, water tends to sit at the bottom of the pot, creating a soggy environment for your plant’s roots. This can lead to overwatering and eventually root rot – a condition that could harm or even kill your precious plant babies!
- Proper air circulation: Just like us, plants need to breathe too! Drainage holes help maintain a healthy balance of air and moisture in the soil by allowing airflow around the roots, which promotes healthy growth.
Now that we’ve covered why drainage is so crucial let’s explore some tips on choosing pots with good drainage for your indoor plants:
- Look for pots with multiple holes: The more drainage holes, the better! This ensures that water can exit quickly and evenly from all sides.
- Choose pots made of breathable materials: Some great options are terracotta or clay pots since they naturally absorb moisture and promote good airflow around your plant’s roots.
- Consider using trays (or saucers): Trays placed under pots not only catch any drained water, protecting your surfaces from spills but also make it easier for you to see if your plant has been watered enough. Just remember not to allow the bottom of your pot to sit in water. The soil can reabsorb the water via the drainage holes.
For soil drainage, the Goldilocks principle really comes into its own:
- Poor Drainage: If your plant’s soil holds too much water, its roots won’t be able to breathe properly and they might end up struggling. It would be like you walking around with wet socks all day and night – not fun right?
- Just Right: The ideal situation is having well-draining soil that allows extra water escape while keeping just enough moisture for your plant babies.
- Excessive Drainage: But be careful not to go too far to the other end of the spectrum. Your soil still needs to be able to retain some water to supply your plant baby’s roots with sufficient moisture!
We’re hoping that, by now, you are beginning to develop an appreciation for the role quality potting mix plays in your plant baby’s water health and happiness.
So how do you know if your soil is suitable?
This provides us with the perfect segue to the next segment…
Watering and Soil Quality
To answer the question from the last section, the first step in knowing if your plant baby’s soil possesses the right amount of drainage begins with one of the other Plant Parenting LAWs – Plant AWARENESS.
Before you can confidently assess the quality of your soil, you need to know what type of soil your plant baby prefers.
This is because different plant types will thrive in different types of soil.
For instance, tropical plants like Monsteras and Philodendrons prefer a chunky soil mix with plenty of aeration.
While Peace Lilies and some Pothos will thrive in moist (NOT over-saturated) soil.
Once you have determined the type of soil your plant needs, you can either purchase ready-made soil mixes from your local nursery or online in marketplaces like Amazon.
Or, if you don’t mind a bit of DIY, you can try your hand at creating your own bespoke potting mix, like our very own Garden Bench Top soil recipe for aroids.
Once you have the right soil in place, we’re confident that you will find it less anxiety-inducing when watering your plant baby because you will know the soil will not retain any unnecessary moisture.
Aside from soil quality and drainage, there are external factors that will impact your watering frequency for your indoor plant.
Let’s turn our attention to how Temperature, Humidity, and Seasonal Changes affect the watering of your leafy friends.
Watering and External Factors – Temperature, Humidity, and Seasons
There is a handful of other factors that will impact the way you water your plant baby. These are:
- Humidity, and
- Seasonal changes throughout the year.
Let’s take a closer look at these external factors and how you can adapt your watering techniques to compensate for these uncontrollable forces.
How Does Temperature Affect Watering Indoor Plants?
Temperature plays an important role in the growth and well-being of plants.
As our plant babies adapt to indoor living, they can develop a sensitivity to temperature changes. Let’s take a closer look at why this happens!
Similar to us, when temperatures increase, we tend to get thirsty due to sweating and loss of fluids. Well, the same thing happens with your plants! When it gets warmer inside, the water in the soil evaporates more quickly. As a result, your plants may need more frequent watering to keep up with this increased rate of evaporation.
On the flip side, when it’s cooler, plants generally need less water because they’re not using up as much energy for growth and evaporation slows down. In this case, it’s essential not to overwater them; otherwise, they may develop problems such as fungal diseases and rot!
Another thing to keep in mind is that different plants have unique preferences when it comes to temperature and humidity. For instance, tropical plants like some extra warmth and humidity while desert dwellers like cacti enjoy drier conditions.
This leads us perfectly into the next section about humidity.
How Does Humidity Affect Watering Indoor Plants?
Humidity refers to the amount of moisture in the air immediately around your plant.
It plays a vital role in keeping your plants happy and healthy by facilitating internal processes such as transpiration and photosynthesis.
When the air in your home is more humid, it means there’s more moisture available for your plants to absorb through their leaves (a process known as transpiration). As a result, they might not use water from the soil as quickly as they would in drier conditions. So, during periods of high humidity, you may find that you don’t need to water your indoor plants as often.
