Recently, I was asked, “What is the most common question you get on caring for house plants?” The answer without a doubt be “How much do I water my plant?” I wish I could give a simple answer but I can’t. The easy reply would be “once per week” or “every day”, but then that advice would not be useful.
From my years of experience, plants, as they move inside, must acclimate to the new environment which includes not only leaves but also the soil and root systems.
The correct answer on watering house plants would be to water when the plant needs water and not when the watering bug hits. Every plant lives in a microclimate which consists of plant type, soil makeup, air temperature, humidity, Drainage of soil, root system health and other factors all play a part in the “when” of house plant watering.
For example, houseplants during the winter in a hot, dry room may require more frequent and complete watering for the plant to survive. Compare that environment to a microclimate, which may be cooler with lots of moisture.
The variety of the plant may also be a factor, not only with a plant like Cacti that comes from a natural environment of low moisture levels, requiring less water. But also, new houseplant hybrids, which can go for longer periods between watering, like some Dracaenas.
The simplest rule to follow is the well-known finger test. If the top half-inch of soil feels dry to the touch, the plant probably needs water. It’s important to remember, over-watering plants can cause as must damage or problems as under-watering. Roots staying in constant contact with water usually result in root rot.
Very often, those new to indoor plant care carry share an excitement with a tendency to provide over care keeping their plants too moist or wet. This creates waterlogged soil. A root system suffocates with no air and oxygen for the roots to breathe.
Houseplant owners should focus more on watering the soil completely and not frequency only. For a “complete watering” the whole soil mass and root ball should become completely saturated and the excess water allowed to drain. I use a 5-gallon bucket and totally submerge the growing pots of my houseplants, to make sure the entire soil and roots are wet. I do this on weekends. This works best for me. By watching your plants it won’t be long until you soon discover your plants needs.
Professionals in plant maintenance water and groom indoor plants on a scheduled basis, follow their lead and develop your own watering and care schedule. Your house plants will do much better.
If your house plants miss a watering from a long weekend or business trip, no need to worry, they will be OK. Like most things in life, regular maintenance gives better results; try to keep your plants on a schedule.