How to Not Kill Your Houseplants With Too Much Water

tips for properly watering your houseplants

The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

Although real statistics are hard to come by, it seems likely that more houseplants have died because of improper watering than any other single factor. Bad watering habits tend to follow a pattern. First, when you're new with houseplants, people tend to overwater everything, all in the name of "babying my plants." Then people fail to recognize the differences between their various plants, watering a philodendron the same as an echeveria. Finally, there is the stage of neglect, when houseplants are no longer so exciting or new, so they are forgotten.

Developing good watering habits isn't difficult, but it does require a few essential ingredients, such as consistency and at least a bare willingness to pay attention to your plants and "read" their signs. Ultimately, the plants themselves are your best source of information. Plants that are wilting are telling you they need more water, while plants that are yellowing and looking washed out may be getting too much water.

How to Water Your Plants

While it's impossible to really cover this topic in a short article, there are nonetheless a few steps you can take to help make watering easier and more effective.

Situate the Plant and Pot Properly

Leave room for water in the pot. When you're repotting your plants, don't fill the pot up the rim with potting soil. This makes it much harder to water as you'll have to dribble water over the soil and wait until it seeps in. Leave enough room that you can pour in some water and let it soak in on its own.

Importantly, never let your plants sit in water! Unless they are bog plants, make sure to empty the plant trays after you're done watering so the plants aren't sitting in water. Sitting in water is a good way to get root rot, which is frequently lethal.

Use the Right Technique

Learn to water from the bottom. Bottom watering is a very effective method for many plants whose leaves don't like to get wet.

Use a long-necked watering can. This will allow you to apply water precisely at the soil level, without wetting the leaves. Fungal disorders are encouraged by wet foliage.

Provide drinks, not sips. Shallow and insufficient watering encourages weak root systems and makes the plant more vulnerable to collapse. When you water, make sure you do it thoroughly, so water runs through the container. This also helps flush out fertilizer salts, which can be dangerous if they accumulate.

Choose the Right Location

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Aside from choosing the right location for your plant based on light, there are choices you make for location based on watering needs.

Keep like with like. If it's possible, grow similar plants next to each other, so you won't have to thread your way among various plants while watering. Keep your succulents with your succulents and your aroids with your aroids.

Keep a water supply nearby. If your plants aren't near a water source, make your life easy and hide a watering container somewhere in the room where they're located. This will make it easier to regularly water.

Time It Right

Plants don't like suffer through debilitating cycles of drought and plenty, so you should try to be consistent in your watering. Although each species is different, in general plants, prefer even moisture.

Mark on your calendar to remind yourself to check every few days if your plant needs watering. "Check" is the key word here. You should check on a schedule if your plant needs watering, not water on a schedule. Whether or not you water a plant should be determined by the moisture in the soil and/or the state of the leaves, not by how many days have gone by on the calendar.

Water in the morning. Watering at night encourages dampness, which is a prerequisite for fungal attack. Instead, water during the day, when the evaporation and transpiration rates are at their best.

Check Your Water Quality

Pay attention to water quality. Some plants cannot tolerate chlorinated tap water, while other plants have a difficult time with soft water. Use the cleanest water possible, such as rainwater, water that has been left out for a few days to dechlorinate, or reverse osmosis water.