Next to light, water is just as essential for our plants to live. All plants need water to survive and grow, as it draws up and transports nutrients from the plant’s growing media, through its system in a process known as transpiration. Water also supports photosynthesis, in which our plants convert water and carbon dioxide and convert them into oxygen for us.
If water is so important to plants, then why do we often struggle with problems associated with watering? Sometimes we water our plants too little, and sometimes we water them too much. The appropriate plant watering schedule can be determined by taking into consideration several factors; such as our environment, the amount of light our plants receive, and the type of growing media they are planted in. For example, a plant situated in a spot receiving direct sunlight may require watering more often than one seated in a shaded spo. On the other hand, a plant in a well-draining media will require water more often, simply because the media does not retain much water.
Together, these factors can influence the frequency of watering through our plant’s ability to utilize water faster or slower. Watering only when our plants require it prevents problems associated with overwatering and underwatering.
Overwatering vs. Underwatering
Overwatering is a common cause of plant problems. While most commonly achieved by watering plants on a schedule, or more often than they require, overwatering can also be caused by waterlogged growing media. When in waterlogged soil, the roots of a plant cannot access the oxygen it requires to function and suffers root damage. If not remedied, the roots will rot and eventually die. Typical symptoms of overwatering include brown or yellow leaves, and soil that is taking too long to dry out.
Underwatering, on the other hand, occurs when we fail to water our plants when they need it. Leaves may droop, turn pale, display yellowing, and you may notice the soil pulling away from the edge of the pot. It is also worth noting that both browning and yellowing of leaves are symptoms of over and underwatering; these are typically indicative of moisture stress. When in doubt, do not feel afraid to check on your plant’s roots.
Does your plant need water?
A single piece of advice to remember when it comes to watering your plant is, to never water them on a schedule.
The best way to understand if your plant needs water is to check if the growing media is wet, moist, or dry. We can do this in a few ways:
- Picking up our plant and developing a sense of how heavy it weighs when watered, as opposed to when it is dry
- Sticking a finger into the soil to feel media moistness
- Using a wooden chopstick to check media moistness – The chopstick absorbs moisture in the soil and tell you how wet it remains
- Invest in a moisture meter
As opposed to watering on a schedule, water only when you are certain that your plant is on the drier side. Plants are more likely to bounce back from a case of underwatering, but plants that have been overwatered almost always suffer some damage. Some plants may display visual cues when they require water, such as turning limp, or losing firmness in their leaves. Always check before giving your plants a drink and err on the side of caution whenever in doubt.
The right way to water
Plants can be watered both from the top, and from the bottom. Regardless of which method you choose, always water a plant thoroughly. The amount that you provide should allow for the growing media to be fully saturated, allowing for water to drain out the bottom of the pot (always select one that has drainage holes to prevent excess water from collecting!). Always use water that is tepid or warm – Never cold water, as you could cause the roots to experience shock.