Houseplants forum→Watering houseplants

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Humboldt
Oct 20, 2021 10:34 PM CST
Shows up in half the threads here, and is something every single one of us will have an opinion about.
The more who contribute, the better of a reference this could be for people just getting into or back into them.

How do you go about watering your houseplants?

When:
Daily or weekly routine?
Know about what and when they need it regardless of what it is?
Watch the plants, they'll tell you?
Test the soil, it'll tell you?
Because it will die if you don't?

How:
Measured amount?
Till it drains?
Till it drains several times?
Soak submerged?
[Last edited by Humboldt - Oct 20, 2021 10:38 PM (+)]
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Name: Lynda Horn
Arkansas (Zone 7b)
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gardenfish
Oct 21, 2021 1:50 AM CST
What I do is first inform myself with every plants watering needs. Next, climatic conditions have to be considered. I don't cool my house to meat hanging temps in the summer; a lot of folks would say my house is too warm, but it suits us. I keep the house very cool in the winter. So plants get more watering in the summer and less in the winter. Also, in winter the plants don't require as much water, and I never fertilize in the winter. All my plants are in pots with good drainage, and all the succulents and cactuses are in clay pots.
For some plants that act like divas and Goldilocks and require exact moisture conditions I will use a wooden chopstick to determine if it's time to water or not. Inser the chopstick all the way into the pot and withdraw it. If there are soil particles clinging to it, it's good. If dry, time to water.
When I have a failing houseplant I consider the two main things I could be doing wrong; light or lack of it, and water or lack of it. Since I seldom if ever have insect issues inside, if a house plant is failing it's due to one of these two issues.
I have lost plants to watering issues; most notably pothos and spider plants. So if I re purchase them on occasion I'm really careful about how I water them. I've learned the watering needs of many of my plants. I have one plant that is 16 years old, it seems the summer outside, winter inside, and is a happy camper!
I always water to the point where the water runs from the drainage holes in the pot, and dump any extra water in the saucer. It's important to make sure the rootball gets soaked when watering. If the plant gets too dry a drop of dish soap added to the water helps break the soil tension for better penetration. Or I put the plant in the sink and let it absorb the water form the bottom up. Bottom up watering is recommended for certain plants with fuzzy leaves such as African violets.
I very seldom have overly dry plants. I believe most gardeners fall into basically one of two categories; under waterers and over waterers. I used to be the latter, and it was many years before I could grow succulents and cactus. I had to re train myself about watering these types of plants.
Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.
Mother Teresa
Name: Sally
central Maryland
Seriously addicted to kettle chips.
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sallyg
Oct 21, 2021 4:51 AM CST
"Less is more"

I see more plants (posted for help) that look overwatered than anything. Because, naturally, we feel that we must 'do something' and that's easy.

Lynda makes very good points about how the home environment is a factor in plant water needs. Putting the right plant in the right place prevents some problems like overwatering/underwatering.

I don't kill myself researching all different plants- though I do think I understand the general class of plants and act accordingly. .and I watch them over time to learn what works.. I assume on the dry side is better within reason. I have enough plants that to overwater everything would take too much time haha.

I do not as a rule soak or make them drip. Generally I would water until I see some leakage in the tray or cache pot. I do soak orchids in bark.

For work plants, I water weekly as every Thursday is good for my schedule and makes sure they don't fail on Sunday when I am never there. I have a watering can that holds about a gallon, usually make that do the whole job, water an amount I guess to be about right, don't always look for the seepage. Peace lily are the obvious ones that really tell me what they need. Now and then they may need an extra watering. A few other plants have 'tells' but many don't.

I feel the top of the soil and heft the weight of the pot to help judge.

