All house plants need water to keep them alive, but how much depends on their country of origin and the environment they evolved in. For example, a plant native to the jungles of South America will need more water than a cactus from the Mexican desert. Knowing how much water to give your plants is key to their survival.
How to save wilted house plants
It pays to know the signs of under- or over-watered plants. Plants will ‘tell you’ if you’re not doing it right. If your plant is looking sickly, first check the compost. If it’s dry, immerse the plant’s pot in a bucket of water and hold it down – air should bubble up. Leave it until the compost is soaked through and the plant shows signs of perking up. Allow the water to drain before returning it to where it was growing.
Wilted yellow leaves can be a sign of overwatering. If the compost is damp, let it dry out before you next water.
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Water by misting
How to water house plants – misting houseplants
Why? Some house plants are native to tropical regions and are used to a higher level of humidity than our houses usually can provide. What’s more, plants that thrive in low light-levels and high humidity are perfect for growing in a terrarium, such as this one (pictured).
How? Mist the compost and leaves regularly with a fine spray, to raise humidity. Continue in winter, as central heating is very drying. Keep out of direct sun.
Which house plants benefit? Ferns, nerve plant, peperomias, micro orchids
How to water house plants – watering houseplants
Why? Many house plants are native to dry regions and therefore suffer if watered too much. What’s more, most house plants suffer if their roots are sitting in water. Water sparingly, instead.
How? Wait until the compost is dry before you water. Place your plant on a large saucer or in the sink so water can drain out. Water until all the compost is moist. Return to its cover pot when no more water comes from the base.
Which house plants benefit? Most house plants
Water from below
How to water house plants – watering houseplants from the base
Why? Some plants need to sit in water all the time to keep their roots permanently moist, while others are at risk of rotting if watered too close to the base of the stems or crown.
How? For those that need moist roots, place the pot in a saucer of rainwater and keep it topped-up. For plants that rot at the crown or stem, place the pot in a saucer of water until the compost is moist again, and then drain thoroughly.
Which house plants benefit? Carnivorous plants need damp roots, cacti, succulents and cyclamens are prone to rotting at the base of the stems.
Avoid splashing the leaves when watering
How to water house plants – avoid splashing houseplant leaves
Why? The leaves of some plants scorch easily, so it’s important to keep them dry when watering.
How? Gently pull the leaves back to reveal the compost surface.
Which house plants benefit? African violets, streptocarpus, kohleria
Water without saturating the roots
How to water house plants – watering orchids
Why? The root of orchids will rot if sitting in water. Orchids are grown in an open bark compost mix, which is very free-draining.
How? When the roots look greyish, water from above, avoiding the leaves, and let it run through. Ensure all water has drained away before returning to its cover pot.
Which house plants benefit? Orchids
Water in the centre of the plant
How to water house plants – watering bromeliads
Why? Bromeliads have an unusual leaf formation, allowing them to absorb water that collects in the central reservoir.
How? Keep this reservoir topped up, and periodically flush it out to stop the water becoming stagnant.
You will still need to water the roots as you would with other house plants.
Which house plants benefit? Bromeliads
Watering by misting the leaves
How to water house plants – misting the leaves of air plants
Why? Some plants son’t need watering at all. These grow on rocks or tree branches, and absorb moisture
from humid air through special cells on their leaves.
How? Mist a couple of times a week, with a fine spray of rain water. If it’s very dry, you may also need
to briefly dunk them in water to hydrate them.
Which house plants benefit? Air plants