The Q&A Archives: Proper watering of houseplants

Question: What is the best way to water my houseplants? From the roots up or from the soil down? I am afraid to overwater. If done from the roots up must I water daily as the water disappears fast. When I water the soil I can see when it starts needing water again.

Answer: Either way is acceptable. The main advantage to watering from the bottom is that this method keeps water off the foliage. To some plants this is important (African violets, for instance). But watering from the top, if you're careful not to splash water, is just as effective. I water my houseplants by immersing the pots in a sinkful of water, just up to the rims. If you set them too deep in the water, the top layer of potting soil will float away. After setting the pots in the water, I use a sprinkling can with a spout to direct water over the top of the soil. By immersing the pots I know that all the potting soil will become saturated. After letting them set for about 10 minutes I let the excess water drain and then set them back on their saucers. I only do this once every 10-14 days with my foliage plants but if you have flowering plants or extra thirsty ones, you may need to water more frequently. A good test is to pick up the pot. If it feels light, it's time to water. If it still feels heavy, the soil is moist enough. Another way to test is to stick your fingertip into the soil. If it is dry a half-inch beneath the surface, it's time to water.

Best wishes with your houseplants!

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