Knowing how much and how often to water indoor plants can be a little bit tricky. The temptation is to simply water them on your schedule, and hope for the best.
Yet this approach never seems to work out the way you might hope. It tends to lead to dangerous over-watering or under-watering. Either one of which can leave the plant vulnerable to more serious problems.
So, how often should you water indoor plants? As a general rule of thumb, most houseplants need to be watered roughly every 7 to 20 days on average. However, Some need watering less frequently than others, so simple answer is whenever they need it not by the calendar or a predetermined formula. The frequency of watering will also depend on the light and growing conditions in your area, size of the container the way you water it.
To really dial it in successfully, we will need to take a closer look at just how plants use water and how it affects the growth.
How Do I Determine How Often To Water My Houseplant?
There are a variety of important factors that go into determining just how much water an indoor plant needs and when it needs it.
Let your plant determine when you water it
Different plants like different soil conditions. There are some plants that love dry, or well-drained soil while other plants love wet conditions.
Your best chance for success is to find the perfect watering schedule that best match what your plant would like if it was living in its natural environment.
These days a simple internet search might turn up more information. Later in this article, we’ll explore some of the more common houseplants and the kind of conditions they need to thrive.
Test the soil for dryness with your finger
This can be as simple as sticking your index finger into the soil. The first two or three inches will give you a good idea of just how wet or dry the soil in the pot is.
It can also give you an idea about whether or not the soil has become root-bound.
Learn the weight of your well-watered plant
For a larger pot of soil, you might be able to tell by the weight. Dry soil tends to be significantly lighter than water-laden soil.
As time goes on you can develop a better feel for just how much ambient moisture is in the soil simply by picking it up. This can be far less obtrusive than jamming your finger in it every few days.
You can also lift the plant out of it’s trying to feel the drainage holes. If roots and soil at the bottom should be the moistest. If it feels dry, then chances are the soil is very dry throughout.
Check for wilting or drooping leaves
You should also beware of signs of wilting or a plant that excessively drops leaves. This is often a sign of a significant loss of water in the root mass, which causes the plant to cull lesser branches and leaves.
Sometimes a quick watering can restore a plant in this condition. However, severely dry plants may be too damaged for the affected area to properly bounce back.
use Soil Moisture Meters For Perfect Watering
If you are more of a technology person, there are now special moisture meters that can give you a more exact reading of soil moisture levels.
Other Factors The Affect how often to water indoor plants
As a plant goes through its seasonal cycle, and the life cycle it’s watering needs can change. Being mindful of these factors can help you dial in a watering schedule that’s based on the specific plant's needs.
1: Size And Shape Of Your plant
In general, a large plant needs more water than a small one. This can vary though depending on the type of plant.
Dry climate plants, like an indoor cactus, may have unique watering needs. Yet for most other plants the higher amount of foliage leads to a higher rate of transpiration.
2: keep temperature in mind
With many plants their metabolic rate and transpiration increase with warmth. This also increases evaporation, which further draws water out of the soil.
This is even more likely to be a lingering issue if you are using a sunny window box. Especially in the spring when the days are getting longer, and the sunlight is increasingly intense.
Also, bear in mind that a plant that’s near a heat vent might be significantly warmer or transpire faster than one that is near a colder wall.
If you aren’t sure about the temperature difference you might want to sample the surface temperatures of the room with an infrared thermometer. It’s also a pretty handy tool in the kitchen!
3: Humidity plays a big role in how much you have to water
Humidity can have a significant impact on many plants. Not only does it affect the evaporation of soil moisture, but it also can impact how a plant transpires.
Low humidity can gradually rob the plant of available moisture and can potentially even damage the most distant and delicate foliate.
Most homes are increasingly dry during the winter months. Especially, if you exclusively rely on forced-air heating.
If the room is very dry, you might want to consider adding a humidifier in the winter months.
4: Types Of Container You've
You might not think it at first, but different pot materials can gradually start to absorb, and potentially even steal moisture from a plant’s soil.
