Knowing how often to water houseplants can be difficult. In general most plants require watering between once a week and once a fortnight. However, some plants need watering more frequently than others.
How often you need to water houseplants doesn’t just depend on the type of plant you have. Factors such as the position of the plant and what it is planted in will affect how often it needs watering. This means that there are no hard and fast rules telling you how often to water houseplants.
To help you work out how often to water houseplants this guide will discuss the elements that affect how often plants require watering. We will also show you how to water plants properly and how to spot the signs that your plants may not be happy with their current watering routine. All of this information will help you to know exactly how often to water houseplants that are in your care.
Indoor plants come in a range of shapes, sizes, colors and varieties. This can make plant care, in particular watering, difficult.
Conditions That Affect how Often to Water Houseplants
As we have already noted, knowing how often to water houseplants can be difficult. A range of different elements, such as the growing conditions, position and potting medium, all affect how quickly the soil dries out.
Some houseplants like humidity levels to be high. This can be provided by a humidifier. Alternatively regularly misting the plants also raises humidity levels as does placing the plant on a tray filled with pebbles and water. High humidity levels also affect how often you need to water houseplants.
The higher the humidity levels the longer the soil or potting medium will remain moist. However, humidity is no substitute for watering. While the soil may always seem damp the plants will still appreciate regular watering.
Plants crave light. The more light plants are able to absorb the better they can grow and flourish. Plants in light, bright positions grow more quickly. This means that they will require more moisture than plants in darker positions. If you struggle to provide enough natural light to keep your plants happy, consider investing in a grow light.
Additionally, plants in lighter positions are probably also going to be experiencing warmer temperatures than plants in shadier positions. This means that the soil is likely to dry out more quickly in sunny positions again affecting how often you need to water houseplants.
Your Choice of Container
Terracotta flowerpots are more porous than their plastic counterparts. This means that moisture is able to escape more quickly in terracotta pots. Consequently the soil dries out more quickly in terracotta containers than soil in plastic containers. Some plants, such as succulents or cacti, prefer this situation- a good watering followed by quick drying soil. Just remember to water the plants regularly.
Whatever type of container you choose make sure that it has drainage holes in the bottom. If excess liquid is unable to drain from the soil it can cause diseases such as root rot.
Even something as innocuous as your choice of container affects how frequently plants may require watering. Before planting consider the needs of your plant. Some, such as cacti, may thrive in quick drying conditions while others may prefer the soil to stay damp for longer.
The potting medium also affects how often you need to water your houseplant. Plants in quick drying mediums such as sandy soil profiles or bark chips (common for orchids) require more frequent watering than plants in heavier soil profiles. Some soil types, such as those designed for cacti or succulents, are intentionally designed to dry out quickly.
Covering the soil with a mulch such as sand, gravel or sphagnum moss helps to slow or prevent evaporation. This means the soil will stay damp for longer. A sandy top layer can also help to reduce pests such as fungus gnats. Diatomaceous earth is another top dressing option if you want to deter fungus gnats.
Evaporation is more likely,and quicker to occur, in well ventilated areas. Placing plants in less draughty positions can help to keep the soil moist for longer.
Don’t stop ventilation completely. Allowing air to move around plants helps to keep them healthy and problem free.
The Time of Year
How often to water houseplants can be affected by the time of year. Basically, plants require more moisture when they are growing. This means that plants usually require more frequent watering in the spring and summer months than in the fall or winter.
How to Water
It is not enough to know how often to water houseplants. You must know how to water your houseplants correctly.
Wandering around your home periodically with a watering can, spraying any thirsty looking plants will keep the plants hydrated. However this is unlikely to keep the plants happy. Underwatered or incorrectly watered plants are likely to dry out more quickly than properly watered plants.
The easiest way to ensure that your plants are getting enough moisture is to immerse them. Immersing, or thoroughly soaking plants also reduces how often you need to water houseplants.
To thoroughly soak your plants fill a sink or, if you are watering lots of plants, a bath. Place the plant, or plants in the water and allow them to sit there for about an hour. During this time they are able to soak up as much moisture as they need.
Drain any remaining liquid away and leave the plants in the sink or bath for a while longer. This allows the bottom of the containers to dry and excess moisture in the soil to drain out.
Alternatively hold the plants over the sink and water until liquid begins to drip from the drainage holes in the bottom of the container.
How Much Water to Give Your Plants
The amount varies between plants. Younger plants often tend to dry out more quickly than older plants, this is because they are growing more quickly. While they may require more water, be careful. Younger plants are more susceptible to overwatering.
