For any indoor plant, the correct or incorrect care is almost always related to the quality of watering. The ability to find a balance, to approach the process of soil moistening reasonably, not to go to extremes and “listen” to plants is the main rule of correct watering. But not the only one. After all, finding a middle ground between poor and excessive watering is not at all easy. Basic rules for watering indoor plants will avoid major mistakes with this important procedure. Let’s get to know them better.
10 main rules for watering indoor plants
1. Good watering starts with water quality
Indoor plants should not be watered with water with untested characteristics, especially tap water, not settled, cold or hot. The water temperature should match the room temperature. It is necessary to defend it before watering for at least 2-3 days.
The ideal option is melt, rainwater (subject to a favorable environmental situation) or filtered “drinking” water. It is better not to water indoor plants with boiled water (with rare exceptions), and mineralization is generally strictly prohibited. Distilled water may be needed for some plants.
2. Watering should be done only when needed.
Checking the degree of drying out of the substrate and controlling the rate of moisture consumption by the plant at different stages of development will allow avoiding gross errors with watering. Whatever the standard recommendations, you need to judge the need for watering only by the soil.
Before taking up the watering can, it is worth checking whether the plant needs watering:
- Check the moisture content of the upper layer of the substrate (superficially and at a depth of 1 to 2 cm, lightly rubbing the ground between the fingers;
- Compare whether the pot has become lighter (the weight of the pot before and after watering is significantly different).
3. No watering for everyone at once!
Allocating a specific day / days of the week for watering and watering all plants indiscriminately at the same time is the biggest mistake. This is certainly more convenient. But indoor plants are all different, and it is also worth watering them at different times.
Indoor plants can be grouped according to the degree of moisture-loving (moisture-loving, moderately moisture-loving or drought-resistant) and even by origin (desert, subtropical, tropical). But it’s better to check the individual variety and species recommendations and make a schedule for each plant.
A good strategy is to keep simple records or tables, or use tags and labels on pots with information about:
- how often and abundantly you need to water the plant at different stages of development;
- how much water can be left in the pallets;
- what should be the water.
Always highlight plants with special “markers” that are watered through trays, using the wick method, pouring water into the funnels of leaves, or by dipping.
4. Extremes are unacceptable
Drought and waterlogging are two poles in determining improper irrigation. And both are considered invalid. The substrate for any indoor plant should not be wet in the upper 2-3 cm longer than a few minutes after watering.
Even for moisture-loving species, the top layer of the substrate should be allowed to dry before the next watering. And for drought-resistant and requiring minimal watering plants, you should not bring the matter to the complete drying of the substrate at the bottom of the pot (except for the bulbous and tuberous wintering in complete dryness, and capable of withstanding dryness of cacti).
Emergencies, including departures, happen to all growers. But if regular care is negligent, to allow constant overflows or underfill plants, then you should not expect health and beauty from them.
In watering indoor plants, one rule always works: not adding a little is always better than overdoing it with the amount of water.
Read also our material Why do the tips of leaves dry in indoor plants?
5. Frequency and abundance of watering are equally important.
Watering is frequent (daily or every other day), medium or moderately frequent (after 2-3 days) and rare (no more than once a week). But besides the frequency for all indoor plants, the quality of the soil getting wet is also important.
How strongly the substrate will be saturated with water – the abundance of watering – is determined by the several top centimeters of the soil. Abundant or generous watering immediately makes the soil very wet, after a couple of minutes – damp, and only after a while – wet.
With standard moderate watering, the soil is never soggy: after sputum, it should become evenly moist in a couple of minutes. And light watering is such in which the soil with a little dampness immediately becomes wet.
Determine the degree of moisture tactilely:
- wet soil “drips”, when the substrate is squeezed, drops of water appear;
- moist soil is easily crumpled and sticky;
- wet rolls down, wrinkles, but does not stick to the hand;
- dry – crumbles when squeezed.
Any watering is considered correct only when the amount of water allows the entire earthen lump to be wetted evenly, to the lowest layers – so that a little water is released from the drainage holes not immediately, but some time after watering.
Too fast drainage or lack of water in the pan, signaling that the substrate is waterproof or unable to retain water, is equally undesirable.
For high-quality irrigation, it is better to divide the water into several passes and observe the saturation of the earthen clod, giving the water a chance not to pour out immediately, but to be evenly distributed.
6. Scattering and neatness is the best watering strategy
Watering should not be done in one place with a strong jet of water that compacts and erodes the substrate. For watering, it is advisable to use convenient watering cans specially designed for indoor plants with scattering nozzles. You need to direct the water around the perimeter of the pot, not high, avoiding the formation of pits, slowly, without “puddles” and water accumulation above the soil.
Particular attention should be paid to neatness: not all indoor plants are sensitive to wetting, but none will thank you with decorativeness when watering carelessly. Water should not be directed to the trunks and under the roots, to the root collars and growth points, to soak and spray the leaves.
If there are signs of soil compaction, crusting, poor saturation of the substrate, you must immediately take care of loosening. In case of severe pollution or mold, change the topsoil.
Read also our material My Tips for Plants Placement.
7. Watering should not be done in the middle of the day.
Indoor plants are best watered in the early morning or evening during the warm season and only in the early morning during cold seasons. Watering should not be carried out in direct sun, in the middle of the day.
8. Water should not stagnate in the trays
Even for plants requiring immersion or sump watering, the amount of time to leave water in the outer container should be limited. With classic overhead watering, any remaining water in the trays should be drained after 5-8 minutes.
Even 10 minutes of stagnation of water in the lower part of the substrate and oversaturation of drainage with water can lead to the onset of negative processes for rot-sensitive species.
9. Correction of watering at the slightest change
Watering is rarely possible with an established frequency. If the weather is hot, heating works harder, air humidity drops, the plant is actively developing, watering needs to be increased. But not in abundance, but in frequency, compensating for all factors.
It should always be remembered that numerous other factors affect the irrigation schedule:
- the size of the pot (the larger the container, the less often watering should be);
- pot materials (plants in ceramic containers are watered more abundantly);
- leaf size and density;
- location in the room and frequency of ventilation;
- air humidity level;
- the degree of filling of the substrate with roots;
- drafts, etc.
Read also our material Caring for indoor plants in summer.
10. Using smart assistants
Today, both budget and elite systems have been developed for indoor plants to avoid difficulties with watering. The simplest and most affordable indicators, auto-irrigation flasks, double-walled containers, hydroponics installations will allow you to keep watering to a minimum.
Even a simple moisture level indicator will eliminate the need to constantly check the soil by touch. And if there are difficulties with determining whether a plant needs watering or is it better to wait, be sure to get such smart assistants.