Terracotta, in particular, is very porous and might be more suitable for plants that prefer dry soil conditions.
4: The Size Of The Pot
The prevailing wisdom is to put your plant in a pot that’s large enough to prevent it from getting root-bound.
Yet too much soil, especially if it’s sandy or well-drained, can allow water to pass through the shallow layers to settle down deep where the roots of a smaller plant may not be able to access it.
Ideally, you want to try to pick a pot that is the right size of the plant. Many non-rootbound plants have a root structure that is similar to the volume of the foliage.
If you can visually match that, it will help you better dial in the volume.
5: Types Of Soil You're Using
In general, the more organic material there is in a potting soil the more water it will retain. At the same time, potting soil that has become overly compacted might hold onto moisture irregularly.
Allowing it to concentrate in some areas, while preventing it from saturating into others.
In a situation like this, you might want to try amending the potting soil with sand, perlite or vermiculite to improve drainage.
If you are particularly adept at Do-It-Yourself gardening, you might want to try your hand at creating your own custom potting soil that can be tailored to your plant’s needs.
6: Room with better airflow
Air moving through the room will increase the general amount of evaporation from the surface soil and can potentially increase the rate of transpiration from the plant’s foliage.
A light amount of ventilation, like an open window, is nice for plants. A steady wind or being too close to an air vent might cause it to dry out faster than other plants in the same room. so it’s likely you’ll need to water your plants a little more often
7: The Season
Plants are aware of things like day length and light levels. Certain “Short Day” plants will go into a semi-dormant state during the fall and winter months, only to grow vigorously with matching water needs in spring and summer.
A plant that lives in a sunny window is also more likely to experience stronger sun, increased growth, and potential drying from rapid transpiration.
Don’t be surprised if even your indoor plants need more frequent watering when the days are long.
How Long Cam My Indoor Plant Go Without Water?
Overwatering or watering too frequently tends to be the more common problem with indoor houseplants than underwatering. As long as the soil isn’t desperately dry, the average indoor houseplant can usually make it a week, or perhaps even two weeks without being watered.
This isn’t the ideal condition for them. They most likely won’t thrive. Still, you shouldn’t lose a ton of sleep if you have to go on vacation or travel for business for more than a week.
When you get back, you can resume a more attentive and thoughtful watering schedule to get the plant back to thriving.
There are a few things you can do to help ensure that your plants have the water they need when you are gone. A supplemental watering system can certainly help them thrive while you are away.
Some things to look into include:
- Self-watering pots
- Capillary mats
- Watering spikes
- Watering globes
If you are going to be away for more than a full week, you might want to also see if a friend or neighbor is willing to come over and check on them.
If anything, just having someone checking to make sure your chose watering system is operating normally will give you some added peace of mind.
How much water does a indoor plant need?
When you’ve determined that it’s time to water, the question becomes “how much should I water?” The answer is quite simple - water enough to get a runoff from the bottom of the pot. If the plant is sitting in a drainage saucer, for a 6″ or 8″ pot, a runoff of 1/4 to 1/2″ is good; for a 10″, 12″, or 14″ pot, you want a runoff of an inch or so.
Different Plants Have Different Water Needs
Different types of houseplants have different watering needs Some need watering more often than others. So, an answer like “once a week,” or some such, is more or less meaningless. However Most indoor plants need watered every 7-21 days.
Dialing them in based on their cultivar or plant family will also help ready how the previous factors can impact your indoor houseplant watering schedule.
This is a rather large group of plants with a variety of cultivars, including cacti. They have natural adaptations that help them to store water while also reducing moisture loss. With these, you can allow the potting soil to dry out fully before watering.
Also known as Spathiphyllumthey also prefer to let their soil dry out before watering. The plant will generally tell you when it’s ready by starting to wilt.
Phalaenopsis Orchidsare one of the most common victims of overwatering. Ideally, you should waituntil the potting soil is dry and the roots look a shade of silvery-white, before watering thoroughly. Generally once a week is the minimum for potted orchids.
