Everything that lives on Earth depends on water to sustain it. Humans need to drink about eight to 10 eight-ounce glasses of water a day to ensure their bodies function properly. Our pets need access to cool, fresh water every day too. While plants also need water, knowing how often to water them can be challenging.
When you buy and bring plants home, the first question should be, “How often should I water my plants?” Some houseplants need frequent watering, while others can go without water for two weeks or more. Each species of plant is different, and they often have different water requirements as well.
While you don’t need to be a botanist, it is important to know about the species of plants that you own and how to care for them. An orchid is going to demand more water than a cactus or nice ivy plant. So, before buying houseplants or, when you are gifted one, read about how often and how much water they will need.
How Water Helps Plants
Without water, all plants will wither and die, but water does more than keeping them alive. When plants receive water, you may notice they seem to look plumper, and the leaves or stalks stand straighter. This reaction is a sign that the cells within the plant are full of water. When their water depletes, then they can droop or shrivel.
The plant’s cells make up its structure, so watering provides them with structural support because the water fills the cells. Water works alongside the cellulose in plants to give them structural support to look and stay healthy. It’s also vital that plants are in porous soil to allow the water to soak into it, so the plant’s roots get water too.
The Transpiration Process
A process known as transpiration takes place when you water plants. This process allows plants to stay cool and circulates the minerals to where they are needed. So, what is transpiration?
Transpiration, which takes about 98 percent of a plant’s energy, takes place when water moves through the soil to the roots of the plant, and then up through its structure to the leaves. As the water warms up during this journey, it evaporates and passes through the pores in the leaves, which are called stomata.
The process serves two main functions, to keep the plant cool, and it sends water and minerals to the leaves for photosynthesis. So, that is why plants need water, but how often should you water them is the crucial information that you need to know.
Research Your Plants
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Almost anyone can keep a plant alive if they know how much water to give it, how often to water it, and what type of soil and pot in which they live. If you are buying a plant, it’s important to know what species it is, so you can look up how much water it needs and how often to water it.
When you buy houseplants at home improvement, grocery, or general department stores, they usually have small signs stuck into the soil with growing tips on them. This information often includes what species they are, how much sun they like, and when to water them. However, it is better to look up further information online, so you can get to know your plants.
Along with knowing its species and how much sun they should get; you should also know what type of soil and pot to replant them in when you get them home. Most plants come in small, flimsy plastic containers that are disposable. So, you will also need new pots in which to transplant them. When you know the species, you can find out how big the plant gets so that you can buy the proper sized container for it.
Five Factors for Watering Plants
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While researching the plants that you own, you will come across information that can influence how much and how often you should water them. Some of these factors include:
- Humidity Levels
- Type of Pots
- Time of Year
- Ventilation in House
It’s essential to know this information because some of these factors can cause water to evaporate faster, which can dry out your plants and cause them to wilt and die. They can also help answer the question of “how often should I water my plants?”
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How much and how often the plants get water depends on factors like the temperature in the room. If the temperature in the room is high, then evaporation rates will increase, as will the plant’s metabolic rate. The metabolic rate for plants doesn’t depend on their size, as scientists first thought. It depends on how much nitrogen is in the plant. The more nitrogen it contains, the faster it will respire.
Since the temperature can vary in a house from room to room, plant owners should consider where to put their plants in the summer and winter seasons. A room with lots of windows will be warmer throughout the year because of the sun shining through the glass. So, during the summer, you may want to move the plants to a room with fewer windows to prevent them from drying out quickly.
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The humidity in your house can vary with the seasons and growing environment. During the spring, when the humidity is often higher, you may not need to water as often because the plants will retain more water due to the moisture in the air.
In the summer and winter, the doors and windows are not open as much, and the furnace is on, the humidity will be lower. When the humidity is low, then the plants can dry out faster, so they may need watering more often. However, also check the moisture in the soil by feeling it and look at the plant carefully for signs it may need water, such as drooping leaves.
Types Of Pots
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Certain materials that go into making pots can cause water to evaporate faster as well. Porous substances like terracotta can cause faster evaporation than plastic containers. Plastic pots can prevent water from evaporating from the sides of the plant, so they retain more moisture.
When getting ready to transplant a growing plant into another pot, consider what type it is before choosing a container. Plants that like drier or arid conditions will be happier in a clay pot. The size of the pot is a factor too.
If the pot is too big, it will take the soil longer to dry out, which can make it more challenging to determine when the plant needs more water. For plants that like arid conditions, such as succulents, they do better in smaller pots that dry out quickly. If you have plants that like moist conditions, then buy bigger containers for them.
Time Of The Year
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Watering habits will probably need adjustment as summer turns into fall and then into winter. When the sun shines less often, and the temperatures are cooler, then it can take more time for water to evaporate in comparison to summer.
During the winter months, many plants, including houseplants, become dormant or their growth slows down, so they don’t need as much water as they normally do. Make a note of how the plants and soil look before watering them, so they don’t get too much during the colder months.
Ventilation In House
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If you have moving air in the house from an air conditioner, heater, or overhead fan, then you may need to increase how often you water the plants. Moving air will act to increase evaporation, which causes your plants to use their water supplies more quickly.
When you need cooler or warmer air in your home, set your system to allow for moderate amounts of air movement. Some ventilation is good for plants because it reduces the risk of diseases like mold or mildew, although they will need more water to keep them healthy and going strong.
Don’t Schedule Watering Plants
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To remember to water their plants, many people keep a schedule of when to water them. However, as growing conditions change, such as the five factors mentioned above, the need for water can increase or decrease, and people risk over- or underwatering them by keeping schedules.
Instead of using a schedule, learn how to recognize the signs of your houseplants needing more water. If you have plants in medium or large pots, then the finger test is a good way to tell if it’s time to water them. This method involves sticking a forefinger into the soil for an inch or two, which is at about the first knuckle.
If the top of the soil feels dry, that will be okay, but it should feel moist about an inch or so down. If it doesn’t, then your plant needs water. The soil for some plants, like succulents, should be allowed to dry out completely but most other houseplants will need to retain some moisture to stay healthy-looking.
Knowing the types of plants that you’re growing and learning how to spot signs that your plants need water can help keep any houseplant alive and thriving. It will also answer the question “how often should I water my plants?”