Watering houseplants might seem pretty straightforward, but it can be tricky. It's not the same as taking care of your garden or other outdoor plants. Too much or too little water can cause problems more quickly since the excess can't just seep away into the earth, and you don't have rain as a backup.
There are a lot of variables to consider, and not all plants are the same. How much and how often you should water your houseplants depends on size, temperature, the plant's natural habitat, and even the material of the pot.
When watering houseplants, you must consider both the size of the plant and the pot. Make sure the size of the latter is suited to the former. If the pot is too big, it will have excess potting soil, making it hard to get watering right.
Generally, larger plants need more water than smaller ones, because they absorb more water through the roots and lose more through transpiration. Small pots dry out faster than large ones, so if you have a plant that likes a lot of water in a small pot, you will need to water it more frequently.
The temperature and humidity of your home also affect how much and how often you water your houseplants. Plants use more water when it's hot and dry. The soil dries out faster, too, so when the indoor temperature is warmer, you will have to water your plants more often.
Putting your plants in a room with a lot of sunlight during the day will cause them to dry out at any time of year, but pay special attention in the winter when the heating is on and the air is really dry.
Many people choose their houseplant pots for aesthetics, to match the decor, but your choice affects how you water your plant. Water evaporates through porous materials like terracotta much faster than it does from plastic pots.
You can use this to your advantage by choosing the type of pot based on the plant. For example, cacti and succulents prefer drier soil and so do well in porous pots.
Different soils hold on to water differently. Soils with a lot of organic material stay moist longer than potting mixes with perlite or sand.
You can mix your own potting soils to meet your plants' moisture needs. For example, potting mixes meant for cacti or succulents have more sand mixed in than other potting soils because these plants do not need as much water.
Every plant is different, and the best way to know how much water a plant needs is to learn about its natural habitat. Is it a tropical plant? A desert plant? Not surprisingly, a plant native to Arizona is going to need less water than one native to the rainforest.
Cacti and succulents come from hot, dry environments with minimal rain, so they thrive when you allow the soil to dry out between waterings. On the other hand, the Boston fern is used to rain and prefers more frequent waterings and consistently damp soil.
Before watering your plant, check the potting soil to see how dry it is. Most plants like to dry out completely before watering, though you can water moisture-loving plants when the soil is still a little moist.
Use room temperature water and pour it evenly around the plant. In most cases, saturate the soil until water comes out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot, then dump out this excess so your plant doesn't get wet feet, which can lead to root rot and other issues.
Some people try to establish a watering schedule where they water all of their plants every Friday or every two weeks, but it's best to be flexible with this chore. So many factors contribute to how much and how often to water your houseplants that sticking to a strict watering schedule may do more harm than good.
Instead, check on your plants on the scheduled day and only water those that need it.
The best way to determine if a plant needs water is to look at it. If your plant is drooping or wilting, it's usually a clear sign that it needs more water.
Check the soil before you water, though, to make sure it is dry. Believe it or not, overwatering can cause wilting, too. When a plant's roots sit in water, they rot and can no longer absorb the water the rest of the plant needs.
One way to tell if a plant is dry is to pick it up. Dry soil is much lighter than wet soil, so in time, you will be able to determine the difference between a plant that needs to be watered and one that does not.
To more accurately assess the soil, stick your finger into the top few inches to determine if it is dry. You can also feel the soil through the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. Sometimes, the bottom will still be very moist, so you may not have to water it after all.
There are some other things to keep in mind when watering houseplants.