I avoid really small plants like the 2-3 inch ones at the big box. = except succulents that small are OK. Many plants in such small pots are just too easy to let dry too much, it seems like. For someone who likes to water, those may be better so they DO dry out fast.
i'm pretty OK today, how are you? ;^)
Name: Tiffany purpleinopp
Opp, AL 🌵🌷⚘🌹🌻 (Zone 8b)
Houseplants Organic Gardener Composter Region: Gulf Coast Miniature Gardening Tropicals
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purpleinopp
Oct 21, 2021 7:23 AM CST
When my plants are inside, they get watered every weekend, or if it's been really cold, every 2 weeks. When they are outside, all get water every 2-4 days, depending on the temps. With a few exceptions like mini gardens and a couple of orchids, there are way too many to provide individual care so the goal is the same for all - add more water before the soil literally dries all the way.

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Name: Allie
No. California (Zone 9b)
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AllieCat
Oct 21, 2021 11:35 AM CST
I give each of my plants individual care first thing in the morning. The soil I'm using right now retains too much water and I need to figure out what to do about that. Unfortunately I bought a big bag so I need to amend it.

For the small plants I use a squeeze bottle with a long neck to water them because it gives me more control and it's easy to add whatever supplements I want.

I have four main plant groupings and then a few scattered plants so it's not that difficult to check on them each day plus I love doing it. I talk to them so they get plenty of carbon dioxide and only water based on checking the soil. If the water runs through quickly then I place it in the sink and let it soak up water from the bottom. (I like the chopstick trick and I think I'll try that.) I try to pay attention to what each plant wants but I tend to be a helicopter plant parent and I'm not sure that's good.

I'm concerned about my unsheltered outside plants that may get too much rain and stay wet all winter.

Off topic: I'm seeing a big difference in my plants since using the desktop humidifiers ($15) and the grow light bars ($20+).


Thumb of 2021-10-21/AllieCat/ed7d26


Thumb of 2021-10-21/AllieCat/fb5812

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Name: Lynda Horn
Arkansas (Zone 7b)
Eat more tomatoes!
Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge) Container Gardener Lilies Cat Lover Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Zinnias
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gardenfish
Oct 21, 2021 11:47 AM CST
I think humidifiers are a wonderful idea, I use them myself! I read somewhere that the average house has a humidity level inside the house at around 10%, that's desert levels. Humidity is good for plants and people.,
Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.
Mother Teresa
Name: Allie
No. California (Zone 9b)
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AllieCat
Oct 21, 2021 12:26 PM CST
gardenfish said:I think humidifiers are a wonderful idea, I use them myself! I read somewhere that the average house has a humidity level inside the house at around 10%, that's desert levels. Humidity is good for plants and people.,


Yeah, my skin hasn't been nearly as dry since I started using a couple of humidifiers near me. My cat must like it because she's always sticking her nose in the hole where the mist comes out. She's silly and wants to experience everything I do.

I love cats! I really really love cats!
Name: Di
Ontario, Canada (Zone 5a)
Enjoys or suffers cold winters Region: Canadian Dog Lover Birds
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rosebuddy2
Oct 21, 2021 4:31 PM CST
I do a once a week watering in the summer, then a week and a half to a two week watering in the winter to let the plants rest. I do keep an eye on them and have always believed to let the plants tell me if they need something. I seldom water to the point where the water actually drains out the bottom hole unless I've repotted something, and want to get rid of any air holes. May be against what others think to do, but since you asked! LOL. ( I Was also told by a contractor once that my house had a higher lever of humidity than usual due to the number of plants in it. ) So get more plants everybody!! Smiling Smiling
"There is a crack, a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in." Leonard Cohen