On the flip side, when the air is dry inside your home (low humidity), there’s less moisture for your plants to absorb through transpiration. Consequently, they may rely more heavily on water from the soil to stay hydrated. In these conditions, keeping an eye on the soil moisture is essential because you might need to water them a little more frequently than usual.
Just like with temperature preferences, different plants have unique humidity requirements too. So increasing your PLANT AWARENESS is important in understanding your plant baby’s needs.
The secret sauce for success here is getting familiar with each plant’s specific needs and adjusting accordingly. A hygrometer can be handy for measuring humidity levels indoors – this way; you can create an environment closest to what each plant desires!
How Do The Seasons Affect Watering Indoor Plants?
Each season brings different conditions that can influence the amount of water your indoor plants need. So let’s take a closer look at how each season affects watering:
- Spring: As temperatures start to rise and days get longer, your plants will start to grow more actively. This means they’ll need more water compared to winter months. Keep an eye on the soil moisture, but don’t overwater them – just make sure they’re getting enough to support their growth.
- Summer: This is when your plants may need the most water due to higher temperatures and increased sunlight exposure, causing the soil to dry out faster. Make sure you’re checking the soil regularly so your plant friends stay happy and hydrated.
- Fall (Autumn): As temperatures cool down and daylight hours decrease, your plants’ growth starts to slow down as well. You can gradually reduce watering frequency since they won’t need as much during this time.
- Winter: Often considered the “resting period” for many plants, their water requirements are generally lower during this season because of shorter days and less overall growth activity.
Remember that every plant is unique and their individual needs might differ depending on factors like humidity levels or pot size too!
It’s essential to monitor the specific needs of each plant by checking the soil moisture regularly.
In the next section, we’ll discuss our two favorite methods for testing your plant baby’s soil moisture levels.
How to Tell When Your Indoor Plant Needs Water – Soil Moisture Testing
Even we admit getting your head around all the different factors that can affect watering your indoor plants is a large task. So if you are still with us, congratulations for making it this far.
The good news is we are almost done.
The last important tool you need to add to your watering repertoire is to develop the skill of knowing when your plant baby needs more water.
⚠️ COMMUNITY SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT⚠️
When novice plant parents excitedly bring home their first plant baby, they make the assumption that they have to religiously water their indoor plant on a schedule.
Unfortunately, this is the biggest mistake they can make, and it often results in frustrated and befuddled parents with sick plant babies.
Don’t get us wrong. We are in favor of watering on a schedule. But, it has to be a loose schedule.
The best approach to hydrating your plant babies is using a flexible watering schedule.
This means you need to examine the signals your plants are sending you and moisture testing.
Signs Your Indoor Plant Needs Water
Believe it or not, your plant babies talk to you, just not in the conventional sense.
They are constantly sending you signals. Usually with their leaves and demeanor. You just haven’t trained yourself to pick up on these signals.
Here are a few signs to look for in your plant baby to determine when they need a water top-up:
- Leaves wilting or drooping
- Dry and crispy leaf edges
- Yellow leaves, particularly at the bottom of the plant
- Slow or stunted growth
- Soil pulling away from the edges of the pot
- Dry and hard soil surface
- Lightweight pot (indicating dry soil)
So if you see your plant baby starting to exhibit any of the above, it’s time to perform a soil moisture test! In the next section, we’ll discuss our favorite ways of determining if the soil is dry or moist.
Testing Your Soil Moisture with a Soil Meter
For plant parents who are just beginning this wonderful and exciting journey, the quickest and easiest way to test your soil’s moisture levels is with a soil moisture meter.
In short, it is a device that uses a probe to give you a moisture level reading of your indoor plant’s soil. They can be found at your local nursery, as well as online in marketplaces like Amazon.
We do a deep dive into how to use a soil moisture meter HERE. It also includes a short, but helpful video showing you the ins and out of moisture meter testing methods.
Now, we have to be upfront and provide a disclaimer that some moisture meters have received a bad rap due to poor performance or breaking too easily.
We, personally, found them to be an invaluable tool when we first got into caring for indoor plants. However, as we become seasoned indoor plant enthusiasts, we adapted our methods to a simpler and more effective method for testing a plant’s moisture levels – the finger soil moisture test.
Testing Your Soil Moisture with Your Fingers
When we discovered the soil finger test, it was a game changer for our indoor plant watering regiment.
It simplified the process and was always on hand (pun intended)! So we didn’t have to go rummaging through boxes or searching in the garden shed.
To check your plant’s soil moisture using the finger test, simply follow these easy steps:
- Clean your hands and make sure your fingers are dry.
- Gently push your index finger into the soil, about 1-2 inches (2-5cm) deep.
- Feel if the soil is wet, damp, or dry to the touch.
If you feel the moisture on your fingertip and soil sticks to your finger as it exits, it means you can hold off on watering for a bit. If the soil feels dry, it’s time to give your plant some water!
