Watering Houseplants: How Much is Enough?

by | Last updated May 2, 2022

How Much Water Do Pot Plants Need

How much water is the right amount for your houseplants? New plant owners tend to either over-water their plants (leading to soggy soil) or underwater them (causing a drought condition); both are detrimental to plant health. It is essential the roots are wet and then dry out over a period before this cycle is repeated. Read on to learn our top tips for watering houseplants and when to know how much is enough.

How Much Water Do Houseplants Need?

The amount of water required varies between the different species. Once you’ve looked into the recommended average water requirement of a particular plant, a moisture gauge will be able to help out. 

Recommended
  • Reliable and accurate: Sensing probe ensures accurate and instant testing results, matching for both indoor or outdoor use.
  • Easy to read: Large and clear dial, including ten scales, plug and read.
  • How to use: Simply insert the moisture meter into soil and you'll get the test result instantly. Help your plants grow healthy and strong.
  • Less hurts: Single probe, less hurts to the roots, doesn't dig up too much soil after test.
  • Important tips: 1. Do not use it to test very hard soil 2. Never use it to test water or other liquid. Designed for testing soil only. 3. After use, please wipe clean the probe.

This is extremely helpful for watering plants in a container or pot. A probe on this gauge can be stuck into the soil; the reading on the indicator corresponds to the moisture level of the soil. This will let you determine when it’s time to stop watering the plant or when it needs more watering.

For a plant that requires moderately moist soil, if the gauge reads in the drier zones, it indicates the need for more water. When the moisture leaches from the drainage holes, that’s the indication to stop. Ideally, letting the top few layers of soil (about 8 cm) dry out before watering again works best. 

Know Your Plants

Succulents and drought-tolerant plants require much less watering. On the other hand, vegetable plants prefer consistently moist soil, and flowering annuals don’t like dry soil.

For herb plants such as rosemary, thyme, oregano, etc., it does well to let the soil dry out between waterings; this helps enhance the flavor of the herb. On the other hand, moisture is desirable by other herb plants such as parsley, chives, and sage.

Also, well-grown plants can go for long periods in between watering schedules than ones that have been newly potted.

Knowing your plants’ watering needs usually works out through trial and error until you can figure out the preferences.

Seasonal Watering Variations

The summer days, especially the peak of summer, are when plants need more water and more attention. With the hot weather, they lose moisture, causing them to draw more water from their roots in the soil. Summertime is when you absolutely don’t stop watering pot plants, more so for the ones kept outdoors. Neither can you stop watering the plants after summer since they need water in autumn and winter as well; keep them hydrated before these seasons arrive. 

Outdoor vs. Indoor Houseplants

Incorrect watering techniques, whether for indoor or outdoor plants, will cause damage. Overwatering is the most common cause of plant death. 

Watering Outdoor Plants

Watering Outdoor Plants
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Here are a few tips to let you determine the right watering procedure:

Time of The Day

Watering potted plants in the morning works the best to keep them hydrated throughout the day. Even in summertime, watering early ensures the plants are able to store the required amount of moisture in the soil to withstand the day heat. It is strongly recommended to avoid watering in late evenings or nights since the plant’s activity levels are lower during these times.

Avoid Overwatering and Underwatering

A less frequent watering that thoroughly wets the soil would be better than regular, shallow surface watering. The roots must be able to reach the water to nourish the plant. 

Water at Soil Level

The best practice is to direct the water at the base of the plants, delivering hydration directly to the roots, which will process it for the plant’s health. Slow and deep watering will ensure healthy growth. 

Water Once A Day

The soil in potted plants dries out quicker than that in a garden or flower bed. Smaller pots need frequent watering. During the peak of summer, after having watered the plant in the morning, if the afternoons are excruciatingly hot, another round of watering would be beneficial to the outdoor pot plants. 

Check Moisture Levels

A hot and windy day turns the surface of the soil dry. However, the layers of soil beneath the surface might be moist. It is essential to check if it is so before you water the plant again, as it can lead to overwatering. A moisture gauge would be the best gadget for this. Alternatively, a wooden dowel can be inserted a few inches into the potting soil. If the soil is dry, it’ll come out clean. Else moist soil will stick to it. 

Additionally, if there’s been a heavy downpour or it’s been constantly raining, stop watering till the top few layers of soil have dried out. Rainwater is quite beneficial for plants, being the most natural source of water. 

Watering Indoor Plants

Watering Indoor Plants
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The watering needs of indoor plants are different from outdoor ones. Following are the tips to follow for indoor plants:

Avoid Overwatering

Too much water makes the soil soggy, eventually causing root rot and fungal disease. If there are visible signs of overwatering, such as wilting stems, droopy leaves, a white coating (fungus), or fungal gnats near the plants, it’s your hint to stop watering for a while until the soil can sufficiently dry out.

Wick Your Time Away

If you’re going to be away from home for a few days or a couple of weeks, you mustn’t keep pot plants in a sink or tub filled with a few inches of water; this could do more harm than keep them hydrated. Instead, wicking is a better alternative; this ensures the plant stays hydrated, not flooded. 

Place a large jar of water near the plant. A string of cotton rope or absorbent fabric must be placed with one end in the water jar and the other end poked into the pot’s soil. This functions like a wick, slowly transferring the water. 

Dump The Water Collection Tray

The collection tray beneath the pot will accumulate water draining out when watered. This water could get reabsorbed by the plant over the next 30 minutes. Following that, it would be best to discard the remaining water as standing water could result in root rot over time. 

Less Water in Winter and More in Spring

The winters are when plants are typically in a dormant state. With shorter days, the light exposure to indoor plants is less. Watering frequency needs to be reduced greatly during this time to prevent any damage.

With the approach of spring, the days get longer, and the plant starts growing again. This is when the watering needs to increase gradually.

Check Soil Moisture

Have a moisture gauge handy to check the condition of the soil – dry, moist, or wet, up to several inches deep to the roots. Rather than going with your instinct on when to water your plants, a moisture gauge will give you a clear indication. If it shows wet or moist, you should preferably withhold watering for a bit. 

Avoid Overly Water-Retentive Potting Mix

When potting plants, a well-drained potting mix is a suitable option. It doesn’t stay soggy or wet for longer times. A good potting mix must contain coconut coir, perlite, coarse sand, or vermiculite. This ensures the soil stays aerated, and the draining process is better. 

Final Thoughts

It’s always easier to overwater plants than to underwater them. The best way to prevent this is to touch the soil; if it feels moist, this indicates that there is sufficient moisture to sustain it, and you can delay the next watering schedule.

Shelbi Clifford

Shelbi Clifford

Hi, I'm Shelbi! I am the founder of Houseplant Advisor - a blog for all things houseplants. Whether you are looking to add some green to your home or want to learn about how plants can help improve air quality in your space, Houseplant Advisor is here with the answers. Do you have any questions? Feel free to reach out and ask me anything!

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