Tropical House Plant Care - Part II - How to Water Your House Plants
What Determines the Amount of Water a Plant Needs?
There's no general rule that works for every plant. It depends on:
The plant's environment : Higher temperatures, lots of light, and breezes or drafts will dry out a plant faster. Plants in small pots will need more water, and those in unglazed clay pots also, since the porous sides allow moisture to pass through. The type of potting soil is also a factor -- more about this in another installment.
The type of plant : Plants such as cactus that are native to a dry climate may not need much watering at all. Other plants with large, soft leaves need more water, as do plants that are blooming. I water my new cuttings daily, to stimulate root development.
Do all these factors mean that I just have to guess? ... Not at all. Just use the "Feel the Soil Rule" . When the soil in the pot is dry to a depth of an inch or so, that's the time to get out the watering can.
How to Water
Always give your plants a good soaking. It's much better for them than small amounts applied more frequently. Every month or so, I like to just put the whole pot in a large bucket for a few minutes to make sure that all the soil is getting dampened.
Symptoms of Impending Disaster
How do you know if you're doing it properly? It's pretty easy to tell when a plant needs more water. Its leaves will begin to droop. Too much water is a more common mistake. It causes black spots, mold, or a "mushy" feeling in the stems.
How to Save the Day
If your plant is parched, just soak it for a while in a bucket. Mushy plants are more difficult to fix. Remove them from their pot and examine the roots. If they're mushy too, it's probably best to throw out the plant. Otherwise, replace most of the soil, and just keep it drier from now on.
Some Other Problems
Root-bound plants will need more water than usual. It's best to re-pot them.
Ceramic pots with no drainage -- just be conservative, and watch for symptoms of over-watering.
After re-potting a plant, the new soil will stay moist much longer, since there are no roots in it to take up moisture, so you need to water it less often.
Once you get to know your plants, it's much easier. You'll develop a pattern, and you'll learn to recognize possible problems before they get too serious.
David Broadhead, Ph.D. , aka "The Professor", is the owner and webmaster of several websites, including one about , and a home remedies site with information on natural treatments and cures.
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