Watering houseplants properly is essential for their health and well-being. Not too little and not too much is sometimes hard to judge. Of course, different plants have different requirements for water, so it can get pretty confusing.
Wilting means it needs water? Wilting means it has been overwatered?
Tap water ? Distilled water? Rain water?
Here are some general watering guidelines to help you keep your houseplants healthy.
Does Your Plant Feel Dry?
Insert your finger into the soil. By gently stick your index finger about 1-2 inches or 2.5-5 cm into the soil at the base of the plant you can feel the dryness or wetness of the soil. Make sure to avoid any hard objects like rocks or the plant’s roots.
Feel the soil moisture. Pay attention to how the soil feels when you touch it. Here’s what to look for:
- Dry soil: If the soil feels dry to the touch and crumbles easily, it’s a sign that your plant needs water. This is usually an indication that the top inch or so of soil is dry.
- Moist soil: If the soil feels slightly damp and cool, it’s still adequately moist, and you can hold off on watering for a little while longer.
- Wet soil: If the soil feels wet or soggy, it’s a sign of overwatering. Allow the soil to dry out before watering again to prevent root rot.
If you find an over-watered plant, don’t be afraid to remove it from the pot, wrap the soil ball in absorbent paper towels and let it dry out for a day or so. Check the roots and cut those off that look mushy or limp. Repot in dry soil after it seems less waterlogged.
Check multiple spots: It’s a good idea to check the soil in several areas around the plant’s pot to ensure that you get an accurate sense of its moisture level. Sometimes the top layer of soil may dry out faster than the deeper layers.
You can also use a Moisture Tester. Those are awesome too and I use mine often.
Remember that different plants have different watering needs, so it’s essential to consider the specific requirements of your houseplant’s species. Using your finger to check the soil moisture is a practical and effective method to help you determine when your plant needs watering
Plants That Need To Be Pretty Dry
Jade Plants and all the varieties of Crassula Gollum need to be kept on the very dry side. That means you can go weeks without watering. These plants sometimes get a bit of a wrinkled look when they are extremely dry, and I find that mine do well getting that dry.
But once you see that, water it well. These must be planted in well-draining soil and will drainage holes, for sure. Don’t put this one in a dish with no hole for drainage unless you do for a short time to test seeing how little water it needs.
Snake Plants and all varieties of Sanseveria also do well kept dry. I have a huge Snake Plant and I can still just manage to take it outside (in good weather) or over to the sink if not. Then it gets “drowned” very few MONTHS.
In my video, you will see Her Royal Highness Miss Snake have a “spa day” and enjoy the full experience. Spring and late summer for these. And only once during the winter months in the sink. And that’s because I can still get her there.
Plants That Need To Be Moist
In my case, I have some Baby Tears and Swedish Ivy that prefer to be slightly moist or damp but not wet. Visualizing the Swedish Ivy through a glass bowl is a great way to learn the proper watering techniques to keep it happy.
For my Baby Tears, I have them in a hypertufa bowl for moisture. For almost the same reason, I have my Cactus Pups in hypertufa too. With hypertufa being very porous, it can hold moisture in the material of the “planter” keeping it available for the plant. I just keep the Baby Tears saucer wetted down. The hypertufa pulls the moisture from the saucer and wicks it back into the soil as it dries out.
Conversely, for the Cactus pups, hypertufa pulls moisture away from the roots and allows air into them. I just control the amount of moisture as I water these.
Using Tap Water Works For Me…Mostly
Hard water is water that contains varying amounts of mineral ions. The most common ions found in high amounts in hard water are the metal cations calcium and magnesium , though iron, aluminum, and manganese may also be found. These metals are water soluble, meaning they will dissolve in water.
In the area of SW Ohio where I live, we have hard water. Currently, we do not have any water “softening” system in our house. I mostly use tap water but occasionally catch rainwater to supplement my watering needs for my houseplants.
Distilled water is needed sometimes if you notice a buildup of minerals on your plants. I will have some info on that in a later post and video.
A Visual Example To Teach Yourself How To Water HousePlants
If you watch the video, you will see how I have some cuttings that I have planted in a clear glass fishbowl. I have a few more throughout the house.
I like to be able to see the soil, see the roots, and watch the water as it trickles through the soil ball around those roots. This technique can help you see how the water works its way into and through the soil, changing the color.
My soil displays a grayish tone when dry and then goes to a darker black when wet. In the video you can see this through the glass and observe how much water it takes to make that change happen. This helps you to see how much it takes or how little it takes to affect that change.
After you use this method for a while, you will be more comfortable with knowing what is happening under the top soil level even when you use a regular pot that is not clear.
Try it and see how it works for you. Happy houseplanting!