HAPPY HOUSEPLANTS – WATERING PART 1
June 18, 2012
Hey all! Rob the Plant Guy here! As the name implies, indoor plants are my specialty. I’m happy to share my tips for helping your houseplants live a long, happy life. Since there are so many kinds of indoor plants, there’s a lot to know. So I’ve created this weekly series for you to follow! I’m very excited to get started: today we begin with part one of two regarding watering- since incorrect watering is one of the main reasons plants fail to thrive. In future posts we’ll dive a little deeper into types of soil, containers, lighting and so on.
WATERING ~ PART 1
Sorry friends, there is no simple rule dictating how often houseplants should be watered. But I can help you learn the signs and conditions that will indicate that your watering needs to be adjusted. Some plants, adapted to bog or swamp life, enjoy soaking wet conditions. Other plants—the succulent family, for example—have adapted to long periods of dryness between heavy watering. My first bit of advice is to never water every few days out of habit. You must tailor watering to your plants’ needs. Evaluate soil moisture: know the conditions you’ve given your plant to thrive in. If your plant is small, make a habit of picking up the plant before and after watering noting its weight change after watering. With practice, this method of checking soil moisture, together with other signs of plant vigor/weakness may help you assess a plant’s watering needs. Similarly, a finger submerged an inch or so into the container soil should reveal a general sense of soil moisture. Or better yet, use a moisture meter. This is a foolproof, inexpensive device available at most nurseries. It will measure the soil as “wet”, “moist” or “dry.” For large container plants, a meter is almost essential. (You can tell the kids it’s your top secret, highly scientific Aquanometer XJ3000- only for the experts.) 😉
How do you know if your plant is dehydrated? Stem and leaf wilt signal dehydration, and the soil may pull away from the side of the pot. Also if leaf growth is slow, leaves become translucent, leaves or flowers drop prematurely, leaf edges become brown and dried or lower leaves curl and yellow, your plant is crying out for a drink. So you should water more often right? Well, sometimes. Frequent watering with small amounts of water can lead to waterlogging. This forces air from the soil and provides ideal conditions for the growth of fungi and bacteria.
Some folks like to use a spray bottle to mist their plants. Misting simply keeps the humidity level up for some plants but be careful- it can cause mold problems with your soil and leaves. It would be appropriate to mist your plants if you live in an arid climate, such as Arizona. Another way to increase the humidity around your plants is to have a water/pebble tray or small water fountain next to your plants where you have constant water evaporation. But again, this is for very dry environments.
“But Rob,” you ask with and dismay and confusion in your eyes, “how can I determine the exact amount of water for my plant?!” First, do a quick internet search to learn a little about what type of plant you have and what its specific requirements are. Then take my advice below and continue to follow this blog!
YOUR PLANT NEEDS MORE WATER IF IT IS:
- actively growing, i.e. it has young leaves or flower buds
- leaves are thin, delicate and tend to brown at the tips when dry
- located in a warm room with direct sunlight
- has many large leaves which transpire heavily
- is growing in a relatively small pot or root mass has filled its pot
- growing in dry air (i.e. forced air furnace, dry climate)
- native to a bog or marshy area
- growing in an clay pot (non-enameled)
Check back NEXT MONDAY for part two of watering tips and techniques to learn when to water less. I can’t wait!