Overwatering and under watering houseplants are two of the most common ways well meaning folks kill their plants. Figuring out the right amount of water for different varieties of plants can be tricky, as can determining the amount to water when you’ll be away from home for a while. Before you label yourself a “black thumb,” read on to learn about four easy ways to water plants.
Knowing When to Water Plants
A good rule of thumb when it comes to watering plants is to place your finger (or thumb) in the soil. If the soil is moist and bits of it stick to your finger without being too watery or muddy, your plant is fine. If the plant has been overwatered, it could die unless it is repotted immediately. If the soil is dry and crumbly and the leaves are brown and wilting, the plant needs water and may die if it does not receive moisture. Remember, when it comes to watering, cactus and succulents are the only plants that will do well with infrequent watering. These plants are designed store up water and are very drought tolerant. They do, however, need occasional watering and a good way to do that is with a sink bath or misting-read on to learn more.
4 Easy Ways to Water Plants
Ferns particularly enjoy a good misting. Often times a misting is all that is required for ferns as they tend to thrive on the moisture in the air. Plants with glossy leaves also will tolerate a good misting in addition to another watering method. As a bonus, misting can help to remove dust that can build up on plants with shiny foliage.
Sink Bath Watering Method
This method is particularly effective for cacti, succulents, and plants that are potted in terracotta planters with drainage holes. When the soil is dry to the touch, fill the sink with enough water to cover ¾ of the plant pot. Place the plants in the sink and let the pots soak for an hour. Drain the sink and allow the plant pots to air dry on the outside before placing them back on the window sill. Repeat as needed, usually twice a month.
Gradual Flow Devices
These can be purchased in stores, and are often designed as colorful glass bulbs that are filled with water and inserted into the soil upside down to release small amounts of water over time. You can make your own with a recycled empty plastic water bottle. Simply poke a few small holes around the neck of the bottle with a sharp knife. Fill the bottle almost to the top and put the cap on. Turn the bottle upside down and place in the plant pot. The water will seep from the holes gradually. This way of watering is ideal for those who travel and for people who forget to water.
Double-Pot Watering Method
You can avoid the potential for water spillage and cut the time between watering by doubling up containers. Place your plant in a container with drainage holes. This container does not have to be pretty – it can be plastic, cracked or even broken. As long as it has adequate drainage holes, it will be fine. Next, look for a container, pot, or vase that is large enough to place the potted plant in. This container should not have drainage holes. Allowing plant roots to sit in water can cause root rot, so be sure to check the outer pot to ensure that no stagnant water has collected.
What are your favorite ways to water plants?
This post was first published in 2014 and has been updated.