What Water Should You Use for Your Plant Babies?
In short, we recommend using the purest form of water you can for your indoor plants. Only the best for our babies, right?
However, we understand there are particular practicalities to consider. For example, it would require a small fortune to water your indoor plants with distilled water. Especially if you have gone a little bit overboard with your indoor plant collection. *cough* Speaking on behalf of a friend of course *cough*
So here’s a quick rundown of the different type of water you can use, and the issues to consider.
This is the water that comes straight from your faucet.
While it’s generally safe for human consumption, it may contain elements like chlorine, fluoride, and various minerals (like calcium and magnesium) that can build up over time in your plant’s soil.
These elements may not be harmful in small amounts, but they can eventually cause issues like nutrient imbalances or even root damage.
Filtered water has gone through a process that removes impurities like chlorine, sediment, and bacteria.
There are many types of filters available – from simple pitchers to more advanced under-sink systems – that can provide cleaner water for both you and your plants.
By using filtered water, you’ll be giving your plants a more pure source of hydration without those extra chemicals.
Distilled water is produced by boiling tap water and collecting the steam that forms as it cools down.
This process leaves behind almost all impurities found in tap water since most contaminants don’t evaporate with steam.
As a result, distilled water is considered one of the purest forms of water available – perfect for quenching your plant’s thirst!
Watering Techniques – Our Secret Weapon!
There are two popular methods: top watering and bottom watering.
Each has its pros and cons. However, we’ll explain both techniques in a simple way so you can choose what works best for you and your lovely plants.
Top Watering Indoor Plants
Top watering is probably the method most people are familiar with. It’s as straightforward as it sounds: you pour water directly onto the soil at the base of your plant until it feels sufficiently damp.
It is also important to watch the bottom of your plant baby to make sure any excess water drains freely from the drainage holes.
This method helps wash away any built-up minerals in the soil, and it mimics how plants receive water in nature (like rain falling from the sky).
However, top watering has a few drawbacks. Sometimes, if you pour too quickly or use too much water, it can cause soil erosion and expose your plant’s roots.
Additionally, it might not reach the deeper root system.
That’s where bottom watering comes into play!
Bottom Watering Indoor Plants
This technique involves placing your plant pot (with drainage holes) into a container filled with water.
Want to Learn More About the Bottom Watering Method?
Check out our tutorial HERE.
The idea here is to let the plant absorb water through its drainage holes from below, allowing the roots to take up just as much moisture as they need without overwatering them.
To bottom water your plants:
- Fill a container or basin with enough water to cover about 1/4th or 1/2 of the pot’s height.
- Place your potted plant gently into that container.
- Wait for around 20-45 minutes (depending on plant size), allowing time for the soil to soak up moisture.
- Remove your plant from the container when you notice that the surface has moist soil.
- Let excess water drain out before placing it back in its regular spot.
Bottom watering is useful because it minimizes soil erosion and encourages your plant baby’s root ball to grow deeper, resulting in a healthier and happier rootball.
It’s also helpful for plants that don’t like wet leaves, as it avoids water splashing on their leaves.
However, we do recommend occasionally top-watering your babies to flush out salt and mineral buildup.
In the end, you can choose whichever method suits your plants and lifestyle better! Feel free to experiment with both techniques and see which one keeps your indoor green friends thriving. Good luck, and happy planting! 🌱
Frequently Asked Questions – Indoor Plant Watering Guide
Now that you have taken your plant parenting skills to the next level, let’s address all those common questions that crop up along the journey.
How often should you water your indoor plants in winter?
As we mentioned earlier, as the seasons change through the year you should adapt your watering frequency and technique.
During cooler months, our plant babies don’t need as much water. Why? Well, because it’s colder and there’s less sunlight, so they tend to slow down their growth and simply don’t get as thirsty.
No two plants are the same though – they all have their own unique needs. So, remember that soil moisture finger test we talked about earlier? It will be your best friend in figuring out when to water your plants. Just give a gentle poke in the soil, and you’ll know if it’s time for a drink or not.
Be careful not to over-water during winter though; giving them too much love could lead to root rot, and trust me – nobody wants to deal with that! 😅
How Do You Ensure Your Indoor Plants Get Enough Water While on Holiday?
Don’t worry about leaving your leafy friends behind when you’re off on a vacation!
There are some easy solutions to make sure they get the water they need while you’re away. One idea is to use self-watering systems like plant spikes that have their own water source attached. Or, you could even employ a water-wicking system that drip feeds water to your babies.
Just remember to give your plants a nice, slow drink of water before you head out – but don’t go overboard! This way, they’ll be all set until you return and you can enjoy your travels worry-free.
- Stomata. (2023, February 13). In Wikipedia. https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stomata
- Transpiration – https://www.britannica.com/science/transpiration