How to Water Your Indoor Plants: A Guide to Healthy Plants!

Oct 1, 2019

Watering your indoor plants should be something that gives you relaxation and reduces stress.  Think of the simplicity of the process.  Start by filling your watering can.  Then you play some of your favorite music and glide from plant to plant, pouring the liquid of life into the dry soil of your plants and you can feel them appreciate the love.  With little effort, you can encourage the growth and replenish your houseplant's essential requirements.

That being said, as a first-time plant owner, it is not necessarily instinctual to know how much water to give each plant.  To make matters more confusing, how are you supposed to know how often to water your plant.

Let’s start with the type of plant you have.

Cactus ( euphorbias, opuntias, schlumbergias, epipyhllums, etc)

This category of xeriscape plants needs the least amount of water, but they still need it!  Understanding the type of cactus, you have will greatly help you keep them standing up in their pots.  Cacti with leaves, like Epiphyllum and Christmas cactus, need more frequent watering than barrel cactus.

The soil mixture of succulents and cacti consists of bark, perlite, some soil, and other coarse amendments, so when you water these types of plants you will have to water them thoroughly.  It’s a misnomer that you should add just a little bit of water because they don’t like a lot of water.  It's counter-intuitive.  Soak each plant thoroughly, until the water has completely saturated the soil medium.  If your succulent is in a small container, 4” diameter or less, you will have to water more frequently.  If you want to water less, try massing like succulents in a larger container so more moisture is captured in the soil.

If your succulents are in terra-cotta or concrete pots (great choice as they wick the water away from the roots and prevent root rot) then you will have to water more often.  If your succulents are planted in a pot with no drainage, then you will have to pour out the excess water after each watering.  They will be happy you made the effort.

Hardy Houseplants

Houseplants that have trunks, bulbous bottoms, or think vines will be able to hold more water than plants with thin stems and therefore will not need to be watered as often as ferns Calathea,  Peace lilies, and other tropical foliage plants. The larger the plant's root ball, the less frequently you will be watering.  This, of course, is all dependent on the temperature, time of year and air humidity.  The best way to know if your plant needs water is to know your plants watering needs.  Do not rely on guessing. Some hardy houseplants like, Ficus lyrata, Pepermomia, Dracaena, Monstera, and Philodendrons have slightly thicker leaf membranes and are good choices if you are not able to water your plants often.

Palms and Dracaena

Palms appreciate frequent watering, contrary to what you might have imagined. They should be watered when the top inch of soil feels dry.  You could be watering as often as twice a week in the growing season, and as little as every few weeks in the winter.  Palms and dracaenas are sensitive to salts in the water and the soil should be leached every few months to eradicate any build-up.  The foliage tips will start turning brown if the salts remain in the soil, so if you see this starting to happen, then flush the soil with filtered water.

Tender Leaf Houseplants

Leafy plants like Calatheas, Philodendrons, Syngoniums, Spathiphyllums, Aglaonemas, and other tropical plants that have tender leaves, need more water as they transpire water more readily.  They also do not have the ability to store water like succulents, cacti, and woodier plants.

General tips:

  • Smaller plants in smaller pots need to be watered more frequently.
  • Terra-cotta and concrete pots absorb water, so they are better for succulent types of plants, as well as plants that you tend to overwater.
  • Pots with no drainage holes can be used, but they should have a layer of gravel on the bottom.
  • After watering, the pot should be tipped and drained to remove the excess water not absorbed by the soil and roots.
  • Fill your watering can after each to allow water to reach room temperature and allow any chlorine to evaporate.
  • Water your plants thoroughly when they are dry until the excess water runs through the drainage holes.
  • Use filtered water when possible or consider using rainwater if you have chemicals in your water.
  • When watering succulents and cactus, water until all of the soil is drenched.
  • Get to know your plants by picking them up (if possible) when dry, then afterward when wet, so you will learn to know just by feel if your plants need water.
  • If the soil becomes extremely dry, the soil will start to compact. Use a soil probe, or a pencil to poke aeration holes into the surface of the soil. This will help the water work in a way into the soil to open up the capillaries and help with water absorption. Do not worry about damaging then roots, they will be fine as long as you don’t poke every square inch of the soil!

Watering your plants should be relaxing, therapeutic and more importantly a “me time” moment. You will begin to know your plants more intimately over time and soon you will just know by looking at your plants when they are thirsty!