Did you know the number one killer of indoor plants is overwatering? Yep, that’s right, friends, step away from the watering can so you don’t overwater!
It’s common sense to bring a new plant home and give it a big drink, right? Like, “Hey buddy, you’re gonna’ love it here. Drink up”. Wrong! Then you see some leaves turning brown or yellow, and you automatically think it needs a drink. Wrong again!
Plants need water for photosynthesis and to help move nutrients from the soil into the plant. But they also need dry spells within the soil to better take in air and oxygen. Giving your plants a drink every other day without checking the soil, inevitably leads to overwatering and creates a death trap for your plant to drown almost overnight.
We get it; we’ve been there. Overwatering a plant here or there is all part of the plant parent journey. Plus, there is so much conflicting information out there like never water your plant from the top, never leave water in the drip tray, put your plants in the shower for a big drench rather than a small top-up. Which the f*@k is it plant pros???
Don’t worry; we got you. Read on for our foolproof guide to never overwatering your plants again.
The simple solution to not overwater:
ALWAYS check the soil BEFORE giving your plant a drink.
- Does the soil look wet, moist or even damp?
- Dig down into the soil (two inches for most plants but four inches for succulents and cacti); does it feel damp?
If the answer is NO for both of these questions, then you can go ahead and water.
If the soil is still damp, you need to wait another couple of days and repeat the process.
Damp soil two inches down = do not water.
Completely dry soil two inches down = add water.
Absolutely use a soil moisture metre if you have one instead of digging with your hand—way less dirt in the ol’ fingernails and a lot more accurate.
The amount of water to add varies depending on the pot size, so we will run through that next as well as some different watering methods that might suit your home or routine better, but once you’ve learned to be guided by the soil, you will find your plants become a lot easier to manage and death by overwatering becomes a thing of the past.
This rule ensures that no matter what type of soil, how dry the air is or whether it’s Summer or Winter, you won’t overwater your plant. Once you know that your plant needs a drink, the only other step is the amount to give it, so here is a general guide based on your plant’s pot size.
How much water is needed to not cause overwatering?
10cm or less – one cup
15cm to 20cm – 2 cups
25cm to 40cm – 1 litre
Once you have given your plant a drink, make sure you empty the excess from the drip tray or pot. Plants HATE wet feet and will quickly tell you how much they hate it by throwing yellow or brown leaves and racing to their grave.
For this reason, I tend to pop my plants in the sink or shower so that the water can go straight down the drain.
Ways to give your plant a drink so you don’t overwater
1. Top watering
Top watering is simply pouring directly into the topsoil of your plant. This is how most people water their plants (including me most of the time) and it’s the quickest way.
Sometimes this method isn’t practical, however, because your plant may have too many air pockets in the soil, and so instead of the soil absorbing water, it drains straight through, leaving the plant still thirsty.
Similarly, if your plant has been in a pot for a very long time and the soil has become very compact, or the roots are too big for the pot, the plant won’t absorb enough.
In the two cases above, I highly recommend doing bottom water so the plant gets what it needs.
2. Bottom watering
Bottom watering means sitting the plant in water and letting it take up what it needs from the bottom hole(s).
About 10 minutes is a good length of time and then make sure you remove the plant from the and let the excess drain away. If I’m bottom watering a plant, I tend to put it in the sink so that the excess goes straight down the drain.
Some people feel that bottom watering is better because the plant absorbs enough to drench all of the soil. However, this method is more time-consuming cos you need each plant to sit for 10 minutes and then drain them before putting them back in place. You also risk overwatering if you forget to remove the plant and it takes in too much and then struggles to dry out quick enough.
Bottom watering also results in the soil holding too many chemicals found in tap water, so it’s important to top water once a month and flush the soil out.
I generally top water my plants, and if I feel they are drying out too quickly or not absorbing enough, I will give them a bottom water to reset.
Hopefully, these tips help you to stop overwatering your plants and maintain happy and healthy indoor plants.
How else can we help you with your plant care?