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How Much Water Does My Houseplant Need?

You know your plant needs water, but the tricky part is knowing how much. With just the right amount and frequency of water, your plant will be perky and reward you with new growth. But give it either too much or too little water, and you could find yourself with a droopy, stunted plant. 

Watering isn’t one-size-fits-all, and you’ll probably find that each of your plants has its own preference when it comes to the amount and frequency of water it receives. Use these tricks to figure out when and how much water your plant needs to grow and thrive. 

Learn from your plants’ origins

Plants are like us - they tend to stay true to their roots. Your tropical plants will want more water than desert plants like cacti and succulents. Keep your plants’ natural habitat in mind when you determine how much water to give it. 

Support proper soil drainage

It’s best to put plants in a pot with drainage. If it’s too late and your plant is already in a non-draining pot, just be careful not to water the plant with more than 1/4 the pot’s volume. Mixing chunky materials like bark into your potting soil can help create air pockets and increase drainage for your plant.

How often to water your plant

It may be tempting to stick by a consistent watering schedule, e.g. every Sunday. But making a fixed watering schedule can actually damage your plants, giving them too much water. Instead, you can create a water-checking schedule - that is, set a reminder to check your plant soil’s dryness, and only water if necessary.

As a rule of thumb, most indoor plants like to be watered around once a week. Succulents like sansevieria prefer to be watered once every two or three weeks. Before your water, always check your plant soil’s dryness. Stick your finger 1-2” (about the second knuckle) into the soil, between the stem of the plant and the edge of the pot. If it feels moist, wait before watering. If the soil feels dry, it’s time for a watering.

Keep in mind that plants in smaller pots will dry out quicker than plants in large pots with more soil. For instance, my calathea in a small terra cotta pot needs to be watered every 2-3 days. I eventually transferred it to a self-watering planter so it gets the consistent moisture it needs. 

How much water to give your houseplant

Water your plant’s soil, avoiding the leaves as much as possible. Pour water until you see water drain through the bottom, or about 1/3 of the volume of the pot. 

If the water seems to drain straight through to the bottom, your plant is actually bone dry and the roots won’t absorb the water properly. If you find that your plant is extremely dry, bottom watering is the best way to make sure your plant’s roots are able to take up water. 

What type of water to use

Imagine taking a cold shower - not very pleasant, right? Like us, plants don’t like to be given cold water, as it shocks their system. Try to give your plant room temperature water, and on the warm side rather than cold. 

If possible, also give your houseplant filtered or distilled water to avoid feeding it harsh minerals.

Pay Attention to the Weather

In the winter when there’s less sunlight, your plants may go longer without needing watering. If your plant sits near a bright window, make sure to check its soil frequently to make sure it doesn’t dry out too quickly. 

If you have the heater on in the winter your air could dry out, causing humidity-loving tropical plants to suffer. If you have fussy tropical plants like fiddle leaf fig, make sure you can keep humidity high with a mister, humidifier, or by keeping your plant perched on a bed of rocks and shallow water. 


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