We've all been there. You come home with an armful of pretty potted plants and visions of an indoor jungle as you horticulture your way to a green and gauzy heaven. One week later and it's like the night of the living dead as your beloved plant's wilt and brown and turn to dust. And so it goes...
Figuring out how much (or how little) water your houseplants need can seem like an absolute science with a ton of room for error. Whereas some plants glug it down, others take delicate little sips with the regularity of a camel. Most house plants succumb to premature death because of too much watering in those early days. While it can be super frustrating at first, you will get the hang of it if you follow these tailored care tips. Take a look at this lush, green-thumbed lowdown to answer that golden question - how often should I water my plants?
How Much To Water Plants In Pots
So you have your plants home and potted and you decide to pour in a cup of water on a daily basis thinking that should do it. Not exactly. From the right water container to taking your clues from the color of the leaves, and picking the right potting soil, here are some tips on how to meet the watering needs of your plants.
- Make sure that your containers have drainage holes so your houseplants don't drown
- Water when the soil is dry to avoid waterlogging the soil (use your finger or a moisture meter to measure the depth of dry soil and follow water loss).
- Don't let your plants sit in standing water as this can cause drowning and mould
- Hotter seasons may require more watering
- Colder seasons require less watering as growth is slower
- Keep the soil moist rather than drenched
- See if your houseplants like rainwater or distilled water rather than tap water
- Check if your plants need nutrients to thrive
- Check which kind of soil your plant needs - sandy, clay soil, or other organic matter.
While these tips and tricks may set the foundations for keeping your plants healthy, misted, and green, each house plant does come with its own set of rules for keeping it healthy and thriving. Always check out gardeners advice or ask the seller about how often you should water your houseguest before you get pour happy.
Signs of Root Rot (And What To Do About It)
One of the biggest red flags that means your plant is not OK can be signs of root rot. Rot can show up when your plant has had its water needs oversaturated (AKA too much watering) or when the soil has fungus in it. The fungus can hang around in soil totally dormant until too much watering causes it to wake up and start flourishing. Rot doesn't mean a plant is passed its sell-by date, but it does need a little rescue mission to get it back on track. Here are some signs and symptoms that your plants could be suffering from rot...
- Wilting leaves
- Smaller twisted leaves than expected
- Leaves turning yellow
- Black mushy roots
The easiest way to tell if you have root rot is to pick the plant up and take a peek at what's going on underneath and use your finger to check how the plant roots feel. Healthy roots look strong and white, sick roots can be brown or black, may feel soft and spongy or mushy and may just fall off when touched. If you have suspected rot here's how to save your affected houseplants...
First off, get on it immediately, time is of the essence when it comes to keeping your plants from keeling over due to rot.
Remove from the soil and gently wash the roots underwater. You want to try and get rid of as much soil as possible.
Grab some tools like shears or scissors (depending on the size of your plants) and start trimming away the affected roots. You may need to trim back quite a lot to get back to healthy basics. If you do have to strip back a lot, you may also want to prune the leaves by around a third or even half in severe cases. Having fewer leaves to support can help the plant to recover quickly as it will put all that energy into growing healthy instead.
Get rid of any soil mix left in the pot of your container plant and wash the bottom of the pot out properly. Your plants need new soil to recover. If you have been dealing with a really bad case of rot you can also dip the remaining roots in fungicide to make sure that no traces of fungus can be left clinging.
Finally, repot in fresh soil and make sure it has good irrigation and drainage so water doesn't get the chance to accumulate.
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How Often To Water Indoor Plants, By Type
Snake Plant (Dracaena trifasciata)
Celebrated as the hardiest indoor plant, snake plants are tough cookies. With its spiky leaves and low maintenance vibes, it makes a great potted plant for any beginner looking to get to grips with a new houseplant obsession.
- Water frequency: once a week (summer) 1-2 times a week (winter)
- Water amount: just enough to saturate the soil
- Signs of overwatering: rot, brown and yellow leaves, rotten smell, brown spots on leaves
- Signs of underwatering: dry crumbly soil, wrinkled leaves, drooping leaves, brittle roots
Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum)
Spindly and bright, the spider plant is another super simple houseplant that casts a pretty silhouette and doesn't give you too much grief. With long thin foliage and tiny white flowers that bloom, these plants love even moisture in their potting mix, moderate watering, and indirect sunlight to thrive. They also are known to be air-purifying too.
- Water frequency: once a week
- Water amount: plenty if the soil is dry and until the excess water seeps out of drainage holes
- Signs of overwatering: brown and dead leaves
- Signs of underwatering: faded and light colored leaves
Devil's Ivy (Epipremnum aureum)
Earning its name because it's a tricky beast to kill, Devil's Ivy is a sprawling houseplant with tumbling heart-shaped leaves, draping foliage, and a hardy constitution. These plants look super pretty in hanging baskets as their vines drape and flow. They aren't too fussy about light, they don't like very dry soil, and they rarely suffer from any kind of disease.
- Water frequency: once a week (they are drought resistant so don't fret if you forget)
- Water amount: a little, just enough to penetrate the roots
- Signs of overwatering: yellow droopy leaves, brown spots, rot, white mould in soil,
- Signs of underwatering: droopy leaves, wilting, crumbly soil
Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum)
Beautiful in bloom, the peace lily is all evergreen bliss and heavenly white flowers. This super popular houseplant needs proper watering care and doesn't like the cold. They make a stunning outdoor plant but are ornamentally pretty inside too. When cared for correctly they bring a burst of health and harmony to any home.