Signs That Your Plant Needs Water
There are a few obvious signs that your plant requires more water. One of the most visible indications is limp or wilting foliage. The foliage may also fade, become translucent or develop brown patches along its edges.
Another indication that your plants require watering is that the flowers may quickly fade or fall from the plant without blooming. Old leaves may also fall from thirsty plants.
Signs of Overwatering
Leaves can also wilt or become limp if a plant is being overwatered. Other indications are that the tips of the leaves will turn brown and flowers may become moldy. Finally, overwatered plants will shed both old and new foliage.
If you have overwatered your plant allow the soil to dry out completely before watering again.
What Water to Use
When it comes to watering plants you can use whatever you like. Bottled waters are fine, but if you have a lot of plants it can be expensive. A cheaper and easier alternative is to harvest your own rainwater. This is easily done in a barrel or other container. It is also good for the environment and reduces your water usage.
Watering from the tap is convenient and won’t do your plants any lasting damage. However, people in soft water areas may need to flush their houseplants every few months. Soft water often contains salt, this builds up in the soil potentially harming or scorching plants. To protect your plants, flush the salt from the soil regularly.
Some plants, such as orchids, can be particularly sensitive to salt building up in the soil or potting medium. Flushing the soil a couple of times a year is an easy way to clear the soil and protect your plants.
To flush the soil simply hold the container under running water for a few minutes allowing liquid to pour from the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot.
After flushing feed your houseplants with fertilizer. This helps to restore any nutrients lost by flushing. If you don’t want to add a chemical or commercial feed to your plants, there are a number of easy to follow plant food recipes that you can make at home. For extra convenience, liquid plant feeds are easily incorporated into your watering routine.
Before watering allow the liquid to stand for a period, warming up or cooling down to room temperature. Some houseplants can be incredibly sensitive. Watering with liquid that is too hot or cold can shock plants, causing them to drop leaves or wilt.
What Time of Day is Best for Watering Houseplants?
Plants can be watered at any time of day.
Many people avoid watering in the evening as this can expose damp foliage or stems to cool evening temperatures- a breeding ground for disease. Watering early in the day allows the foliage to dry out before the temperatures fall.
Some Plants Require More Frequent Watering Than Others
How often to water houseplants depends on the type of houseplants you are growing.
Cacti and succulents such as Mother of Thousands or Hens and Chicks are able to store moisture in their leaves and stems. These plants require less frequent watering than others. They also prefer drier conditions. Allow the potting medium to dry out completely before watering.
Similarly houseplants with rhizomes, such as the ZZ plant, are able to store moisture in their rhizome. These also require less frequent watering than other plants.
No two plants are the same. Some plants, such as cacti, will require watering far less frequently than other plants. These are a good option if you are looking for low maintenance houseplants.
Other plants such as the Calathea require more regular watering Originating in tropical Africa where they grow in damp conditions, the soil must be kept consistently moist in order for them to flourish.
How Often to Water Houseplants Examples
As we have already noted how often you need to water houseplants can vary depending on a range of conditions. Here are some of the most commonly grown houseplants and an indication of how often you need to water.
It can be easy to overwater orchids. Wait until the potting medium is dry and the roots are taking on a silvery-white color. When the plant is dry, soak it until liquid begins to drain from the bottom of the container. Wrinkly or drooping leaves are a sign that the plant is desperately in need of water.
The Peace Lily likes the soil to dry out between waterings. Once the soil is completely dry the plant begins to wilt. Water only when the soil is on the verge of becoming completely dry, just before the plant begins to wilt.
Also known as ficus elastica, soak these plants when the top inch of soil feels dry. This will be about once a week during the growing season. During the winter months watering can be reduced to about once every two weeks. Remember all plants are different so checking regularly is the best way to know how often to water houseplants.
Wandering Jew plants are best watered when the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch. These plants are prone to root rot which is usually caused by sitting in wet soil. If you are unsure whether to water, play it safe and wait until the soil feels a little drier.
A popular terrarium plant, Fittonia likes the soil to be kept consistently moist. This means watering regularly, as soon as you notice the soil has dried out. Don’t overwater. These plants may like moist conditions but they are also prone to root rot. A policy of watering a little and often is best.
Some plants, such as the Nerve Plant, like the soil to be kept moist. Popular in terrariums, water a little and often to help prevent root rot.
