Looking for a fixed watering schedule is one of the most common mistakes plant parents make. How often you should water your houseplant depends on several things, related to your plant and your home – the type of plant, size, humidity, light, temperature, for example.
Let’s go through all the things to consider when deciding if it’s time to give your green friend a shower!
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Remember That Every Plant Is Different
There is no way to prescribe a watering schedule for your plant: forget about it, or you will end up ignoring your green friend’s needs. But no worries: with time, you will learn to know your plant, and much of your care routine will become intuitive.
Start from this: each plant has different needs and preferences, and these preferences depend on the age and condition of your plant, light intensity and duration, temperature, type of soil, type of container (plastic, clay, wood, metal, stone... each retains moisture differently), humidity and moisture levels.
Also, plants go through different cycles throughout the seasons – flowering, fruiting, producing seeds, or months of rest in the darker months. During some cycles, plants are thirstier; during other cycles, they may need more water.
Plant behavior can also vary between two seemingly identical plants!
Always think of a plant like an individual, just like your children or your pet. Each plant will have its own unique personality and benefit from individual care.
Pay Attention And Visit Your Plant Regularly
Take the time to get to know your plant and its behavior by observing it every day.
With time, you’ll become aware of how it’s growing, how healthy it is, and what it likes.
You will start to notice how your plant responds to its environment, and how you can make adjustments to help it growing at its best.
Consider The Size Of Your Plant
How much water your plant needs depends a lot on its size.
Smaller plants need more attention and frequent waterings than larger plants.
Also, a plant that gets a lot of sunlight will need water more frequently.
As a general rule, the amount of water to use is always about ¼ to ⅓ the pot’s volume.
Use The Chopstick/Fingertip Method
This is a great and easy way to detect your plant’s moisture levels.
Place a plain wooden chopstick into the soil between the rim and the main stem of the plant, and about 1 to 2 inches deep (be careful to avoid the roots). If you are checking more than one plant, remember to use a different chopstick for each plant. Leave the stick in the soil for about 10 minutes, then pull it out and take a look at it. If it looks darker or has a watermark, your soil is moist. If the chopstick changed its color only slightly, it means that your soil is lightly moist. If it’s dry and there is no color change, the soil is dry.
If you prefer, you can use your hands. Press the tip of your finger once inch deep into the soil, and feel how dry the soil is.
Once you have discovered how dry the soil is, whether you water the plant or not depends on the plant type and when you most recently watered.
For example, if your plant is a succulent that prefers to stay dry for a while between each watering session, you can wait a little bit even though the soil is dry. On the other hand, if you tested that the soil is getting dry and your plant is an African violet, you will water, since Violets like moisture.
Use A Moisture Meter
If you prefer to use a more technological method, a moisture meter will work nicely, and won’t cost much.
You just need to insert the probes in the soil, and the dial will indicate the moisture level on a scale from 1 to 10.
Think Of Soil As A Dry Sponge
Soil repels water at first, rather than immediately absorbing it.
During the first moments spent watering your plant, you can clearly see that water immediately comes through the bottom. This means that the soil is not really absorbing the water.
What you need to do is to water your plant a few minutes more, until you can see that water is not just passing through the soil, but is being absorbed.
Group Plants by Needs
If you have several plants, organizing them into groups will make it simpler to manage them.
Group your plants according to their moisture and watering preferences. You can do this either mentally or by placing like-plants together - if you’re just starting with your indoor garden and getting familiar with everything, putting them physically together will be extremely helpful.
The goal is to water the roots, and not the leaves. Choose a watering can with a neck that helps you reach the plant exactly where you need to: on the soil, below the bottom foliage.
To prevent temperature shock, always use lukewarm water. Possibly, avoid tap water - it’s often highly chlorinated, and in some areas, it has an excessive amount of minerals. You can get good and cheap chemical-free water by collecting rainwater. Put buckets out before it rains, then store the water you catch in bottles.
Water deeply when you do water. Once you have finished, you should see water keep coming out from the drainage holes onto the drip dish below. Remember to remove that excess water after 15-30 minutes.
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