What are the Best Methods for Houseplant Watering?

J.S. Metzker Erdemir

Effective houseplant watering can be one of the hardest parts of keeping houseplants alive and healthy. With too little or too much water the plant will die, and various plants have different watering requirements. The plant’s location and soil type can also affect the amount of water it needs.

Succulent houseplants do not need to be watered frequently.
Succulent houseplants do not need to be watered frequently.

Whenever you buy a new houseplant, learn about its specific watering requirements. Most houseplants prefer consistently moist soil. Some plants, however, require wetter soil while others need their soil to be dry. In general, if the soil is visibly wet on the top, there is no need to water it. If the soil starts to come away from the sides of the pot, it is much too dry.

The right kind of pot is also important for good houseplant watering. The pot must have a drainage hole at the bottom so water doesn’t sit inside and rot the roots. Water sitting in the pot’s dish can also cause the roots to rot. For most houseplants, it works best to water them outside or over the sink and let all the excess water drain out. This insures uniform moisture in the soil.

Some people prefer to have a houseplant watering schedule and water their plants once a week on the same day. This is fine if it helps you remember to water your plants regularly, but you should keep a close eye on them in the first few weeks. Some plants will dry out faster if they are in direct sunlight, sandy soil, or a very warm room, while others can stay quite wet if their soil has a lot of clay or if their environment is shady or humid.

For short vacations of two weeks or less, a good way to keep your houseplants watered is to put a clear plastic bag over them with a rubber band holding the bag around the pot, which will trap moisture and return it to the soil. Keep the plants out of direct sunlight if you choose this houseplant watering method. Other commercial types of vacation houseplant watering systems are available such as watering mats which deliver water from underneath the plant, capillary and drip systems, and moisture-retaining beads that you put directly into the soil.

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Discussion Comments

ddljohn

@simrin-- It's good that you are following the directions. I have a couple of types of orchids at home. I basically wait for the soil to dry out and then water them. It sounds to me like your orchid might not be getting enough water. Don't worry about the flowers though, they only last for several weeks anyway.

For indoor house plants, aside from water, there is several other factors that affect the plant like sunlight, temperature and humidity of the room and the type of soil and pot that you have. As far as I know, orchids like a lot of sunlight and humidity. If your orchid is drying out really fast, it might be due to a clay pot. If the pot is clay, switch to a plastic one instead, it will retain the water for a longer time.

You really have to take into account all of these things and the specific needs of the plant. Also make sure you don't move around your plant, select a place for it and leave it there.

SteamLouis

I was gifted a dancing ladies orchid two weeks ago week. I've been watering it according to the directions that came with the plant but its not looking good! Some of the leaves are starting to wither and the flowers are falling out. What am I doing wrong?

burcinc

Another great and really simple tip for watering your house plants while you are away for a couple of weeks is to fill up a 12 ounce bottle (or several) with water and stick it into the soil of each plant. The plant will absorb as much water as it requires and the water lasts for a substantial amount of time.

You might not want to extend your visit to more than two or two and a half weeks for plants that require a lot of water with this method. However, if your plants require little water, they can last even longer with the bottles. My mom's two plants which require a very small amount of water lasted for two months while we were gone with two water bottles.

anon147730

Would be helpful to include discussion of what kind of water is best (distilled? softened? etc.)

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