- Water frequency: once a week and in summer you can spritz the leaves to keep them hydrated
- Water amount: an average soak until water comes out the irrigation system
- Signs of overwatering: drooping yellow leaves, water blisters, rot, stunted growth
- Signs of underwatering: drooping in the leaf, yellow and brown edges, crumbly soil surface
This Tropical America plant is a vision of fresh green thanks to those rich trailing vines and romantic heart-shaped leaves. The Philodendron is awesome as it can filter toxins from the air, bringing a beautiful burst of bright and clean oxygen to your home. They love indirect light, like medium humidity levels (they are tropical), and are relatively easy going.
- Water frequency: every 1-2 weeks as the plant needs (depending on how dry the soil is)
- Water amount: a generous soak when the top half of the soil is dry
- Signs of overwatering: droopy yellow leaves, soft or black stems, rot in the root
- Signs of underwatering: wilting
Fiddle Leaf Fig (Ficus lyrata)
A rainforest rich plant, the Ficus Lyrata is used to dramatic downpours followed by long dry spells. As the name suggests, this leafy delight does have a reputation for being a little fiddly to keep alive and that's mainly due to getting the watering schedule just right. Still, its huge green leaves make it quite the contender for one of the best houseplants as it certainly makes a visual splash and brings tropical conditions to any corner of the room.
- Water frequency: once a week or every 10 days
- Water amount: a general rule can be one cup for every 2 ft. so if your plant is 6ft, that's 4 cups
- Signs of overwatering: dark spots on the leaves, musty soil smell, presence of flies
- Signs of underwatering: small leaves, drooping, yellow and brown edges
Zanzibar Gem (Zamioculcas zamiifolia)
The ZZ plant is commitment-free gold. For those who don't want to be tied down to keeping a plant spluttering and surviving, the Zanzibar Gem does that work for you. This shiny green plant is not just a pretty face, but it's also hugely drought tolerant meaning that it won't punish you for failing to water the plant once or twice. In fact it’s always better to underwater a ZZ than overwater it. A moisture meter is a good investment as it helps you to reduce the risk. This plant also doesn't succumb easily to pests and likes to chill in a standard house temperature.
- Water frequency: once every couple of weeks or when the soil dries out completely
- Water amount: until water drains from the bottom
- Signs of overwatering: yellow leaves
- Signs of underwatering: drooping leaves, dry brown edges
One of the most beloved water succulents - Aloe Vera instantly conjures images of Mexican terracotta, arid earth, and scorching sun colors. This sweet and soothing species of succulent are full of good stuff and their clear and cool gel found inside the leaves can be used to soothe all kinds of skin conditions. As desert-like plants they love sandy soil, don't need a lot of water, and enjoy warmer weather as opposed to the harsh bite of frost.
- Water frequency: once every 1-2 weeks when the top 2-3 inches of soil is dry
- Water amount: until the water starts to drain from the bottom
- Signs of overwatering: brown and droopy leaves, soft spots
- Signs of underwatering: yellow leaves, dried and crinkly thin leaves, brown tips, and curling
Calathea (Marantaceae family)
The Calathea is cool. One of the jungle-like plants with intricately patterned leaves of a wide green, there's something so rich and humble about the easy beauty of this low maintenance plant. Like a long chilled drink on a hot summer day, the Calathea is instantly soothing. This plant may not be a good shout for people who want an easy green ride, as Calathea can be a little demanding when it comes to care. Yet, they are worth every second. These plants need to be watered relatively often as they like moist soil yet they also shouldn't be soaked to the bone. They also like regular feeds, warm temperatures, and repotting so they can stretch out.
- Water frequency: every week, will also fare well from misting the leaves every day in summer
- Water amount: until flushed and drained. They don't like tap water so filtered water is best
- Signs of overwatering: yellow leaves, black base, or mushy roots
- Signs of underwatering: curling leaves, brown, dry, limp
Orchid (Orchidaceae family)
Delicate and dreamy, the orchid instantly transports us to a tropical rainforest with its bright bursting flowers and its leggy stem. These plants actually grow by clinging to trees rather than rising out of the dirt and the level of care and water they need reflects this. Often given as gifts or bought when in bloom, your plant will need a mild warm space, little water, and its old flower spikes snipped away.
- Water frequency: once every 7-10 days
- Water amount: generously until completely hydrated with water dripping from roots
- Signs of overwatering: soft yellow leaves, soggy black roots, buds falling off
- Signs of underwatering: crispy, brown, and brittle
Rubber Fig (Ficus elastica)
The rubber plant is a hugely popular houseplant as it can occupy a corner or grow into one of the larger plants to become a focal point of any space. As they have a similar image to trees, these plants can hit impressive heights and their sprawling and shiny deep green leaves help to remove pollutants making them one of those fabulous fresh air plants. Rubber plants like bright indirect light, frequent watering, and a good spritz in the warmer months.
- Water frequency: every 5-6 days depending on size and season. Winter waters can be cut in half
- Water amount: generous and until water drains for optimum soil moisture
- Signs of overwatering: yellow and brown leaves, leaves falling off
- Signs of underwatering: drooping, dry crumbly soil
Whether you go simple with a watering can or go full green thumb with drip irrigation systems and a soaker hose, the important thing is to take your cues from the plant. The more time you spend sussing out your perennials, home shrubs, succulents, and different plants, the better you will be able to work out when they need more water and when they need to go to water rehab for a while.
How does your indoor garden grow and what have you got greening up your home? Tasty tomato plants, a hemp rich marijuana plant, a kaleidoscope of African Violets or a sweet little shrub? Share your gardening joys and woes with us in the comments.
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