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

Tips for giving your plants the right amount of water

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 lot of the time, a set schedule may not provide the best care for the plants.

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, the container size, the lighting, the humidity, the temperature, and other indoor environmental factors. You’ll find that plants in brighter lighting will have their soil dry faster 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 certain things you should keep in mind.

Plant size

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 than a small plant, 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. And the reverse is 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.

Plant’s preferred watering method

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

Other plants, like ones that are native to tropical locations, prefer higher humidity and slightly moist soil, which can be accomplished by daily misting. The bottom line is each plant has different needs, so you’ll want to know how a plant likes to be watered in order 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 day or two. 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 ones native to a more humid/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, then it means you need to water them 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 forgo 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 know you’ll be returning to healthy plants once 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 you water your leafy friends.

It 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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