Gardening Help FAQs

Here are answers to some of the most common questions we receive about garden plants. You will find concise information on general gardening techniques as well as plant selection and care. For detailed information on specific plant pests and problems refer to our Common Garden Pests and Problems page.

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Horticulture Questions and Answers

How often should I water my indoor plants?

Most indoor plants fail because they are watered incorrectly. Incorrect watering can cause plant yellowing, wilting, leaf drop, rotting tissue, corky scabs on the underside of leaves, and disease invasion. Since most indoor plants fail because of improper watering, it is important that you develop good watering practices.

There are three factors to consider when deciding how to water a plant. First, consider the plant. Blooming plants and those with much foliage need more water than other plants. Plants from dry regions, such as cacti and many succulents (plants with thick succulent leaves) such as peperomia, pilea, and begonia need less water. Tropical and moist woodland plants such as ferns, philodendrons, fuchsias, and piggyback plants need more water.

Second, consider the environment. When temperatures are high and the plants are growing actively, they need more water. In winter, when the plant is cooler and light is lower, it is growing more slowly, and needs less water. Water also evaporates through unglazed clay pots, and consequently, plants living in them will need to be watered more often than those in plastic pots.

Third, the soil type affects watering. Light soilless mixes are excellent but dry out quickly and need frequent watering. Lift the pot. If it feels light it needs water. If its very light, it may need to be soaked for 1-2 hours to moisten the soil. Once dry, light soilless mixes are difficult to moisten.

Some plants indicate when they need water - succulents often look shriveled, coleus and impatiens wilt. When you notice this, water the plants immediately.

Soil color can also indicate when the soil is dry. A lighter color indicates dryness and shrinking away from the pot indicates very dry. When shrinking occurs, soak the pot immediately.

A plants' water requirements vary so much, you cannot water by the calendar. Instead, water when the soil begins to feel dry to the touch. Do not water too frequently and learn to watch your plants for signs of needing water.

When you do water, apply enough that some water drains through the soil and out the holes in the bottom of the pot. If the pot is in a saucer, remove the excess water from the saucer. Do not let plants sit in standing water. Use room-temperature water to avoid shock and do not use water that has gone through a water softener. Water terrariums with a mister to prevent erosion. If you water a plant and immediately water runs through the pot into the saucer, the soil is very dry. Soak the pot for 1-2 hours, then let it drain. Water that plant more frequently.

Remember, correct watering depends on a combination of factors - the plant, the environment, and the soil. It takes practice and knowledge of your plants. Observe, touch, feel, and experiment and soon you will develop the art of proper watering.