Watering Houseplants: When and How to Properly Water Your Plants

Watering houseplants correctly is vital for your plants to survive. Some plants like to be kept in moist soil at all times, and others prefer to have their soil dry out slightly between waterings (top 2 inches of soil).

top and bottom watering plants

Season, Temperature and Pot Matters

Plants need more watering during the growing season when they are forming flower buds and new growth.  Plants in sunny or bright light use more water than the ones in low-light areas.

Frequent houseplant watering is needed for plants in clay and unglazed ceramic pots because these pots absorb and evaporate the moisture quicker from the sides.  Plastic and nonporous pots dry out slowly and retains moisture longer.

The size of the plant pot is also a factor because a large plant in a small pot needs more water often.

Heat Source Affect Plants Need for Water

Plants need less water when they are dormant; however, variables affect indoor houseplants need for water. Watering is required more frequently during winter months when the house is hot and dry from forced air heat.   Plants lose moisture through the pores in their leaves and stems--especially those with large or very thin leaves.

Be sure to check every few days to see how the plant uses water.

Cacti which come from the desert is an exception because they are well adapted to dry conditions. Succulents can also go a long period without water.

However, it's important to note that every plant has unique water requirements and it's a good idea to research the specific needs of your plants before deciding on a watering method. 

Plants with shallow roots or those that are adapted to living in dryer environments, such as succulents, cactus, and epiphytes, may prefer top watering as it allows them to take in moisture from the top of the soil.

Guidelines for Watering Houseplants:

Watering Plants

1. The ideal time to water is in the morning. 

2. Use a long-spouted watering can for reaching deep into the center of the pot.

3. Test the soil by using a moisture meter or by pushing your finger into the top half-inch of the soil. If it's dry, water slowly until the surface of the potting mixture is covered with water; let it soak in and drain into the saucer, then empty the excess water.

4. Always use water at room temperature. Cold water will shock the plant roots and stunt the growth if watered repeatedly this way.

5. Do not use water that is treated with water softeners because it contains lots of salt. Your plants will grow slowly and may die from sodium poisoning.

6. Do not water your indoor plants with water straight from the tap because it has chlorine in it. Collect water in a container and leave open for 24 hours to let the chlorine diffuse into the air. This is necessary to prevent spots on the foliage.

Bottom Watering Houseplants

Bottom watering can be a beneficial way to water your houseplants because it provides moisture directly to the roots, which encourages deep root growth and can help prevent overwatering.

When a potted plant is watered from the top, the water can sometimes collect on the soil surface and not reach the roots, leading to the growth of fungus and mold.

By watering from the bottom, the plant can take up water as needed, and excess water drains from the bottom, preventing the buildup of moisture which can lead to root rot. Bottom watering can also help to avoid directly wetting the leaves of a plant and reduce the risk of disease or sun scorch.

 Additionally, alternating between top and bottom watering may be a good option for some plants as it encourages deep root growth while still providing moisture to the surface of the soil.

How to Bottom Water Houseplants

1.  Fill a container with water. The container should be large enough to fit your plant pot, but not so deep that the water reaches the top of the soil in your pot.

2.  Place your plant pot in the container of water.  Make sure that the entire bottom of the pot is in the water.

3.  Let the plant sit in the water for about 10 to 20 minutes, or until the topsoil is moist.

4.  Remove the plant pot from the container of water and let the excess water drain out.

5.  Empty any remaining water in the container and allow the container to fully dry before using again.

 If you have to be away from you indoor gardening, there are many other watering remedies for vacations and extended absences from your indoor gardening.  Keeping plants properly hydrated is essential to maintaining their health and preventing their decline, which is particularly important during hot and dry periods when they need more water to compensate for increased transpiration rates.