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Watering a Peace Lily

How do you know when it's time to water your houseplant?

Watering your houseplants is one of the most difficult parts of taking care of plants. Everyone, even advanced plant owners, has killed plants before because of too much or too little water. So the question "How do you know when it's time to water your houseplants?" is not just a question beginners wonder about.

In this plant care guide about watering your houseplants, I'll answer these common questions and misconceptions:

  1. How much water does a plant need per day?
  2. How much do you need to water your plant?
  3. How can you tell if your plant needs water?
  4. How can you make sure you don't water your plants too much?

Let's go on a journey and discover how you improve the way you water your houseplants. Watering your plants doesn't have to be stressful, it can be a moment where you get to enjoy your plants.

How much water does a plant need per day?

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Watering your houseplants is difficult, especially when you're a beginner. It's very easy to believe that all plants love water and need water every day to survive. Watering your plant feels like you're feeding it and giving it love.

However, plants aren't the same as people and pets: they don't need constant attention. Most houseplants actually like their soil to dry out for a day before you water them again. If you water your plant daily, you will water your plant too much and this will kill it quite quickly.

Just to be clear: You should not water your plant daily. In general, watering your plant once per week is enough. This gives the soil a change to dry out slightly, which is great for most plants.

We've learned that we shouldn't water our plants daily, but weekly. Then your next question could be: How much do you need to water your plant? That's a great question that we'll look at now.

How much do you need to water your plant?

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Succulent in pot with saucer

Imagine you could water your plant perfectly every time, wouldn't that be amazing? It's quite easy to water your plant too much, but also forget to water it and let it dry out. So how do you know how much you should water your plant? Your pot and soil will help you with this: let's see why!

A pot with a drainage hole

If you've planted your plant in a pot that has a drainage hole, you're already halfway there. A drainage hole is a great tool when it comes to watering your plant. Water your plants very slowly, because this will help you to learn how much water your plant needs. When you water your plant slowly, you give the soil a chance to absorb the moisture. Any of the excess moisture, water the soil can't absorb any more, will drain out of the bottom of the pot. Let your pot drip for about 5 minutes and you should have watered your plant perfectly for this week.

A saucer under your pot

If you, like me, use a saucer under your pot with a drainage hole, you should follow an extra step. When you're watering your plants, move the pot away from the saucer. The moisture will drain out of the pot , but the saucer will catch that moisture and won't let it escape. This is very similar to not using a pot with a drainage hole, because your plant will still sit in the excess moisture. It's easiest if you water your plants above a sink, so your house stays clean.

A pot without a drainage hole

If you don't have a drainage hole in your pot, you need to make sure that your plant doesn't mind moisture. Any excess moisture that the soil in the pot can't absorb will stay at the bottom of the pot. If this water stays here for too long, this will cause root rot and can kill your plant.

Luckily, there are a few solutions when you're using a pot without a drainage hole! You can create a raised bottom in your pot, using Smart Gravel and Leca. You can put your soil and plant on top of this layer to keep it away from the water at the bottom of the pot. This raised bottom will give you a much bigger chance to keep your plant healthy in a pot without a drainage hole.

Some plants, like cacti and succulents, need a drainage hole to get rid of excess moisture: they love dry soil. Plants like a Peace Lily and a Spider plant love moisture and will be fine in plants without a drainage hole.

You can read more about drainage holes in "Everything you should know about drainage holes in plant pots".

How can you tell if your plant needs water?

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Dracaena with wrinkles because of thirst Dracaena with wrinkles because of thirst

We've already learned so much! We know that we shouldn't water a plant daily and also how much to water that plant, great! But what if you think your plant might need more water? What are the signs that show that your plant is thirsty? These are great questions that I'll answer in this section!

It's very easy to overwater a plant, because it "looks" like it's thirsty. Let's look at a few conditions we should go through to make sure your plant actually needs water:

  1. The plant hasn't been watered for at least 7 days
  2. The top 1 inch (2.5 cm) of the soil is dry
  3. The plant is starting to droop or curl up
  4. No water is sitting at the bottom of the pot

When you've seen that all of these conditions are met, you can water your plant. Now, you won't have to worry about overwatering your plant, because you've given it time to dry up and breathe.

How can you make sure you don't water your plants too much?

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Too much water for a plant

One of the most biggest mistakes beginning plant owners make is to overwater their plants. It's quite easy to overwater your plants, even more advanced plant owners do it from time to time. Luckily, there are a few ways you can make sure you're not overwatering your plants:

  1. Use a pot with a drainage hole
  2. Have a raised bottom in your pot without drainage holes
  3. Use well-draining soil
  4. Water your plants a maximum of once per week
  5. Give your plant time to absorb the moisture

Earlier in this guide, we've already mentioned the need for drainage holes or the raised bottoms. These will make sure your plant and the soil never sit in a puddle of water at the bottom of the pot. This puddle of water can cause root rot quite easily, so the raised bottom and drainage hole prevent this.

A well-draining soil is great for draining away excess water. This helps your plant to not sit in moisture soil. There are a few plants that love this environment, including Calatheas. But most plants like to be in soil that dries out for a day or 2 before you water it again.

Watering your plants a maximum of once per week is a great rule of thumb for beginning plant owners. This helps you to not water your plant too much and you'll learn over time if your plant needs more of less water. Watering more than once per week is quite rare though, so stick to a maximum of once per week.

It's also important to give your plant time to absorb the moisture. If you've watered your drooping plant, it won't go back to normal right away. This is not a sign that you haven't watered your plant enough, it's simply a sign that it still needs to absorb the moisture. Give your plant at least 6 hours to absorb the moisture and you'll see it goes right back to what it used to look like.

Thank you for reading this post! I hope it helps you to keep your plants healthy and beautiful! If you're looking for more guides on specific plants, you can always request a plant guide or donate a plant in order to get a guide for the plant you have trouble with.

Tags: soil, pot, overwatering

Posted on: Sep 4, 2021

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