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This blog post is contributed by Sarah Gerrard Jones, an expert on houseplants.
All plants need water to stay alive. But how much we give them depends on the type of plant and their origin. As a general rule cacti and succulents require less water than tropical leafy plants. Here are some simple basic tips on when and how to water your houseplants.
Before watering your plant you need to check the soil. This will tell you if you need to water now or to wait. To do this, simply push your finger about an inch down into the soil. If it feels dry, then it’s time to water. If you can feel moisture, then leave it and check it again in a few days.
Never grow your plant in a pot with no drainage holes – drainage holes allow the excess water to escape and without these, the roots will slowly rot in the soggy soil. Always put your plant in a grow pot with holes at the bottom which you then can put inside a decorative pot.
The easiest place to water your plant is in the sink. Remove the plant from the decorative pot and pour water into the soil until you see water running out of the holes at the bottom, that way you know the water has got all the way to the roots.
Leave it in the sink until the excess water has drained out, then place it back in the decorative cover pot. If you don’t let the excess water drain out it will end up in the bottom of the cover pot where it will rot the roots. If your plant is too big to put in the sink. then make sure it sits on a drip tray which you can empty once the excess water has drained through.
You can plant directly into a terracotta pot as long as it has a drainage hole. Terracotta is porous and will absorb a certain amount of moisture from the soil which makes it a good option for cacti and succulents. Don’t be scared of giving Cacti and succulents a good drink through the Summer months, but always check the soil before doing so. The soil should be allowed to completely dry out in between watering.
Always remember to adjust the amount of water you give you plants according to the seasons – I tend to water my tropical house plants approximately once a week during Spring/Summer but I reduce this to once every 12-14 days in Autumn/Winter. I stop watering most Cacti in November so they can have a rest period and don’t water them again until March/April.
The majority of house plants will tolerate tap water (although there are a few exceptions so do your research) but if you can collect rainwater it’s much better for the environment and your plants.