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"Alocasia polly after misting"

A beginner's guide to watering your houseplants

Welcome to the exciting world of houseplants! Growing your own plants can be incredibly rewarding and a great way to bring some greenery into your home. As a beginner, you have to know how to properly care for them - and part of this is knowing when and how often to water them. This plant care guide will help you understand the basics of how and when to water your houseplants.

Watering your plants is one of the most important parts of taking care of your plants. Watering your plants is so important because it helps the plant grow and gives them the nutrients it needs to stay healthy.

In this plant care guide, we're going to look at these topics when it comes to watering your houseplants:

  1. What is the best way to prevent overwatering your plant?
  2. How do I know when to water my plants?
  3. How often should I water my houseplants?
  4. Is it bad to overwater a houseplant?
  5. My plant is wilting, what do I do?
  6. Should I use tap or filtered water for my plants?

Let's learn how to water your plants and help them stay healthy!

What is the best way to prevent overwatering your plant?

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Drainage hole in a terra cotta pot

One of the biggest mistakes beginning plant owners make is watering their plants too often. It's an easy mistake to make because you're just trying to take care of your plant and watering it every day is giving it a little bit of love.

However, plants aren't like people and like to be left alone, especially when it comes to watering them. As a general rule of thumb, don't water your plants more than once per week. There are exceptions to this, which we'll look at further in this plant care guide.

Another great way to help prevent overwatering your plant is to only use pots with drainage holes. These drainage holes let any excess water, meaning water that the soil can't soak up, escape from the pot. So if you've accidentally given your plant too much water, it'll drain from the pot, so it can't harm your plant.

If you're using pots without a drainage hole and you water your plant too much, the excess water stays at the bottom of the pot. This is a problem because this will put your plant at great risk of developing root rot: The roots of your plant will start to rot and this will kill your plant if you catch it too late.

When you have a pot with drainage holes, you can water your plant until the water starts to drip out of the drainage hole. When it does this, let it drip for 5-10 minutes. The soil will have drained all excess water and your plant is well hydrated.

How do I know when to water my plants?

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So far, we've learned that overwatering your plant is one of the biggest mistakes beginners make when it comes to watering their plants. So how do you know it's time to water your plants? Let's find out!

If we want to find out if our plant needs to be watered, we'll need to look at the soil. Most plants like the soil to dry out at least a little before they'll need to be watered again. Plants like cacti and succulents like their soil to dry out completely (from top to bottom) before needing water again. These types of plants thrive in drought. So how do you check if the soil is dry enough?

You can check if the soil has dried out a little by sticking your finger about 2-3 cm (1 inch) into the soil. When you pull your finger back and the soil sticks to your finger and doesn't fall off too easily, the soil is still moist and you don't have to do anything. If the soil falls off easily and feels dry, you can water your plant.

If you're dealing with a plant that loves to dry out completely, you can check if it needs to be watered in 2 ways: lift the pot and check its weight and look at the stems/leaves of your plant. When the soil is bone dry, the pot will feel very light and it's time to water your plant. If the stems and leaves look wrinkled, it might be time to water your plant. More on this in a later section.

How often should I water my houseplants?

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Bottom watering a plant

You now know how you can check your plant if it needs watering. Unfortunately, it's not something you can add to your calendar yet, so let's see how often (on average) you should water your plant.

Keep in mind, these timeframes are averages and completely ignore these factors that could change the average watering schedule:

  • Temperature
  • Sunlight exposure
  • Soil composition

These factors can all make the time between two waterings longer or shorter. You'll have to experiment a little, by checking the soil regularly, what works best for your living space.

This is the average time you have to wait between watering your plant:

  • Succulents & Cacti: 14 days in the spring and summer, 21 days in the fall and winter
  • Alocasias, Monsteras: 7 days in the spring and summer, 14 days in the fall and winter
  • Pothos, Philodendron: 7 days in the spring and summer, 14 days in the fall and winter
  • African Violets: 3-4 days in the spring and summer, 7-10 days in the fall and winter
  • Sansevieria: 14 days in the spring and summer, 21 days in the fall and winter

Of course, there are many more plants out there, but as you can see, most plants should be watered around once per week in the spring and summer and every 14 days in the fall and winter.

You should water your plants less in the fall and winter because the sun is less strong and it's colder outside. This makes it so the plant doesn't grow (as quickly) and the moisture doesn't evaporate from the soil as quickly. Be sure to keep checking the soil every few days to see if it needs to be watered though.

Is it bad to overwater a houseplant?

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We've already learned so much about properly watering your houseplants! Unfortunately, with all the knowledge in the world, you might still overwater your plant. It happens to all plant owners from time to time, even those that have taken care of plants for many years. But is it bad to overwater a houseplant? Will it die? Let's look at that a little more closely!

Overwatering your plant is part of taking care of plants and doesn't always have to mean certain death for your plant. Some plants are very tough and can handle being overwatered once or twice. Other plants are very sensitive to overwatering and will die quite quickly if you've overwatered them. Overwatering is the most common way to kill your plant, so underwatering is almost always better for your plant's health.

So what can you do if you've overwatered your plant? The first step is to get rid of any excess moisture in the pot. If you're using a pot with a drainage hole, you've already taken a great step and the excess moisture should already be out of the pot.

