Houseplants & Watering
Houseplants & Watering
In this post, we are going to cover some facts about watering your house plants- We will answer questions like, "How much water?", "How often do I water?", and "What kind of water do I use?"
These are all questions that we get frequently at the shop.
In fact, "How often does this need watered?" is the Number 1 question we are asked- BY A LONG SHOT!
Let's face it- You're either an Over-Waterer, or, you're an Under-Waterer. (Probably the first one) It's ok- It's not your fault! Something in our brains is wired wrong, where it causes us to translate 'Caring For Our Plants' to 'Giving it Water 3 Times A Day.' Caring is NOT sharing, in this case. It would show your love for your plants MUCH better if you actually let them dry out between waterings, rather than staying constantly wet.
"So, how often do I water this plant?"
Unfortunately, there's really not an answer for that. I wish it were a simple, "Once a week" or "Every 10 days", but it's not. There are multiple factors that make this a variable answer.
I think the best way to explain this is to start with the environmental factors first; Temperature, Humidity, and Sunlight. Hopefully we all know that when it's hot and sunny outside, moisture evaporates into the air at a faster rate than when it is cooler and overcast. An example of this action is when we perspire in the heat. When we sweat, its our body's way of cooling us down, as the evaporating sweat on the surface of our skin actually cools us as it evaporates. This is one reason we perspire more in warm weather than cool.
So, what does this mean in terms of plants and watering? It means this- If your fig tree is in a south-facing window, and the room gets to 80 degrees during the day, but your best friend has the same sized tree in the same sized pot, but theirs sits in an east-facing window in a room that only hits about 68 degrees during the day, more than likely- you'll have to water yours more frequently than your bestie! Your tree will dry out faster, due to higher temps, and brighter light.
A factor that may make an exception to this, however, is the soil type.
Maybe your bestie has a very coarse, chunky soil mix in her fig tree's pot, and you have the peat-y mix that it came in from the grower. In this case, that throws the other theory out the window. Why? The coarse and chunky soil mix is a faster draining mix, and will not hold water as long as your peat-y mix will. the water will run through it much faster when bestie waters it. The soil factor is the reason why its recommended to have different plants in different soil types, based on their needs- in addition to your watering habits. When we make soil for a customer at the shop, the first question we ask is, "What are your watering habits like?" so we get a better idea of how much coarse material we should put in their soil.
So, long story short- There's absolutely NO SCHEDULE for watering our plants. I know, I know, we are creatures of habit, and love to plan, and schedule things, but nature doesn't schedule rain fall. If you feel compelled to schedule something, you can schedule a weekly or biweekly check of your plants' soil. just stick your finger into it as far as you can, and, if its dry all the way, or if your finger comes out dry, you can water your plant. However, if its not dry, or your finger comes out with damp soil on it, that plant does not need a drink!
We are almost all over-waterers by nature, because our brains, and our nurturing instinct, tell us that taking care of the plants involves providing it water, and so that's what we do, (way too frequently) and it could easily lead to the demise of our cherished tropical plants.
"Ok, what kind of water should I use?"
This is an excellent question, and the answer is- RAIN WATER. Now, obviously that's not always practical for many of us, especially city apartment dwellers, but this is what the plants are used to, and is the absolute best for them. Coming in at 2nd & 3rd place are: Distilled Water, and Reverse Osmosis Water (RO). These are great solutions for many people who have a manageable sized collection of plants, and don't mind regularly lugging heavy jugs of water from the store to the home. For those of us who have a large plant collection, this is also impractical. It gets old, trust me! The 4th place option is Filtered Water (Brita, Zero, etc.- just your household water filter), and 5th place is good old Tap Water.
So, what we're trying to avoid by using tap water as a last option is harming the plants with what is IN the water that comes out of the tap. Things like Fluoride and Chlorine, can harm your plants, stunting their growth, affecting their overall health, and possibly even kill them over time. Now, keep in mind that with Tap Water, you can have Hard Water (straight from the tap) or Soft Water (using a water softener). Hard Water in some towns and cities can be bit high in Fluoride and Chlorine for your plants, but simply setting it out overnight can help, by allowing a lot of that Chlorine to dissipate out of the water before harming the plants. Soft Water, on the other hand, has WAY TOO MUCH SALT in it for your plants. The salt used to soften the water will build up in the soil of your plant, and over time it will do many negative things to your plants, like tricking its chemistry into thinking it has had enough water, when it really hasn't to actually burning the plants roots, stems, and leaves. Do NOT use soft water on your houseplants!
If you are worried about watering your plants with tap water, you can purchase a water testing kit, and see if there is any real reason to be worried. I use Tap Water almost EXCLUSIVELY to water my plants, and they are doing just fine! Some plants are more sensitive to the chlorine and fluoride than others, and you may get an occasional brown leaf tip on the dracaena, but guess what? They happen in their native habitat too! Also, I only bottom-water the carnivorous plants, in an effort to let the soil filter it a bit before the roots pull it in.
Summary- Keep in mind that some plants are more sensitive than others, and if you have valuable or expensive plants, that you know are sensitive to tap water, then please don't use tap water. If not, water with whatever kind of water you're comfortable with, now that you know your options, and the pros and cons of each, you can make the best, educated decision for your situation. Whichever way you go, it'll probably be just fine.
"But, how much water should I give my plants?"
This is not necessarily a cut and dried answer, as all plants have different needs, but I will tell you what I do. I have my plants each in a proper soil for it's needs, and I let them dry out almost completely, and then when I water them, I soak them thoroughly. Most of my plants really appreciate that wet/dry cycle, as it mimics their natural environment. I find that most of my plants grow better and faster, when I let them dry out, and then soak them. Yes, occasionally I will have a yellow leaf, and they will fall off, but they are growing new ones at a much faster rate.
Obviously there are plants that are exceptions to this, like many Bog/Marsh plants, which often need to stay wet at all times, and a lot of the carnivorous plants do as well. Of course, Cacti and Succulents need to be bone dry before watering them again, and you should thoroughly drench them when you do water them. And so on, and so forth. This is just a 'Basics of Watering' so we won't go into each plant type in this post.
Thank you so much for reading!
Hopefully, you took something away from this post that can help you become a better plant parent, or perhaps you learned something new about caring for your plants.
That is always my goal- To share my personal experiences with other plant people, with the hope that it helps someone in some way, either by trying a different way to do things, and getting a different result, or simply by providing a different perspective, so that someone looks at a situation differently and figures out another successful method on their own.
There are multiple ways to grow plants successfully, and sometimes, what is considered successful to one person, may not be to another person. In the big picture, I believe that all of our experiences with plants should be positive, even if one of them dies. If we take that event, learn from it, and do things differently next time, to a better outcome, that's the goal.
A 'learning experience' is the best thing to come out of a 'negative experience'.
There's no doubt about the therapeutic benefits that come from having plants in the home, and both physical and mental health improvements that occur by keeping plants in the home, it would be a shame for it to become so stressful that they actually cause strife. During the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been a lot of people turning to plants as a way to deal with the daily stresses of the world we live in. Some have jumped in so far, so fast, that they are feeling overwhelmed trying to care for them. If this is happening to you, please reach out to me, and I will do everything I can to help you.
As always, if you have had differing or similar experiences, please comment below, and share them, as I always enjoy hearing other's experiences. If you find any information that I posted that is incorrect, or nonfactual, please also comment below or reach out to me directly. These blog posts are written from my personal experiences, as well as experiences others have shared with me, but, as we are human, so it is possible to make mistakes. Just let me know, so that I can correct and learn from them.
Stay Safe & Be Healthy.