Ask a Question forum→How do you water large houseplants?

Views: 386, Replies: 12 » Jump to the end
Name: mei
Toronto, ON (Zone 6a)
mogumei
Dec 1, 2018 9:07 PM CST
I know that the correct way to water houseplants is to water whenever it is dry. First, stick a finger in to feel its dryness, and then water until it drips through the drainage holes.

However, I have three large houseplants (ficus elastica, BOP, and philodendron rojo congo) that I honestly have no idea how to gauge when to water. Yes, the soil is dry when I stick my finger in -- but how can I tell if it's also dry throughout the entire ~50cm tall planter? And since they are older houseplants, the soil is more compact. Is this why I never see water drain through the bottom when I water them? Or am I just simply not watering enough? But I am also too scared to water more and cause root rot.

Any advice on how to know when and how much to water larger houseplants is appreciated! Thank you for taking the time to read this!
Name: Christine
NY zone 5a
Charter ATP Member Region: United States of America Deer Region: New York Birds Cat Lover
Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Container Gardener Hostas Tropicals Dog Lover Hummingbirder
Image
Christine
Dec 2, 2018 8:04 AM CST
I use a chop stick to check the soil for moisture in my large plants, if the water is not draining you aren't watering thoroughly, pictures of the plants and their containers would help a lot.
Livonia, Michigan (Zone 6a)
He who dies with the most toys wins
Region: United States of America Critters Allowed Growing under artificial light Echinacea Hostas Region: Michigan
Butterflies Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge) Orchids Cat Lover Birds Bee Lover
Image
BigBill
Dec 2, 2018 8:56 AM CST
Yes, what Christine said. You water thoroughly when the top half inch or so is dry. You would have overly moist soil in 90% of the pot with a dry top inch. Doesn't happen that way. Water is wicked upwards and if it is too moist below, the top is never going to dry.
When you water have the water drain through the bottom drainage holes. Use plastic saucers to catch the water if need be.
So much of house plant care becomes common sense. Don't over think it.
The key to orchid growing is to match the orchid to your conditions.
Taos, New Mexico (Zone 5b)
Crescit Eundo
Greenhouse Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Region: New Mexico
Image
Henderman
Dec 2, 2018 9:19 AM CST
Confused @BigBill I'm confused by your advice. Water when the top 1/2" is dry but the plant will be overly moist with a dry top inch? Can you clarify?
Name: Will Creed
NYC
Prof. plant consultant & educator
Image
WillC
Dec 2, 2018 9:29 AM CST
The soil in potted plants dries from the top down. The plants that you referenced never want to get dry deep in the root zone. If your plants are properly potted (not over potted) and there is no layer of loose soil on top of the original rootball, then your plants can be watered when the top inch of soil is dry. That is about as far as you can insert your finger. The soil below that level will remain damp, as it should.

When you water, always add enough so that some runs through the drain holes. If no water runs through, it may be because you did not add enough. But make sure the drain hole is not clogged by sticking a pencil or stick up into the drain hole. As long as excess water can drain out and you allow the top inch of soil to dry, you don't need to worry about root rot.
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
www.HorticulturalHelp.com
Contact me directly at [email protected]
I now have a book available on indoor plant care
Livonia, Michigan (Zone 6a)
He who dies with the most toys wins
Region: United States of America Critters Allowed Growing under artificial light Echinacea Hostas Region: Michigan
Butterflies Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge) Orchids Cat Lover Birds Bee Lover
Image
BigBill
Dec 2, 2018 10:20 AM CST
No you misunderstood me. I was responding to something you had said. Just stick to watering when the top half inch gets dry. You won't have a half inch of dry soil sitting on top of 10" of mud! When the top dries, that's when you know to water.
The key to orchid growing is to match the orchid to your conditions.
Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
Daylilies Birds Enjoys or suffers cold winters Native Plants and Wildflowers Butterflies Annuals
Region: Canadian Keeps Horses Dog Lover Plant Identifier Garden Sages
Image
sooby
Dec 2, 2018 10:46 AM CST
In that size pot (just under 20" deep) I'd go with the top inch being dry, but having said that I more often go by weight. You don't need to lift up a big pot but carefully tipping it to one side a little can give you an idea of the weight. If it feels heavy for its size don't water, if it feels very light it is too dry, you want to aim somewhere in between.
Livonia, Michigan (Zone 6a)
He who dies with the most toys wins
Region: United States of America Critters Allowed Growing under artificial light Echinacea Hostas Region: Michigan
Butterflies Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge) Orchids Cat Lover Birds Bee Lover
Image
BigBill
Dec 2, 2018 10:54 AM CST
Great point sooby, great point!
Mind if I use that? I tip my hat to you. Rolling on the floor laughing
The key to orchid growing is to match the orchid to your conditions.
Name: mei
Toronto, ON (Zone 6a)
mogumei
Dec 2, 2018 10:56 AM CST
Hi everyone,

Thank you so much for all the tips -- I really appreciate it! I feel much more confident about my watering. I will definitely try out the chopstick idea, both to check moisture deep inside, and to insert into the drainage holes to make sure they aren't clogged.

These are the plants in question. The BOP was a rescue so its leaves are a bit tattered, but it's putting out new growth! And my cat for scale! I also had a concern about my philodendron rojo congo, which I will be making another post on the forum. But they all appreciate your help! Hurray!

Thumb of 2018-12-02/mogumei/7cdad0
Thumb of 2018-12-02/mogumei/0f8ba0
Thumb of 2018-12-02/mogumei/646be6

West Central Minnesota (Zone 4a)
Rubi
Dec 2, 2018 11:26 AM CST
mogumei said: And my cat for scale!



Please post a photo of the cat next to an extended measuring tape. We need to know how big the cat is.
Name: seil
St Clair Shores, MI (Zone 6a)
Roses Garden Photography Region: Michigan
Image
seilMI
Dec 2, 2018 6:26 PM CST
Everything in your photos looks very healthy so I'd just keep doing what you're doing!
Name: Lin Vosbury
Sebastian, Florida (Zone 10a)

Region: United States of America Deer Region: Florida Charter ATP Member Million Pollinator Garden Challenge I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
Garden Procrastinator Birds Butterflies Bee Lover Hummingbirder Container Gardener
Image
plantladylin
Dec 2, 2018 7:04 PM CST
Your plants look beautiful (kitty too!) so I say keep doing what you've been doing! Thumbs up
~ I'm an old gal who still loves playing in the dirt!
~ Playing in the dirt is my therapy ... and I'm in therapy a lot!


Name: Christine
NY zone 5a
Charter ATP Member Region: United States of America Deer Region: New York Birds Cat Lover
Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Container Gardener Hostas Tropicals Dog Lover Hummingbirder
Image
Christine
Dec 3, 2018 5:33 AM CST
I agree,your plants look really good, love your cat, I have a black cat too.

Sue, I check some of my smaller pots by lifting, after having some of them for years you just know each plant 💚

« Garden.org Homepage
« Back to the top
« Forums List
« Ask a Question forum
Only the members of the Members group may reply to this thread.

Member Login:

[ Join now ]

Today's site banner is by KFredenburg and is called "Thimble cactus bloom"

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.