"How often should you water houseplants?"
Many houseplants want their potting soil moist during the Spring, Summer, and Autumn and just a bit drier during Winter. Very wet or saturated soil should usually be avoided
How often you need to reach for the watering can to achieve this goal depends. But as a rough rule of thumb, you can expect to water most plants once or twice a week during Spring, Summer, and Autumn and once a week or fortnight in Winter.
The right amount of watering is important because houseplants don't have access to natural water sources and therefore depend entirely on us. - Photo by cottonbro
How much water do plants need?
How much water does my plant need? It is a question we're frequently asked. To answer this, you need to understand that with too little water, a houseplant will die - This is a fundamental principle of all plants. Whether it's filtered water applied early morning or tap water late at night, both will keep your plants alive.
But it's also true that with too much water, a houseplant will die. There is a balancing act to get right, but the first bit of good news is that most houseplants don't need it to be perfect all the time.
Don't worry too much.
A little too much water or not enough from time to time won't finish off most popular houseplants.
The second piece of good news is that we've already done most of the hard work for you!
All you need to do is look for your particular houseplant on our Plant Profiles page, where you'll learn its individual watering needs. We've got instructions from African Violets to the ZZ Plant and everything in between.
When you've understood this, there are Four Environmental Factors and Four Plant Factors to consider because these can all influence how much water a plant uses and therefore the time needed between waterings.
How often you need to water depends on FOUR environmental factors
- Light Levels
As the light intensity level increases, plants will generally need more frequent watering. Those that receive less light will use a lot less water.
- Temperature Levels
If the temperature is warm, there is a good chance your plant will be too. This means it will use more water and the pot will also dry out quicker as a result.
- Humidity Levels
Plants living in high humidity locations will need less water than those in dry environments with low humidity levels.
- The time of year
There is less light in Winter and the temperature is cooler. This means the plant slows down because photosynthesis is less effective.
Providing the room isn't excessively hot, you may reduce watering to just once every two weeks or once a month for some plants over the Winter months.
How often you need to water depends on FOUR Plant factors
- The type of plant
If the plant has thick fleshy leaves, it's naturally adapted to receiving less water, cacti and succulents, for example. Too frequent watering here and you'll be increasing the chances of root rot.
On the other hand, if the plant's leaves are thin or numerous, like ferns, or palms, then it will have less tolerance for under watering and will need more frequent watering.
- The size of the plant
Bigger plants will need and use more water than smaller plants.
- The size of the plant pot
As a general rule, a large plant in a small pot will need much more water than a small plant in a big pot.
This is because if the roots are filling the pot, there is less capacity for the soil to hold water (because the roots are taking up the space).
The opposite is true when the plant is small but in a large pot, in these circumstances much more water can be held by the soil so less frequent watering is needed.
- The material of the plant pot and choice of potting medium
Plants in terracotta clay pots, compared to those in plastic ones, will generally need more water because the clay is porous and moisture is wicked away from the soil in the pot.
If you apply a mulch around the plant, water will remain in the pot for a more extended period, as the mulch prevents the soil surface from drying out as quickly.
Very free draining potting mixes won't hold as much water as those which are more dense and heavy. So you guessed it, this type of potting medium will require water more frequently.
Water your plant when it gives you signs that it needs it
Depending on the plant type, sometimes it's easy to know when to get the watering can out, many houseplants are rather clever and tell you when they want water. The Peace Lily in the photo below for example is very obvious.
Use the slider below to tap / swipe back and forth to see the difference between a correctly watered and underwatered plant.
The plant on the left has the correct amount of water, the photo on the right shows the plant has dry soil and so doesn't have enough water.
The picture on the right is the Peace Lily telling you it really needs water. It's wilting and flopping over in a very dramatic and attention grabbing way. One look at it and you know something is wrong. The photo on the left shows its now got plenty.
Some other house plants that do this, are Fittonia, Lady Palm, and Purple Shamrock. Most however don't give such clear signs, but there are a few subtle hints you might be able to pick up on.
Common Signs that your plant needs watering
- Leaves become limp and wilted. Sometimes faded or translucent.
- Flowers fade quickly or fail to bloom.
- The oldest leaves on the house plant start to fall off.
- Leaf edges become brown and dry.
How often should I water my plants in Winter?
Winters tend to be cooler, with much less light filtering into your home. Plants know this and this is usually when they're the most inactive. Some will even go into a mini hibernation or "rest" period.
They might not be growing at all and barely using any water during this time.
There are no fixed rules here, but based on personal experience, the frequency of watering goes way down at this time of the year. Once every 7 to 28 days is considered normal for me.
How often should I water my plants in Summer?
Summers tend to be warmer, with loads more light filtering into your home. Plants will be most active at this time of the year because it's their growing season and will need moist soil constantly for best results.
If conditions are good they're be growing fast during Summer, using water quickly and they'll therefore be thirsty. Make sure you water thoroughly until water seeps out of the bottom of the pot.
Again no fixed rules to follow, but all my plants need regular watering once every 4 to 10 days during Summer.
These pots all have drainage holes to let excess water escape, which is perhaps the best way to ensure you have healthy plants - photo by cottonbro
How do I know if my plant needs water? TOP TIPS
- Feel the soil.
This is the easiest way to know what's happening. Gently touch the top of the soil surface or push a finger down a little into the potting mixture. Does it feel dry or damp or moist? The answer to that question will tell you if your plant needs watering or not.
- Use a Moisture Meter.
These measure the soil moisture levels and work for every type of plant. All you need to do is stick it into the potting mix and it will tell you how much moisture is available.
No need to get your fingers dirty and it will provide you with more scientific and accurate measurements. Here's an example on Amazon with positive reviews. (Affiliate link).
- Watch your plants.
We've covered this in some detail above, but it's so important it's coming up twice. A few signs from your plant can be all you need to let you know it's time to water them.
- Pick them up.
Water is heavy. If you pick up a pot and it feels weighty, then there is a good chance the soil is saturated and your plant doesn't need to be watered. A pot that is light in comparison has a good chance of being dry and in need of watering.
My Secret Tip
As the temperature and light intensity goes up so does the need for water. An increase in both of these variables results in a more effective level of photosynthesis which in turn needs more water.
After owning and growing houseplants for almost two decades, I've noticed one thing. In 80% of cases, when one of the plants in my collection needs water, the rest do too.
Think about it. Almost every plant in my home (and probably yours too) will have very similar environmental factors. Similar temperatures, humidity and light levels, so it makes sense they will dry out at a similar time.
This makes it easy and very time efficient as it's just a case of whizzing around all my plants and watering them at the same time.
My Secret Tip - In 80% of cases, when one of the plants in my collection needs water, the rest do too.
However, around 20% of the time this doesn't happen. Some plants need a ton more water than others and will dry out super fast. Others are set in quite shady spots in my home. They take almost double the amount of time to dry out.
Regular fixed routines following a set schedule will never work long term so I don't recommend practicing this.
But the "when one has dried out the rest (might) have too" fast rule, is a good starting point for sure. Give it a go let me know what you think below. If you have a different method share that too.
Also on Ourhouseplants.com
Credit for snake plant being watered and for the man watering small plants - Cottonbro