Trying to explain how much moisture each plant needs is one of the hardest things to articulate. I believe it is something that has to be learned by practice. Working at a garden center for many years, I learned pretty quickly. But those skills didn't necessarily translate directly to my own home! The one thing I try to remember is that it's better to water deeper (less often). This means soaking your plant once instead of watering a little bit for many days.
What are the different types of moisture levels?
Low Moisture: These plants' soil can be completely dried out in-between watering (or close to it). They can usually bounce back quicker if underwatered, but will struggle the most if overwatered.
Example: Cacti, Snake Plant, ZZ Plant.
Medium Moisture: You want the plant to be mostly dried out in-between watering, but not completely dry. Allowing it to be completely dry could cause harm to the foliage or flowers.
Example: Syngonium, Ficus, Philodendron, Hoya.
High Moisture: The plant needs to be moist consistently. If these plants aren't given that higher moisture, there also may be great consequences (including your plants dying).
Example: Maidenhair Fern, Peace Lily, Boston Fern, Pitcher Plant, Nerve Plant
Factors to consider when watering:
Medium: Do you have a well-draining soil that has a mixture of perlite, pumice sand, or bark in it? Do you have a soil that is moisture retaining, that excludes any additives? Are you using a different medium besides soil like moss or bark?
Container or Pottery: Are you using a material that absorbs moisture like terra cotta? Do you have pottery that is glazed on the inside and outside of the pot? Are you using plastic pottery? Do you have your plastic pot in a cache pot? This could determine if the plant's soil is holding the moisture or if the pottery is taking away some moisture.
Lighting: Is your plant near a hot window? Or is it away from the window? This can alter how fast the water is being evaporate, drying out the plant faster or not.
How do I know when to water?
Moisture Meter Reader: This isn't a permeant tool you should be using constantly. This is a tool to help you understand the watering pattern needed for your plants.
Your finger or wood rod: When you stick you finger in the soil, you will either feel dry crumbling soil or damp cool soil. If its damp, cool soil that means it still has moisture, while crumbling soil means it has completely dried out. You can do the same thing with a small wood rod if you don't want to get your fingers dirty!
Lift the pot: This is actually a trick I learned from the garden center! This is how I figure out if hanging baskets needed to be watered again! After you water your plants, pick up the pot or move the pot and see how heavy it feels. This way you know what it feels like completely saturated. When the plant needs water it should feel much lighter and easier to move. This could take some practice, but pretty quickly you will be able to see the difference!
I asked followers if they had any specific plant questions I could address in this podcast and blog. Here are the questions and answers for Watering:
"Does water temp affect plant growth? Hot versus cold? Does the type of water you use affect or stunt growth? For example, well water, city water, filtered water, etc.?"
You really only want to water your houseplant in lukewarm, room temperature, or cool water. Giving them extremely hot or cold water is not healthy for the plant and its root system. That being said, most garden centers water houseplants directly from the hose, which is typically pretty cold water.
Tap water and well water are typically fine for watering your houseplants. Sometimes there is a concern of higher chlorine levels in tap water added to drinking water that could eventually cause browning tips on plants (over extended periods of time). To help prevent this, you can leave your water sit out 24 hours to allow the chlorine to evaporate before watering your plants. Softened water is actually more dangerous to your plants since it is adding salt to your water. In this case, you want to use a water spigot that does not go through the softener (or use rainwater).
The temperature, and any harsh chemicals, could stunt growth but if you are concerned you can get your water tested through your local university extension.
"Can you give tips/hints for winter watering and season changing watering? I tend to lose a plant or two during the winter and often in the transition between seasons even though I am fairly attentive and on top of the watering routines."
This is very dependent on your environment, where you live, and the the plant. BUT, at least in Wisconsin, I've noticed a drop in growth usually in October which means I am letting up on watering and fertilizer around that time frame. I would suggest getting a moisture meter reader or using a chop stick, dowel, or small stake to see how much moisture your plant still has.
It is unclear if you are losing your plant from over or underwatering your plants during this transition. Either way, I would suggest checking your soil moisture starting in October so you understand how often your plant wants moisture into the winter. Every plant will be different and their environment (being under grow lights, in a window, in a bathroom or kitchen, low lighting, etc.) could also change the frequency.
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Love, Holly (Owner & Creator of Houseplant Homebody LLC)