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Wondering how much water a plant needs? Here’s what you need to know

Tips on how much water to give your plants and when

It’s common practice for plant owners to water their plants on a schedule, doing it at the same time every day or every week. There’s nothing wrong with following a plant watering schedule, but a set schedule may not provide the best care for your specific plants. After all, plants vary widely in what they need to grow, so not all your plants will need the same amount of water at the same time. In fact, the same plant might need different amounts of water from week to week!

Like people, every plant is unique and has its own needs. This is the first thing to keep in mind when it comes to watering your plants. Let’s go over how you can set up a watering schedule while still meeting the needs of each leafy (or spiky!) friend.

Metal watering can next to greenery

How often should you water indoor plants?

How often you water indoor plants depends on the type of plant you’re working with and the container size, lighting, humidity, temperature, and other indoor environmental factors. You’ll find that plants in brighter lighting will dry out more quickly than plants in lower lighting, which is why having pots with good drainage is equally as important as proper watering. The excess water needs somewhere to go.

Below, we’ll go over other factors you should keep in mind.

Plant size matters

The size of a plant also matters a lot when it comes to how much water you give your plants and how often you water them. Larger plants with bigger root systems require more water than small plants, which is also why it’s important to make sure the pot you choose is appropriate for the size of the plant. If you put a small plant in too large a pot, there’s a risk that the soil will be too waterlogged and the plant could drown or experience root rot. The reverse is also true. Large plants need to be in a pot that’s big enough for them; otherwise, they won’t get enough water, no matter how hard you try.

Each type of plant has a preferred watering method

Different species of plants also prefer different watering methods. Succulents and cacti like what’s called the soak and dry method, in which you wait until the top inch or so of soil is dry, then soak the plant until water starts to drip out the bottom. Then repeat.

Other plants, such as those native to tropical locations, prefer higher humidity and slightly moist soil, which can be accomplished by daily misting.

The takeaway is that each plant has different needs, so you’ll want to know how a plant likes to be watered to figure out how it will fit into your schedule.

Person watering a snake plant

Setting up a watering schedule

Setting a watering schedule isn’t as simple as picking a day and watering all your plants once a week. No two plants are the same. That’s why when setting up a watering schedule, it’s important to take each plant’s needs into account.

The best schedule for your plant care is one where you check on all of them every one or two days. Depending on the type of plant, there could be different indicators for whether they need water. A good rule of thumb is to water when the top inch or two of soil is dry; however, some plants (such as those native to a more humid or tropical environment) like to have their soil moist at all times.

If you notice some of the ends of your plants’ leaves or leaf tips are brown (or in the case of succulents, they start to shrivel up), you need to water the plants more often. Wilting and yellow leaves can also be an indicator of not enough water, but they’re equally as indicative of too much water. That’s where checking the soil daily comes in. Often, the best way to know whether your plants need water is the dryness of the soil.

If you’d like more structure than that, you can always create a spreadsheet. Set up the names of plants across the top and number the rows on the side from 1 to 31. Put an X on the day of the month you water each plant and see if there’s a coordinating pattern. That will help you get a feel for which plants need to be watered when, however, there will still be situations where you’ll need to alter your schedule.

If you’re leaving for vacation, don’t worry — you don’t have to fall behind on your schedule. Look into buying yourself a water globe or water spike. One of these will help regulate the water your plants get so you can rest assured you’ll be returning to healthy plants once your vacation is over.

Person working on computer in garden

Consider using smart devices to help

In recent years, more and more smart devices have been released that help you keep track of your plant’s watering schedule. Some, like plant meters, even measure the moisture level in the pot and send a push notification to your phone when it’s time to water. If you’d like to take the guesswork out of watering, consider purchasing an electronic soil monitor like the Wanfei Plant Soil Monitor.

There are also apps you can look into, such as Planta or Vera, where you can input the plants you have, and the app will keep track of its watering schedule for you.

A gardener watering a potted cactus

Don’t be afraid to deviate

Even the spreadsheet won’t be perfect. When your plants need water depends largely on environmental factors, so don’t be worried if you have to water on a day you haven’t marked down. Plants need more water during their growing season than they will in their off-season. Similarly, you may have a string of days that makes your home more humid or extra dry, and you’ll notice that even that small shift can affect when your leafy friends get thirsty.

Figuring out how much water a plant needs is a trial-and-error effort. It may take a bit to settle into the schedule or get used to checking on your plants every few days. But we promise, they’ll love you even more for paying attention to their individual watering needs.

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