When and How to Water Plants – A Quick Guide

Being a plant parent can feel like a full-time job. There’s a lot to keep in mind, from watering your plants to making sure they get enough food and sunshine. Some people, especially beginner gardeners, make the mistake of under- or over-watering which can affect the health of their plants.

To prevent this from happening, it’s important to know how to give your plants the water they need at the right time and in the right way. When done correctly, it’s easy to see what a huge different it makes in the way they grow. In this article, we’ve got all the information you need to know on when and how to water your plants.

When to Water Your Plants

woman watering plants with a can

Some gardeners prefer to stick to a water schedule, but this isn’t ideal since different plants have different water requirements. In fact, you could be doing more harm to your plants than good since plants that need more water would probably not be getting enough, while those that require less water would be drowning.

Most plants need to be watered only when the soil is dry up to 2 inches in depth. To determine whether your plants need watering, put your finger an inch or two into the soil. If it feels dry, it’s time to water. Check back in a day or two if you notice any wetness. 

Most houseplants need to be watered frequently. You can check the water needs for small house plants by lifting the container. If it feels too lightweight, water the plant immediately. Watering in the morning is more effective than in the evening since water on the leaves will have a better chance to evaporate during the day when temperatures are higher. Watering in the evening means the leaves take longer to dry and wet leaves are more prone to disease. 

If you notice wilting leaves, water the plants right away. However, wilting leaves are a sign that the plant is suffering from dehydration so don’t wait until this happens or it could be too late. Be vigilant about your plants and keep a close eye on them.  

Water Requirements of Plants

plant getting lots of water

The amount of water your plants require depends on the type of plants you have. Plants that are native to a topical climate need a lot more water than those found in arid or desert areas.  Many popular houseplants, such as philodendrons, have large leaves and need more water to thrive, so you can water these about once a week. On the other hand, cacti and succulents can survive with less watering, about once a fortnight or so.

The seasons also have an effect on how much water your plants would require. Most houseplants grow quickly during spring and summer and less quickly in the fall and winter. If your plants aren’t growing as much as they should during fall and winter, reduce the amount of water you give them until they do.  

Ground Rules for Watering Your Plants

Following these simple ground rules will help you understand when you should water your plants and how:

1. Water in the Morning

The best time of day to water your plants is in the morning when the soil is cooler and the water can easily penetrate it. Make sure to get everything watered before the sun heats the ground as it will cause the water to evaporate faster. It will also give wet leaves enough time to dry out, preventing the spread of diseases.

2. Avoid Watering Frequently 

If you enjoy doing things according to a schedule, follow one that’s less frequent but also provides enough water for your plants so that the soil will remain saturated for a longer period of time. Avoid watering repeatedly. 

Shallow surface watering stops deep root development so that the rootlets remain near the surface and are exposed to heat and drought. Deep watering, on the other hand, encourages a robust root system that can supply plants with superior nutrients. Giving your flowers and veggies around one inch of water per week is a good rule of thumb.

3. Water Plants from Below, Not Above

Always water your plants directly at the root zone since this helps provide direct hydration to roots. Watering from above wets the foliage which is a waste of water and it can also encourage the spread of diseases.

You can use a soaker hose for this purpose since its porous design enables water to seep out slowly and evenly. It allows the water to infiltrate into the earth around the base of your plant where it’s most required. 

4. Avoid Using Water Sprinklers

If you water your plants manually or through sprinklers, you will most likely end up using more water and focussing mostly on the foliage. As a result, the roots won’t get adequate amounts of water.  Wet leaves take longer to dry out, during which time they can get infected with mold and start to rot.  On a hot or windy day, most of the water sprayed by sprinklers gets evaporated quickly, leaving nothing behind for the plant to use up.

5. Water According to the Season

During winter, the days are much shorter which means that there is less time for photosynthesis to occur. Plants enter a resting period during this time and require less water. Longer days initiate the growth period of plants and their water requirements increase during this time. Therefore, it’s important to adjust your watering habits to avoid causing dehydrating your plants.

6. Discard Extra Water

This is a common issue with houseplants. There’s usually some water that gets collected in the tray beneath the pot of your houseplant. Leave the tray for a while (don’t empty it right away), as the plant will absorb some of the water from it. Wait for 30 minutes before discarding the extra water from the collection tray to give the plant ample time to take in what it needs. Do not allow your plant to stand in excess water for long periods of time, however, as this will lead to root rot.

7. Avoid Overwatering

To avoid under watering, novice gardeners tend to water their plants more frequently. This overwatering is equally harmful to the plants as it causes root rot and fungal infections. Some common signs of overwatering include wilted leaves, yellow or brown leaves, sagging stems, gnats and a white coating of fungus developing all over the plant.

8. Check Moisture Levels Regularly

When the soil dries out completely and you leave your plants that way for a long time, they will suffer.  On the other hand, if it gets clogged with excess water, your plants will be under stress due to a lack of oxygen and they won’t be able to ‘breathe’. If you want to avoid sticking your finger in the dirt, you can use a wooden dowel instead to check the moisture of the soil. If it comes out clean, then the soil is too dry and the plant need to be watered immediately.

9. Use a Watering Can Instead of Spray Nozzles

Use a watering can instead of spray nozzles to avoid spraying water everywhere. It also allows you to aim directly for the plant’s base rather than the leaves and stems. Not only are watering cans convenient to use, but they also don’t create any mess. Spray nozzles are good tools to clean driveways and walkways but they’re not suitable for watering your plants. They can damage delicate stems, sprouts, flowers as well as the topsoil layer. 

10. How Often to Water Outdoor Plants

For the first month, water your newly planted trees and bushes two or three times per week. Afterwards, you can water them once a week for the first growing season. Plants in containers tend to dry out faster and how often you need to water it depends on the size of the container. The smaller the container, the more watering it would need.  

You can water the containers in the morning and then give them another soak in the afternoon if the temperature rises to 90 degrees or higher. 

Best Water for Houseplants

Use water at room temperature for your plants instead of hot or cold water. This is because extreme temperatures can harm the leaves of houseplants. Avoid using chlorinated water since the chemicals can harm your plants.

Tap water can be hazardous for plant growth since it may contain chemicals, but rainwater is a much healthier option. Do not use softened water or hard water for your plants as home water softeners add sodium to your water, which could alter the mineral structure of the soil over time. Distilled water and bottled spring water are also safe options for plants. 

The Bottom Line

While it may be tempting to water your plants frequently, remember that more water doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re helping them. Give your plants a chance to breathe and only water them every now and then, whenever necessary. As a result, not only will your plants be healthy, but they will also grow faster and stronger.

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