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Humboldt
Oct 21, 2021 10:02 PM CST
gardenfish said:What I do is first inform myself with every plants watering needs. Next, climatic conditions have to be considered. I don't cool my house to meat hanging temps in the summer; a lot of folks would say my house is too warm, but it suits us. I keep the house very cool in the winter. So plants get more watering in the summer and less in the winter. Also, in winter the plants don't require as much water, and I never fertilize in the winter. All my plants are in pots with good drainage, and all the succulents and cactuses are in clay pots.
For some plants that act like divas and Goldilocks and require exact moisture conditions I will use a wooden chopstick to determine if it's time to water or not. Inser the chopstick all the way into the pot and withdraw it. If there are soil particles clinging to it, it's good. If dry, time to water.
When I have a failing houseplant I consider the two main things I could be doing wrong; light or lack of it, and water or lack of it. Since I seldom if ever have insect issues inside, if a house plant is failing it's due to one of these two issues.
I have lost plants to watering issues; most notably pothos and spider plants. So if I re purchase them on occasion I'm really careful about how I water them. I've learned the watering needs of many of my plants. I have one plant that is 16 years old, it seems the summer outside, winter inside, and is a happy camper!
I always water to the point where the water runs from the drainage holes in the pot, and dump any extra water in the saucer. It's important to make sure the rootball gets soaked when watering. If the plant gets too dry a drop of dish soap added to the water helps break the soil tension for better penetration. Or I put the plant in the sink and let it absorb the water form the bottom up. Bottom up watering is recommended for certain plants with fuzzy leaves such as African violets.
I very seldom have overly dry plants. I believe most gardeners fall into basically one of two categories; under waterers and over waterers. I used to be the latter, and it was many years before I could grow succulents and cactus. I had to re train myself about watering these types of plants.


Awesome post, thank you!

This is exactly what I was hoping for.
[Last edited by Humboldt - Oct 21, 2021 10:04 PM (+)]
Give a thumbs up | Quote | Post #2614026 (9)

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Humboldt
Oct 21, 2021 10:10 PM CST
sallyg said:
I see more plants (posted for help) that look overwatered than anything. Because, naturally, we feel that we must 'do something' and that's easy.

I feel the top of the soil and heft the weight of the pot to help judge.


Thanks sallyg!

Watering does seem like the first thing done when a plant looks poorly.


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Humboldt
Oct 21, 2021 10:17 PM CST
purpleinopp said:When my plants are inside, they get watered every weekend, or if it's been really cold, every 2 weeks. When they are outside, all get water every 2-4 days, depending on the temps. With a few exceptions like mini gardens and a couple of orchids, there are way too many to provide individual care so the goal is the same for all - add more water before the soil literally dries all the way.



Your plants look great, sounds like that schedule works fine in AL.

Way too buggy in weather here, northern CA.

The best picture of my my first dog Inga, a gorgeous golden retriever, was taking in Alabama when my sister drove from NC to AZ to bring her to me on a road trip.

Beautiful picture and beautiful woods.


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Humboldt
Oct 21, 2021 10:23 PM CST
AllieCat said:I give each of my plants individual care first thing in the morning. The soil I'm using right now retains too much water and I need to figure out what to do about that. Unfortunately I bought a big bag so I need to amend it.

For the small plants I use a squeeze bottle with a long neck to water them because it gives me more control and it's easy to add whatever supplements I want.

I have four main plant groupings and then a few scattered plants so it's not that difficult to check on them each day plus I love doing it. I talk to them so they get plenty of carbon dioxide and only water based on checking the soil. If the water runs through quickly then I place it in the sink and let it soak up water from the bottom. (I like the chopstick trick and I think I'll try that.) I try to pay attention to what each plant wants but I tend to be a helicopter plant parent and I'm not sure that's good.

I'm concerned about my unsheltered outside plants that may get too much rain and stay wet all winter.

Off topic: I'm seeing a big difference in my plants since using the desktop humidifiers ($15) and the grow light bars ($20+).


Thumb of 2021-10-21/AllieCat/ed7d26


Thumb of 2021-10-21/AllieCat/fb5812



Your plants look gorgeous and healthy and happy.

The squeeze bottle is a great idea.

At work I use a ~20oz water bottle with about 15 tiny holes dremeled holes in the lid.
Works great, and it was free, just had to raid the recycling bin at work.

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Humboldt
Oct 21, 2021 10:25 PM CST
rosebuddy2 said:I seldom water to the point where the water actually drains out the bottom hole unless I've repotted something, and want to get rid of any air holes. May be against what others think to do, but since you asked! LOL.