The second step is to check the roots for any root rot. Rotting roots are easy to spot because they smell a little funky and will be black and slimy. If you do notice root rot, be sure to remove any of the rotting roots before putting your plant back in the pot. Root rot will spread, so you'll need to get rid of it.

The third and final step is to let the soil dry out and wait. Your plant will be stressed and might drop some leaves. That's normal. All you need to do is let it be and allow it to recover. Don't move your plant to a different spot and don't handle your plant as this could stress the plant out more.

So overwatering isn't great, but it doesn't have to mean your plant will die. There are ways to help your plant recover. If you'd like to know more, check out "How to rescue a plant from overwatering".

My plant is wilting, what do I do?

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Yellow leaves of a Dieffenbachia

Earlier in this plant care guide, we looked at when you know you should water your plant. I mentioned that we'll look at wrinkles in the stems or leaves in a later section because what it means is not always clear.

When your plant is wrinkled it could mean 2 things: Your plant is thirsty or your plant has had too much water. 2 completely different causes have the same symptom, isn't that confusing? So how do you know which one is the true cause of the wrinkles on your plant? It's easier than you think!

The first step to finding out whether your plant is too wet or too dry is to check the moisture in the soil. Is the soil dry? You might need to water your plant. Is the soil wet? Your plant could be overwatered.

After you've checked the moisture in the soil, you'll need to check for root rot. Does the soil smell funky? Do the roots look black and slimy? You're dealing with root rot. In this case, you'll need to follow the steps I've described in the previous section. If the roots seem fine but a little dry, you'll have to water your plant.

As you can see, wrinkles on your plant could mean your plant is too dry or too wet. Whether your plant is too wet or too dry is often luckily easy to find out. If you start to see wrinkles on your plant, don't start watering it right away, but check the soil and roots of your plants first.

Should I use tap or filtered water for my plants?

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Tap water

Most people think that using filtered water is the best way to take care of their plants. But is this true? Let's take a closer look at the differences between tap and filtered water for watering your houseplants!

Tap water is made up of minerals and chemicals which can be beneficial for some plants. In particular, tap water contains calcium and magnesium, which could be good for your plant's health! However, too much of one thing is not a good thing. So if your tap water contains too much of either calcium or magnesium, this can harm your plant. Higher concentrations of minerals make it more likely that it'll build up in the soil over time. This will make the soil a bad place to grow. If you're not sure what type of toxins or how concentrated the chemicals are in your tap water, taking a sample to your local water treatment center could be helpful.

Filtered water, on the other hand, should be free of any toxins or substances that are harmful to your plants. This can be beneficial if you're growing more sensitive species. The downside is that filtered water might lack the necessary minerals and chemicals for optimal growth.

So which one should you use? It depends on the type of plant you have and what type of water you have available. If your tap water is safe for plants, then it might be the best option for you! Otherwise, using filtered water could be the way to go. No matter what type of water you end up using, always make sure that it's at room temperature before giving it to your plant.


Watering your houseplants doesn't have to be difficult. With a little bit of planning, you can make sure that your plants get the water they need without overwatering them. By following the tips in this guide, you'll be able to keep your plants healthy and happy for years to come. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and start watering your plants like a pro! And don't forget to share this guide with your friends and family so they can take care of their plants too.

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 to get a guide for the plant you have trouble with.

Tags: water, beginner-friendly

Posted on: Jun 20, 2019 Last updated on: Dec 9, 2022

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Frequently asked questions

What is the best way to prevent overwatering your plant?
The best way to avoid overwatering your plants is to check the soil moisture levels first before watering. Check the top two inches of the soil by either feeling or with a moisture meter. If it feels moist, you probably don't need to water it yet.
How do I know when to water my plants?
Watering your plants is an important part of keeping them alive and healthy. The key to knowing when to water your plants lies in the soil. Begin by feeling the top two inches of soil with your fingers. If it feels dry, then it is time to water your plants. You can also use a moisture meter to take accurate readings of the soil's moisture level.
How often should I water my houseplants?
The frequency of watering your houseplants depends on many factors, including the soil, climate, and type of plants. Generally speaking, most houseplants will need to be watered every one to two weeks during the growing season. It's often better to err on the side of caution and water less often rather than more.
Is it bad to overwater a houseplant?
Overwatering a houseplant is just as bad, if not worse, than underwatering. When you overwater a plant, the roots are unable to get the oxygen they need to function properly. This can lead to the plant's death. So it's important to always check the soil moisture levels before watering and make sure not to water too often.
My plant is wilting, what do I do?
If your plant is wilting, you need to find out why. Wilting can be caused by either overwatering or underwatering. To determine which one is the cause, you'll need to check the moisture level of the soil in the pot. If it's too dry, then the plant is likely underwatered. If it's soggy, then the plant has been overwatered. Once you've determined which one is the cause, adjust your watering habits accordingly.
Should I use tap or filtered water for my plants?
The choice between tap water and filtered water for houseplants depends on the type of plant and the quality of the water. Tap water contains a variety of minerals and chemicals that are beneficial for some plants, but could harm other plants. Filtered water, on the other hand, is free of any potentially harmful substances and should be used for sensitive or delicate plants.

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