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Complicated, but experience makes the difference...

How to water houseplants correctly?

In addition to the right light conditions, watering is the most important thing for the health of your plant. Here you will learn what you should pay attention to. If you are a houseplant novice, it will take some time until you have a routine and can estimate how you need to water. But we can say from our own experience: with a little time, watering, and thus plant care, becomes routine and quite intuitive.
In advance: The most fun watering is of course with beautiful watering cans and water sprayers from our online store or store 😉

The tips at a glance:

  1. For most plants, you should always allow the soil to dry slightly before watering again.
  2. For succulents, you can let the soil dry out almost completely.
  3. Pour so that the water runs out the bottom and make sure that there is no water left at the bottom of the pot.
  4. Use rainwater or aquarium water for sensitive plants. However, for most plants, stale tap water can also be used if the soil is flushed regularly.

How often do I need to water?

I guess the ironic thing is that most plants die not from not watering enough, but from overwatering. We'll explain why that is later. First, it is important to know that different plants have different water needs. A plant's water consumption depends on many factors:

What kind of plant is it? Thin leaves with a lot of surface (like Calathea, monocot, many Philodendrons, ferns...) indicate high water consumption, while thick or wax covered leaves (like succulents, cacti, even some orchids...) indicate low water consumption. Plants with thick leaves can store water themselves and can sometimes do without watering for a longer period of time, whereas thin-leaved plants dry out quickly as soon as the soil is dry as well.

It is also crucial in which soil the plant is located. It depends on how much water can be stored in it. Pure coconut soil or peat soil, in which plants are often grown and sold, stores a lot of water. If something is added to the soil such as perlite or pumice (inorganic parts that absorb no to little water and aerate the soil) it can store less water. So a plant in peat needs to be watered less often than the same plant in succulent soil (where less water-retaining parts are mixed in).

In addition, light influences water consumption. More light means more photosynthesis and therefore more evaporation. The warmth of sunlight also increases the temperature, which lowers the relative humidity, which also causes more water to evaporate. Of course, more light also increases growth, which also increases water consumption.

How often do you have to water now? As you may have noticed yourself, you can't really assume a fixed rule of thumb like "once a week". Instead, you need to watch your plants and respond to their individual needs. We water our plants like this:

The soil of succulents (plants that can store water) we let dry almost completely. Only then do we water again. By the way, you can estimate how much water is still stored in the soil by the weight of the pot. With a little experience, this goes really well and quickly 🙂

Plants that consume more water, we let dry about 1-3 cm. This means that we feel with a finger whether the first 1-3 cm of the soil is dry. Only then do we water. As long as the lower layers of soil are still moist, the plant gets enough water. Of course, there are always exceptions: The notorious maidenhair fern always wants it completely wet, including the soil surface. But for most plants this rule works very well. Again, with a little experience, you can tell if you should water or not just by lifting the pot. Rule of thumb: if you're not sure whether to water, better not to water.

Why do I need to let the soil dry slightly?

You may ask, why does the soil need to dry out at all? Can't I keep it wet all the time when the plant roots need water?

And you are right, plant roots need water. However, they also need oxygen! Just like the leaves, roots also breathe, only under the soil. So if the soil is always saturated with water, the roots don't get air and can die and get moldy. (Short digression: plants rooting in water get their oxygen from the water, but they form anatomically different roots than plants in soil!)

It is therefore important to let the soil dry again and again, so that the roots can breathe. It also solves another problem: fungus gnats. They lay their eggs in the upper layers of the soil. They need constant moisture, so you effectively counteract them if you always let the soil dry slightly.

There are substrates that are so coarse that the roots are always in contact with the air, no matter how moist it is in the substrate. These substrates can be watered as often as you like and the plants remain healthy. We will go into more detail about this in the topic Substrate!

How do I need to water?

For newbies, we recommend watering like this: Take the plant to the sink or hold it over a bucket and water it completely so that water runs back out of the holes at the bottom of the pot. Make sure that no part of the soil is left dry. Do not put the plant back in the planter and in its place until the soil stops dripping. Watering this way has several advantages: You prevent the plant from sitting in water. This can easily drown the roots in this area. Also, you flush minerals like fertilizer and especially lime out of the soil regularly.

Some plants are in old or poor soil. Many plants are sold in peat. However, peat quickly becomes hydrophobic, the water just rolls off to the side and the soil is not moistened. If you notice this, you know it's time to repot. Read about this in the Substrate section. To water the plant anyway, make a few holes in the soil, for example with sticks.

How to water plants from below?

You may have heard the advice to water from below for certain plants. But how does this actually work and which plants benefit from it? To water from below, fill a saucer one to two centimeters high with water and wait about twenty minutes. This allows the plant to absorb as much water as it needs and keeps the surface dry. This also helps against fungus gnats. You can find more measures against the annoying little flies and other pests here.

What plants should be watered from the bottom?

Some houseplants do not like water on their leaves. These include succulents, begonias, cyclamen, bubicots, orchids, as well as usambara violets. Succulents in particular often fill the entire flower pot, making it difficult not to wet the leaves when watering. If drops of water remain on the leaves, the succulent may rot. If you water hanging succulent plants like String of Pearls or String of Turtels from the top, the delicate plant strands can suffer if the surface of the soil stays wet too long. In principle, however, you can water all plants from below.

With what I need to water?

Plant roots obtain water from the soil through a process called osmosis: the root cell membrane is permeable to water. The water diffuses from an area with a low concentration of minerals to the area with a high density of minerals. Normally, in the root the content of minerals is higher, thus the water from the soil is drawn into the root.

What happens now when the concentration of minerals in the soil increases? Water diffuses less and less into the roots. The result is brown leaf tips, weak plants and, in extreme cases, death. Calcareous water and fertilizer are the main reasons for soil that is too rich in minerals. Therefore, ideally, do not fertilize too much, it is best to take rainwater and regularly flush the soil.

Of course, this is not necessary for every plant, especially if you flush every now and then. But if you have brown leaf tips, now you know what it could be (besides low humidity). We water most plants with the chalky Karlsruhe tap water. Only sensitive plants like orchids get rainwater.

What about self-watering such as hydroponics or Lechuza™?

You can find out more about this in the Substrate section.