January 21, 2009
I would guess that if you do any amount of gardening, you know that plants need water. From experience, I know that watering plants confuses people.
We sell houseplants in the garden center. When a customer buys a plant, they usually ask how often to water the plant. What they usually mean is” do I water the plant on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday? “I wish that it was that easy. The simple answer is that you water houseplants when they need water. There are a lot of plant care tags, books and the internet sites that will tell you things like keep the plant evenly moist or allow the plant to dry out before watering. If you are a novice gardener or in some case a seasoned gardener, these watering descriptions are not very helpful. The problem for many people is that they have a variety of different houseplant. The plants may not all have the same water requirements. This is why you cannot say to a customer to water a plant every 2 days. Each plant has its own water requirements and trying to treat all of the plants the same will usually mean the demise of one or more plants. One of the things that many gardeners don’t understand is that the number one cause of death in houseplants is overwatering.
Most houseplants are now grown in a peat based potting soil. This allows for better plant growth and it allows for savings on shipping costs when the plants go from the grower to the store. Houseplant growers will tweak the soil mix to make it the best possible mix for the variety of plants that they are growing. Some plants will require a potting mix that holds extra water in the soil. This is because that particular plant needs more moisture retention in the soil. If a grower is growing cactus plants, then the mix would need to have good drainage. When you buy a houseplant the soil mix is the best mix for that plant. It is up to you to make sure that the water requirements are met for that plant. For many gardeners who grow houseplants, the easiest way to do that is by using a moisture meter. This device has a probe that is stuck into the soil and registers the amount of moisture in the soil. Many moisture meters come with a listing of various houseplants and the water requirements of that plant. By using a moisture meter, you will find that you may not have to water as often as you thought. By using the meter, you can determine when you need to water your plants. This allows you to not over water or under water your houseplants.
There are many environmental factors that can change how often you water your plants. When the heat is on in the winter, the warm dry air in the house can dry out plants faster. Plants can also dry out quicker if they are in a sunny window. In the summer months an open window can create a breeze in the house that cools you off, but that breeze may dry out you plants. As you can see there are many factors that can effect how often you water your plants. A moisture meter will help you to learn how often you need to water your plants. After a while, you may find that you will know from experience how often to water the plants under a given situation. The proper watering will save you money on replacing houseplants.
Watering houseplants has a degree of science to it and also a bit of intuition to it. By learning to water your houseplants correctly, you will find you’re your usual black thumb with houseplants can turn into a green thumb.
Next week, I will tell you about watering plants outdoors and the steps you can take at planting time that will allow you to save money on watering your gardens.
Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.