Water is essential for every plant and providing the correct amount is key to keeping your garden healthy. Outdoors, nature takes care of this for us, usually requiring minimal input from the gardener. Indoors however, watering is solely on us, and it can take a bit of care to get right. To help, we’ve put together a list of indoor watering tips that will help you make sure you’re getting your plants the correct amount of water.
Overwatering Can Kill Your Plants
The first thing to keep in mind is that too much water can and does kill plants. Overwatering is a big cause for indoor plants failing, so it’s important to make sure you’re not going overboard.
Too much water sitting in a container can lead to root rot. This is a fungal disease that attacks the roots of your plants and prevents them from getting the nutrients they need. Left untreated, this will kill your plant. Outdoors, water can naturally drain through the soil, but in a container this water has no place to go.
The easiest solution is to make sure you’re watering the correct amount. Too little or too much is equally dangerous for your plant. In fact, many plants can survive being underwatered far longer than overwatered, so always take care when it comes to how much and how often you water your plants.
All Plants Are Different
The water needs for all plants are different, so make sure to take that into account before watering your plants. You should also keep in mind the age and growing stage your plant is currently in. In some cases, seedlings require more or less water than their full grown counterparts.
The lesson here is to make sure you read up on your plant before watering it. While exact amounts do depend on the local environment, general guidelines can help you make sure you’re not wildly off in either direction.
Containers Matter Too
The type of container that your plant lives in will also affect how much and how often it needs to be watered. In particular, clay pots are quite porous and will whisk away water from the soil. This means you may need to water plants in these containers a bit more.
Other non-standard growing containers can also change how you care for your plants. Those without proper drainage require a watchful eye to ensure you’re not waterlogging your plant as well as some planning to help drain water away from the soil.
Check Before Watering
Probably the most important indoor watering tip is to simply check the soil before watering. Most plants enjoy moist but not soaked soil, and you can determine this by feeling the top inch or two of soil.
If the top 1-2” of the soil is dry, then that’s a good indicator that the plant may need a bit of water. If the soil is still wet then you should probably wait.
Note that this does vary a bit between plants. Understanding your plants is always the first step. Some plants for example should be watered before the soil is completely dry while some want periods where the soil remains dry between waterings.
Try Humidity Control Before Watering
In some cases you might notice your plants looking like they need water but the soil still feels wet. In these cases, try increasing the humidity before adding water.
An easy way to do this is simply to mist the plants with a spray bottle. This can help increase the local humidity near the plant without needing to add excess water to the soil. This is most likely needed during hot summers for plants that are in direct, bright light.
For more humidity tips check out our full article.
Soak The Soil Thoroughly
When you do determine it’s time to water, in most cases, you’ll want to soak the soil thoroughly. Give the soil an even watering, and ensure that it is completely saturated with water.
A good way to tell is to watch the drainage holes. Once you start to see water leak out of these holes it’s a good sign that the soil has enough water. If you’re growing in a non-traditional container without drainage, you can also watch for water to pool on the surface of the soil. Water slowly, as once this starts to happen you’ll want to stop watering immediately to prevent overwatering.
Water The Soil, Not Leaves
When you water it’s important that, in the vast majority of cases, you water the soil and not the leaves. This ensures that your soil gets the water and it doesn’t sit on the leaves. This can actually damage the leaves of the plant, and you may end up with unsightly water spots and stunted growth.
Note that there are a handful of plants, such as epiphytes, where you might actually want to water the leaves instead of the soil. It all goes back to understanding your plants.
Watch For Dormancy
Lastly, if you live in a cooler location that experiences winter you may notice that many plants stop growing or go dormant in the winter. During this time your plants will grow significantly slower and consequently need less care and nutrients.
This includes water. Don’t be surprised if you end up watering a lot less during the winter. As noted above, check the soil before watering, and only water when it’s beginning to dry. If your plant is taking in less water you’ll notice it takes longer for the soil to dry out.
Indoor Plant Watering Tips
Watering your plants can be a bit tricky at first, but is easy once you get the hang of it. Check the soil each day, and be diligent and you’ll grow beautiful healthy plants indoors and out.