Guzmania is epiphytic. This means that the roots are used to hold the plant in place. Unlike other plants the root system doesn’t absorb moisture and nutrients. Instead Guzmania is watered by pouring liquid directly into the plant’s central rosette.
You will need to fill the central rosette of the plants several times a week if you want your Guzmania to thrive.
This is a difficult plant to keep happy. Prayer plants like well draining soil that remains constantly moist. By this I mean that the soil should feel slightly damp at all times. Regular watering, until liquid begins to emerge from the bottom of the container, is key.
These plants are slightly drought tolerant. Wait until the top three inches of soil is dry before watering.
Pinstripe plants require constant moisture. Aim to keep the soil should be lightly damp at all times. Begin watering the plant as soon as the soil shows signs of drying out.
This is another plant that thrives with regular watering. Weeping figs do best in slightly moist soil. They are also sensitive to impurities. It is best to use either rainwater or filtered water when watering.
Also known as Anthurium, begin watering when the top few inches of soil have dried out. While flamingo flowers tolerate infrequent watering they struggle if overwatered.
Indoor Orange Trees
These require heavy watering on a regular basis. However they are also prone to root rot if allowed to sit in damp or wet soil for a prolonged period. To avoid this the soil should be well-draining. The container should also have lots of drainage holes in the bottom.
A popular winter flowering succulent. Begin watering only when the top half of the soil feels dry. Remember these plants are succulents so dislike being overwatered.
Don’t begin watering Parlor Palms until the top 2 inches of soil are dry to the touch. These plants tolerate moist soil. Just be careful not to overwater.
These are pleasingly drought tolerant. Water when the top inch of soil is dry. Reduce watering when the plants become dormant in the winter months.
Water when the top inch of soil is dry. This is another plant that is sensitive to impurities. Watering with harvested rainwater is the easiest way to protect the plant while still keeping it hydrated.
Many varieties of Peperomia share the same characteristics as succulents. This means that you can allow the top two inches of soil to dry out before watering well. The plants are also drought tolerant, this means that they will survive a little neglect.
Another popular indoor plant, Peperomia is not only easy to care it also seems to thrive if it is slightly neglected.
Low Care Plant Options
If you don’t think you will be able to care for a plant there are a number of low care options.
Succulents and cacti, as we have already noted, can store moisture in their roots. Consequently they require less frequent watering than other plants. However, if you want a low care plant you choice isn’t limited to succulents or cacti.
Aloe plants may not look like it but they are in fact succulents. Watering should be infrequent, only after the top few inches of soil has dried out. This will usually be once every 10 to 15 days.
Like succulents, Snake Plants should be allowed to dry out between waterings. This means watering around once every two weeks, depending on conditions. To water the plant, soak or immerse the plant, allowing any excess liquid to drain away.
Hoya dislikes being overwatered. Keep the soil evenly moist and it will happily thrive in a bright, indirect light position with lots of humidity. A bathroom is ideal.
Similarly Pothos, thrives the more you neglect it. Allow the soil to dry out completely before watering. Philodendrons, like pothos, are happiest when only sporadically watered. Anything more than once every two weeks may be too much.
While young Spider Plants may be thirsty the adult plants will survive for a while if neglected.
Primarily grown for its foliage, Philodendron is happiest when it is neglected. Infrequent watering will produce masses of rich, attractive foliage.
Regularly Check Your Houseplants
If you are still unsure how often to water houseplants the best advice is to check your plants soil once a week. When the soil is dry you can begin watering the plants. You will soon get a good idea of how thirsty your plants are and how regularly they require watering.
Another way to gauge how dry the soil is is to pick up the plant. If the plant feels heavy it is a good chance that the soil is saturated. Dry plants and soil will feel lighter.
For a more scientific measure try investing in a moisture meter. This will give you a reliable reading of your soils condition, helping you to ascertain if your plants need watering. Some, such as the yoyomaz Moisture Tester Kit also tell you how much light the plants are receiving. This can be particularly handy if you are growing light sensitive plants.
Regularly checking your plant helps you to keep it healthy and happy. Your diligence will be rewarded with lots of lush foliage and delicate flowers.
As well as helping to gauge how often to water houseplants, regularly checking your plants helps you to keep an eye on how healthy they are, spotting signs of infestation before the pests can do too much damage.
Houseplants come in a range of shapes, sizes and varieties. They are also a great way to add interest to your home as well as improving air quality and your mental health. Once you get to know the needs of your plant you will find that you will easily know how often to water houseplants.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.