how to water indoor plants

by georgina reid

Most indoor plant fatalities occur due to drowning. I know, terrible, huh?! Those poor little things – all their roots want is a big drink of water, then a few deep breaths of oxygen but just when the potting mix dries out enough to get some air, they’re inundated again. Their leaves start shrivelling, and they look sadder and sadder as the days pass. Their very caring human is surprised by their beloved plant’s sudden downfall. Human waters plant again, and again, to solve the problem. Unsurprisingly, the plant dies. Below are a few things to keep in mind when watering your leafy brood.

lukasz0 blog body
snap by Lukasz Wierzbowski.

Most plants' root systems, unless they’ve evolved to live in water, need air. When you buy a plant in a plastic pot from the nursery, it will always have holes in the bottom of it, right? This is very important as it allows the water to drain out of the potting mix so the roots can breathe. DON’T PLANT YOUR NEW LEAFY FRIEND IN A POT WITHOUT A DRAINAGE HOLE. It will probably die.

USE POTTING MIX, NOT SOIL, IN POTS – Potting mix is engineered to be lightweight, and allow for good drainage. If you use soil in a pot it will be incredibly heavy, and will not drain very well (unless it’s very sandy) meaning your plants will most likely drown. Don't let them drown.

KNOW YOUR PLANT – Some plants like more water than others, some like less. If you treat your Boston fern the same way you treat your succulents, the fern will die. It likes lots of water and the succulents don’t really care for the liquid. So, like you’d do before a first date, get googling! Do your research, and get to know what your green friend needs before it’s too late. Plants aren't objects, they're living beings deserving of dignity and respect. Yes?

WHEN TO WATER YOUR INDOOR PLANTS – Firstly, stick your finger into the potting mix, down to your knuckle. If the mix is wet, don’t water. If its damp, don’t water. If it’s a tiny bit moist and your plant is a big drinker like some ferns, water it. If your plant is an average to low drinker like a succulent, don’t water it. If the mix is dry as a bone, water. This guide will most likely mean that you’ll be watering your plants around once a week in summer and once every 10 days to two weeks in winter.

BUT HOW MUCH WATER?  I reckon a big soaking is best. When you water, make sure you saturate the entire potting mix, not just a little bit on top. Soak your plant, even put it in the bath or shower, and then let it dry out completely before watering again.

BEWARE OF EXCESS WATER – Don’t leave water in the saucer of the pot. Around half an hour after watering your plant, tip out the excess water in the saucer. This will help your plant not drown.

DO I NEED TO WATER THE CACTUS? Cacti are great, but they’re generally not brilliant indoor plants. They really don’t like water, and they really love sun. Only grow them indoors if you can fulfil their desires, otherwise they’ll rot. Quietly, slowly, surely.

Clear as mud? Great! Happy watering.

These handy dandy tips by Georgina Reid were originally published on The Planthunter. If you're interested in more plant talk, get along to the Clunes Booktown Festival (May 4-5th) in Victoria where our pals over at Smith Journal will be presenting "Building Gardens that Sustain & Nourish", a panel discussion featuring Georgina, as well as Kirsten Bradley and Nick Ritar of Milkwood. Luckily for you, we're giving away a handful of double passes to the festival – pop over here to try your luck.

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