If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
Name: Tiffany purpleinopp
Opp, AL 🌵🌷⚘🌹🌻 (Zone 8b)
Houseplants Organic Gardener Composter Region: Gulf Coast Miniature Gardening Tropicals
Butterflies Garden Sages Cactus and Succulents Plant Identifier Million Pollinator Garden Challenge Garden Ideas: Level 1
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purpleinopp
Oct 22, 2021 7:37 AM CST
Humboldt said:

Your plants look great, sounds like that schedule works fine in AL.

Way too buggy in weather here, northern CA.

The best picture of my my first dog Inga, a gorgeous golden retriever, was taking in Alabama when my sister drove from NC to AZ to bring her to me on a road trip.

Beautiful picture and beautiful woods.



Thank you!

Since getting rid of peat, I've only lost plants to getting too dry. It's so much easier to just make sure they don't get dry, than worrying about root rot and trying to magically intuit and wait for the exact mysterious minute when it would be OK to add more water w/o causing "overwatering." And I don't miss hydrophobic soil either, what a pain!
👀😁😂 - SMILE! -☺😎☻☮👌✌∞☯🐣🐦🐔🐝🍯🐾
The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The 2nd best time is now.
👒🎄👣🏡🍃🍂🌾🌿🍁❦❧ 🍃🍁🍂🌾🌻🌸🌼🌹🌽❀☀🌺
☕👓 The only way to succeed is to try.
Name: Allie
No. California (Zone 9b)
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AllieCat
Oct 22, 2021 9:06 AM CST
purpleinopp said:

Thank you!

Since getting rid of peat, I've only lost plants to getting too dry. It's so much easier to just make sure they don't get dry, than worrying about root rot and trying to magically intuit and wait for the exact mysterious minute when it would be OK to add more water w/o causing "overwatering." And I don't miss hydrophobic soil either, what a pain!


Can I ask you what soil you use that has better drainage? I'm having a problem with the soil staying wet too long and I'm worried about root rot on some of my plants. I don't want to get into a thing about which plant needs which type of soil I'm just looking for a general all-purpose soil that drains well or that I can supplement. Unfortunately I bought a huge bag of Miracle-Gro before I found out that's one of the worst potting soils to use so now I'm looking to supplement it with something else to lighten it up.
I love cats! I really really love cats!
Name: Tiffany purpleinopp
Opp, AL 🌵🌷⚘🌹🌻 (Zone 8b)
Houseplants Organic Gardener Composter Region: Gulf Coast Miniature Gardening Tropicals
Butterflies Garden Sages Cactus and Succulents Plant Identifier Million Pollinator Garden Challenge Garden Ideas: Level 1
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purpleinopp
Oct 22, 2021 10:04 AM CST
Sure, I don't mean to be controversial, or recommend what anyone else should do, but just answer the question. I got sick of spending $ on garbage that killed my plants (and turned into a fungus gnat farm) and have been using ground soil out of my garden for the past few yrs, about 3-6 yrs, depending on the specific pot. I wish I would have done this much sooner.

A few of my bigger pots have "cactus & palm" soil just because of the reduced weight. When I spend $, that is what I get. If I could find some, I would use cococoir. I've purchased a few plants in that and it is wonderful stuff, like a million tiny sponges, and not hydrophobic if I lapse in watering for so long that it gets dry.

Some people swear by MG, and more power to them! But I can't get along with peat from any brand. Unglazed clay pots could help, if you want to try to make use of the MG bag you have, because the clay can breathe. And NOT packing soil into a pot. Try to leave it loose and airy, watering very gently the first few times so it doesn't compact. (I don't miss trying to do that either.)

A quote from Al,
If you start with a pint of water-retentive medium and add a particle the size of a BB or a peppercorn. It increases the o/a volume of the medium by the volume of the BB/ peppercorn without increasing aeration, so aeration on a per volume basis decreases. As you continue to add the BB-size particles, even by the hundred, aeration continues to decrease until you've added a volume of BB size particles large enough to ensure there is no longer enough fine material to fill all the spaces between the BB-size particles.

