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No Fail Watering

No Fail Watering

Water is so important to plants. It provides structural support, cools plants and moves minerals throughout them. Yet, watering can be a challenge for many plant lovers. Too much water can drown plants, while too little causes plant growth to become erratic and stunted. At Groovy Plants Ranch, we take watering seriously and love to share tips with customers. Once you figure it out, your plants will be lush and put out plenty of new growth.

Frequency

First, we encourage you to learn about your plants and their water needs. Not all plants are happy on a weekly watering scheduling. Rather, different plants have different water demands. Some desert plants like succulents and cacti prefer drying out between waterings while more tropical plants like Calathea and ferns are better off with consistent moisture. The best thing to do is read your plant tags, ask plant store managers for care tips or research your plants online. Be sure to check out “Penny Flora Thoughts” for other blog posts on specific plant care tips.

Next, consider your plant size. Larger plants are bigger water hogs than smaller ones. Pot size is another factor. Plants in too small of a container often need more frequent watering. A plant’s environment can also affect watering needs. For example, a plant on a hot summer patio or breezy porch will need more watering than one indoors because the heat and moving air dry out or desiccate plants’ leaves.  

Finally, drainage is essential. If your pots don’t have a drainage hole, it’s easy to drown your plants in sitting water. Either, buy only pots with drainage holes, or add holes with a power drill and glass-and--tile bit.

Water Quality

Some plants are finicky about tap water, specifically city water and well water. Dracaena, Cordyline, Maranta and Calathea can be sensitive to city water’s chlorine, so an easy fix is to let the tap water sit for 24 hours for the chlorine to evaporate. Other plants won’t tolerate salts found in softened well water. The ideal water is rainwater, so collect your own rainwater in a rain barrel or simply a bucket. And remember to always let water come to room temperature before pouring it on your plants.

Techniques

Before watering, it’s important to check soil moisture. Try making a habit of checking your houseplants at least once a week to see if they need a drink. Insert a finger to your second knuckle to feel the soil. If it’s dry, then it’s time to water. If it’s wet, hold off watering for another day or two. It’s almost always safer to underwater, since more plants fail from overwatering.  A chopstick also works well for checking soil moisture. Just insert the end then check if it is dry or wet. Water meters, water sticks and even water reminder apps like “Happy Plant” are also handy.

Top Down: For this familiar watering technique, we suggest taking plants to the sink and adding water to the surface of the soil around the base of each plant. No little splash but fully soak the soil until water starts to run out of the pot’s drainage hole. If a pot is too big to carry to the sink, use a watering can and pour water around the base of the plant until water starts to come out of the drainage hole. Use a turkey baster to suck any extra water lingering in the saucer.

Bottom Up: Another option is to place potted plants in a saucer, a sink or even a bathtub filled with a couple inches of water. In about 20 minutes, the water will soak into the soil through the drainage holes. This technique ensures roots near the bottom receive enough water. It can be a great way to revitalize plants that may have dried out too much or ones that are pot-bound. It’s also ideal for plants like African violets, Begonias, cacti and succulents that don’t like wetness near their stems. The only drawback with bottom-watered plants is this technique doesn’t remove excess salts from the soil like top-watering does. An easy solution is to top water these plants once a month or so to wash away the excess salts.

Water Conservation

Help your plants conserve water by using a quality potting mix that drains but not too quickly to allow plants to take up water.  Also, keep plants even cacti away from heat vents. The hot air will more quickly dry out soil and speed up the rate of transpiration (or evaporation) from plants through their leaves.

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