How to Water Plants: 7 Tips to Keep Plants Thriving

We share a few rules for watering plants every gardener should follow.

Knowing how to water plants correctly may be the number one priority for plant parents. It's possible to both over- and under-water plants, so figuring out the watering process—and how often to water plants—is essential. While some plants don't need sunlight and others basically take care of themselves, all plants need water.

Every plant is different, as is every plant environment. The same plant will need more water if set in a sunny spot than in a shadier one; older and larger plants will be thirstier than smaller, newer ones. You'll have to pay attention to be sure you're watering right. To break down the best way to water plants, we share some rules that green-thumbed gardeners follow when caring for indoor or outdoor plants.

Watch the Weather

How much water plants need will vary with the seasons. During winter, plants typically require less water since the days are shorter and plants are in a resting phase. For mild weather (particularly in the spring), plan to water your potted plants once a week.

Plants will need more water as the temperature rises in late spring and summer, as more heat causes moisture to evaporate before the plant can use it. You may find that your plants need watering a few times a week or even daily.

Adjust Water Levels

The size of your plants helps determine how much water they need. Larger plants need more water; smaller plants need less water. Be sure to customize the water levels for your plants.

Additionally, large pots containing small plants can hold a lot of moisture, so adjust water quantities accordingly. Small pots or hanging plants may need to be watered twice a day, while large pots can be watered once a day.

Follow the Best Times for Watering

It's best to water plants either in the morning or the evening, regardless of whether you're watering them weekly, daily, or twice a day. This is especially true for outdoor plants and helps avoid moisture loss from evaporation.

Since the soil is cooler in the morning, watering in the morning allows the water to seep into the roots before the day's sun. The same can be said for late-evening watering.

Avoid Over-Watering

Though plants love water, overwatering your plant may actually be harmful. Add water to pots until it leaks out of the drainage holes in the bottom. (Pots without drainage holes should have some safeguard against root rot, whether that’s rocks or another moisture catcher at the bottom.) This way, you’ll know that the soil and roots can access the moisture throughout the pot.

Avoid oversaturating by adding just enough water that it drains out of the bottom. If you come back later to water your plant again and the top of the soil is moist, you probably don’t need to water it again just yet.

Water the Soil

Even though we commonly say, "water the plants," it's important to water the base of a plant (i.e., the soil) instead of the plant itself. Water should be poured onto the soil, not the leaves or flowers. This ensures that water ends up where it's needed—at the roots. Dumping water on the plant can lead to fungal diseases and even scorched spots on leaves.

Be Patient

Some plants and flowers, especially those in outdoor pots, may look wilted at the hottest times of the day. Don’t panic and add water; plants wilt as self-protection to keep the roots from losing too much moisture. Wait to see if the plants perk up again once things cool off at the end of the day; if they don’t, they may need a little more water or more frequent watering.

Keep Pots Dry

Though it may seem counterintuitive, keeping the bottom of a pot dry is important for your plant's health. If pots are allowed to sit in water (or are drenched in water too often), plants can develop root rot or die. If you're using saucers under planters to catch water and dirt, empty them after watering and after it rains to keep the roots and soil moist—not drenched.

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