The point at which there is exactly enough fine material to fill all spaces between the coarse particles is called the "threshold proportion", and it is the most difficult combination of the 2 materials to grow in; however, if additional coarse material is added to a mix of materials at a threshold proportion, aeration and drainage begins to increase exponentially. Ideally, you would start with a mix of very coarse material (particles in the 1/10-3/16" size range) and add only enough fine material to ensure you are comfortable with watering intervals, making sure there is nowhere near enough fine material to decimate the medium's potential for aeration and drainage.


He also recommends reading this, more in-depth info with illustrations:
https://www.controlledenvironm...

👀😁😂 - SMILE! -☺😎☻☮👌✌∞☯🐣🐦🐔🐝🍯🐾
The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The 2nd best time is now.
👒🎄👣🏡🍃🍂🌾🌿🍁❦❧ 🍃🍁🍂🌾🌻🌸🌼🌹🌽❀☀🌺
☕👓 The only way to succeed is to try.

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Humboldt
Oct 22, 2021 9:42 PM CST
Thanks for all the feedback so far!

I figure water and light are the two most crucial things for plants.

Plants are more tolerant of bad lighting than bad watering, at least mine always are.

I figure we live all over the world in a lot of super-different climates, so the more tips and tricks and advice we try the better our plants can do.

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Humboldt
Oct 22, 2021 10:02 PM CST
I'm all over the place on this one, and basically either assume they will need watering (and checking them of course), or watch the plant leaves as a signal.

Depends so much on the plant and conditions.

I have eight 5" pothos at work. Same shelf, same lighting, basically same size.

They dry out at different rates. I water them the same. same saturation rate and drainage, same soil.

Instead of just watering them all though each time, I look at the soil.

Two outdoor monsteras, probably ~40 years old (owned for 19) and ~12 (owned for 1).

When I have time I dote on them, when I don't I neglect them.
I'll go 3 or 4 weeks without watering them, and they look great.
But I watch them and know the older one quite well.
She's the one that's looks stunning if I drag her out into a gentle rain overnight and throw my back out.
Within a couple days she look's like she's worth $1000.

Some of my outdoor succulents I only water during the summer.
I go heavy on pumice so I'm not worried about soaking the hell out of them.
Small flat rocks can work well to disperse the water during the summer so it doesn't carve a pit into the soil, and it also doesn't disturb the pumice as much.

Indoor succulents I let get damn dry before soaking them for 10 minutes or so (you can't water any more than that, right?).
Good drainage vital. They thrive.
[Last edited by Humboldt - Oct 22, 2021 10:08 PM (+)]
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Humboldt
Oct 22, 2021 10:19 PM CST
Spider plants are one of the easiest for me to read.

Most of my home ones are up high. Instead of checking the soil often I watch the leaves.

Within a couple days of the surface soil going dry, typically the largest leaves first will crease and fold.

You have several days to catch it before it causes structural damage (won't unfold even after watering).

But you have to make it part of your daily routine, at some point, any point, to check them out.
[Last edited by Humboldt - Oct 22, 2021 10:32 PM (+)]
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Humboldt
Oct 22, 2021 10:32 PM CST
Crassulas? Hah!

One of the hardiest damn plants out there without being a cactus.

I have 18 month-old branch cuttings sitting in a cardboard box in my carport. They'd root fine.
So much for light.

I have a beautiful dark sky-blue glazed ceramic pot (with drainage, awesome pot), maybe 22" across at the top.
About 18" inside my carport.
Had some impatiens about 10 years ago, still filled with a flower mix I did of backyard dirt/compost/sharp sand/green sand/pumice.

A jade leaf dropped into it and rooted about 5 years ago.
Plant is about 14", looks great. Haven't watered it ever.
So much for water. Seems just the mist with winter rains is enough.

[Last edited by Humboldt - Oct 22, 2021 10:35 PM (+)]
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