Many times I’m asked, “How often should I water my houseplants?” While it’s a legitimate question, how often a plant should be watered ought to be preempted by, “How should I water my houseplants?”

Watering can with breaker

A plastic watering can is lightweight and rust-proof. Choose one with a long spout and detachable breaker.

Photo Credit: Diane Mays

Watering saucers

Place a saucer under each houseplant.

Photo Credit: Megan Bame

You may think that watering is a no-brainer. While it may seem like a simple task at first thought, there’s definitely a right way and a wrong way to water, and quite often it’s done incorrectly – at the expense of your plants.

When it comes to successfully growing houseplants, your two new best friends should be a watering can and a water-collection device under each pot. I prefer a plastic watering can because they’re lightweight, don’t rust and often come with a breaker (nozzle) on the end of the spout. The breaker literally breaks the stream of water into smaller streams, and prevents “craters” forming in the media (potting mix), as well as prevents blasting the media out of the pot and onto the floor. A long spout on your can will also help reach those “hard-to-get-to” areas. To avoid ruining carpets or hardwood floors, you’ll also need a plastic saucer under your houseplant to collect any excess water that may run out of the bottom of the pot.

When applying water to a pot, direct the breaker around all sides of the pot so that the water is distributed evenly onto the media’s surface. This technique will ensure that all of the roots have equal opportunity to absorb the water they need. Apply the water just at the base of the plants to avoid getting the foliage wet.

To reap the full effect of watering, a plant’s media must be thoroughly saturated each time it’s irrigated. This means that 10-15 percent of the water runs through the media and out the bottom of the pot and into the saucer. However, most plants don’t like “wet feet.” So if there’s water standing in the saucer an hour after you water your plant, get rid of whatever’s left in the saucer to avoid root diseases that often occur if the media isn’t allowed to properly dry out. (Roots need air too!)

Watering your houseplants does require attention to detail – or “horticultural therapy,” as some may say. But it’s a rewarding task. Using the best tools makes the process easy, and knowing the proper techniques and applying the right amount of water will prove most successful. Just remember that too much of a good thing is still…well…too much. You want your plants to have a healthy drink of water – not drown in it!

Now you’re prepared to answer the burning question, “How often should I water my houseplants?” Be prepared – the answer is not as simple as “once a week.” (We’ll cover that next…)