Just don’t wait so long that the leaves start to look wrinkled and droopy.
Also known as Fittonia these plants require potting soil that is continuously moist, yet not saturated.
Water regularly when the top of the soil has noticeably dried out. Just don’t water them heavily. Nerve plants are somewhat prone to root rot when over-watered.
The rubber plant or Ficuselastica needs to be watered when the top inch of soil becomes dry. During the growing season of spring and summer, this is usually around once a week.
In the dormant periods of fall and winter, it might be as much as 10 to 14 days between watering sessions.
Known more commonly as “Kentia Palms”these plants have moderate drought tolerant and tend to have problems when overwatered.
Ideally, they should be watered once the top three inches of soil is dry.
Wandering Jew Plant
Wandering Jew Plants or Tradescantia Zebrina need to be watered once the top inch of potting soil is dry. This is another plant that is prone to root rot when overwatered.
Prayer plants prefer well-drained potting soil that is also kept constantly moist, without being soggy or saturated.
Ideally, you want the surface of the soil to be lightly moist.When watering you should stop as soon as a little water drains out the bottom of the pot.
Guzmaniais a little unique in that they need to be watered via their central rosette. You shouldn’t water to the soil directly.
Also known as being“Epiphytic”these pants tend to use their roots to anchor them in place rather than for absorbing moisture.
As such the central rosette needs to be filled several times per week. This is the sort of indoor houseplant that you might want to leave with a friend or neighbor when you go on vacation.
Also known as calatheaornate these plants also constant moisture and regular watering.
The goal is to maintain lightly moist soil through frequent light watering sessions. It’s best to do this as soon as the surface of the soil feels dry to the touch.
Weeping figs also appreciate frequent watering and lightly moist soil. They also tend to be sensitive to water impurities. It’s best to use filtered water.
The plants are also prone to dropping leaves when they are distressed and you should take this as a sign that something is going on.
Indoor Orange Trees
Indoor orange and other miniature citrus trees are an increasingly popular novelty with indoor house plant enthusiasts.
They tend to have high water requirements yet need potting soil with plenty of drainage. It’s best to water thoroughly on a regular basis.
With this plant, you need to water it thoroughly after the top inch of soil is dry. An Eternal Flame plant can be somewhat sensitive to water impurities, so distilled or filtered water might be preferred if you aren’t sure about the quality of what’s coming out of your tap.
Also known as Anthuriumthese flamingo flower plants need to be watered with a moisture strategy that leaves the top few inches of the soil dry, yet the lower roots are still relatively moist.
They will tolerate somewhat infrequent watering, so long as they are not over-watered.
This increasingly popular succulent flowers in the winter and their springtime blooms can last for more than a month. Like most succulents, you need to avoid over-watering.
Arrowhead plants, which are also known as Syngonium Podophyllum have good drought tolerance.
They should be watered thoroughly after the top 1 to 2 inches of soil has dried. It’s also important to note that Arrowhead Plants go dormant in the winter, which will significantly reduce the amount of water it needs.
In Conclusion: how often should i water my plants?
As you can see different plants have different care and watering needs. Dialing in the specific needs of your houseplants starts with a thorough internet search to make sure you have all the basic details pinned down.
This will get you off to a good start, while also making sure that you have all the things you need before bringing a new plant home.
From there it can help to keep a notebook or a journal to record conditions and changes as well as watering frequency.
As time goes on you’ll be able to review the entries to see how things like seasonal changes, HVAC, sunlight, and other important factors affect the health and moisture needs of your indoor houseplants.
This type of record is especially helpful if you have plants like perennial herbs that you might bring outdoors during the summer.
Lindsey Hyland grew up in Arizona where she attended University of Arizona’s Controlled Environment Agriculture. She has supplemented her formal education by working on various organic farms, including spending a semester abroad in India.
Growing and/or raising just about anything gets her excited. She is especially passionate about environmental justice and low-tech, sustainable ways to better run small-scale farms and homesteads. Lindsey started Urban Organic Yield to discuss gardening tips and tactics.
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