How to Water Your Houseplants Wisely

Over watering ranks first in causes of houseplant demise because it causes roots to rot. Most plants are tough so they can recover from under watering with only the loss of a few leaves -- unless you wait too long and pass the point of no return.

Watering schedules depend on the kind of houseplant, its size, container, and environment. No two plants have the same water requirements, so you'll need to know what your particular plant(s) require.

Generally, it's best to water during morning hours. Most flowering plants require more water than their non-flowering counterparts. Since the needs of individual plants vary greatly, you should research your houseplant's requirements.

Test dryness of soil by probing the top inch with your finger. Tapping the side of the post also indicates the degree of wetness. If the tap sounds hollow, the plant needs water. If it sounds solid, wait a day or two to water. If a plant begins to wilt and its soil looks dry and cracked, it needs water immediately.

For plants that require moderate watering, allow 1/2 to 1-inch of soil to dry out before re-watering. If a plant needs light watering, let two-thirds of the soil dry out. For plants that need heavy watering, the surface should always be moist.

You can water in several ways. A quick and easy method is to water from the surface with a watering can. Use a long-spout water can and water at room temperature. When water escapes through the bottom of a pot, the houseplant has had enough.

Pots also may be placed in a tray of water for about half an hour. This allows the soil to draw water in from drainage holes. Some plants, such as ferns, especially like this watering method.

During each watering, use enough water to completely soak the soil in the pot rather than simply wetting the surface. (Keep in mind when watering that hairy plants, such as African Violets, can be damaged if their leaves get wet).

Tap water is fine for plants, but it's a good idea to let the water stand in an open container overnight to allow it to come to room temperature and allow chlorine to evaporate. If your tap water has a high fluoride content, it is wise to use water from another source -- spring, well, rain water, distilled water, or water that has collected in a dehumidifier. You also can add perlite or limestone to your plant's soil to neutralize fluorides.

More steps to easily care for your house plants can be found at

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