Watering plants is easy. Watering them correctly is… let’s just say that when someone asks me what’s wrong with their plant, 99% of the time, it’s being over-watered. If you’re having trouble, you’re not alone. Everyone kills plants, myself included. But once you get to know your plants and form a relationship with them, you’ll understand what they are telling you and when they need to be watered.
You may be thinking: That all sounds very lovely, but also very nebulous.
Don’t worry, I’m going to plot out exactly what you can do to know when it’s time to water.
Before we begin, there are two important pieces of information you need:
When to water your plants:
If you’re going to follow one piece of advice from this post, follow this one: stick your finger in the soil. If it’s dry up to your second knuckle, it should be watered. If it’s not, check again the next day.
(Oh, also never use a pot without drainage holes. But we’ll talk about that more in another post.)
The ‘stick your finger in it’ method isn’t foolproof, but it’s pretty close. It falls short when the soil has already gotten too dry.
To prevent your soil from drying out between waterings:
- Feel your soil frequently.
- Learn how to use other visual and tactile clues from your plants.
What are visual and tactile clues?
Some plants will let you know how they’re feeling. Pothos, Scindapsus and Philodendrons are famous for their communication skills. Pothos will wilt like it’s their job if they’re thirsty. Philodendrons and Scindapsus curl their leaves as if they just got a perm. When you see these telltale signs, stick your finger in the soil. If it’s dry, water! If it’s moist and they’re behaving this way, you’ve probably been over watering them. (If that’s something you’re experiencing, check out our post on over watering your plants!)
If you’re watering succulent-like plants such as Hoya or Ceropegia, try the ‘taco test’. Gently squeeze the outside edges of a mature leaf at the base of the plant as if you were about to fold a taco. The leaf should be firm. If it gives more easily, like that of a newer leaf on the plant, and the soil is dry to your knuckles, give it water!
An important note: don’t wait until the mature base leaves are flimsy or shriveled. These plants can tolerate that happening occasionally, but they won’t thrive if it’s the norm.
There’s no exact schedule that works for every plant. Factors such as light, temperature, humidity, the size of the pot, the kind of soil, how high the AC is blasting, I could go on but you get the picture, all affect how often an individual plant should be watered. Following a strict schedule of watering your Watermelon Peperomia every five days is an excellent way to kill your Watermelon Peperomia. But your plants will tell you when they need to be watered—you just need to be listening.