The Best Watering Schedule for Houseplants

Houseplants bring a touch of life and vibrancy to any space. They not only add a pop of colour but can also help purify the air. But let’s face it, keeping these leafy companions thriving can be a challenge, especially when it comes to watering. Fear not, plant parents! This guide will help you unravel the mystery of watering schedules and ensure your houseplants flourish, not floundering.

We’ll explore the signs your plants are thirsty (or overhydrated!), decipher watering needs for different plant types, and answer the age-old question: is tap water okay? By the end, you’ll be a confident watering pro, ready to create a happy and healthy home for your botanical buddies.

Best Watering Schedule for Houseplants

Do You Need a Plant Watering Schedule?

While a set watering schedule might seem convenient, houseplants are individuals with varying thirst levels. A strict schedule does more harm than good. Here’s why:

  • Plant Needs Differ: Some plants, like ferns and peace lilies, love a consistently moist environment. Meanwhile, cacti and succulents store water in their fleshy leaves and prefer to dry out completely between waterings. A one-size-fits-all approach won’t work.
  • Environmental Factors Play a Role: Light, humidity, and even the pot size can influence how quickly a plant dries out. A brightly lit room will dry out soil faster than a dimly lit corner. Understanding your plant’s environment is vital to watering effectively.

So, instead of a rigid schedule, what should you do? Don’t worry; we’ll cover that in the next section – “When to Water Plants,” – where we’ll explore techniques to determine when your specific plant needs a drink.

When to Water Plants

Now that we know a set schedule isn’t ideal, how can you tell when your plant is thirsty? Here are some trusty techniques to become a watering whisperer:

  • The Finger Test: This classic method is simple and effective. Stick your finger into the soil about an inch deep. If it feels dry to the touch, it’s watering time! For some plants that prefer consistently moist soil (like ferns), you might wait until your finger feels only slightly damp.
  • The Weight Test: Get familiar with the weight of your pot when the soil is moist and again when it’s dry. As your plant uses water, the pot will feel lighter. Lifting your pots regularly can help you determine when they need a drink.
  • The Visual Test: Drooping leaves are a telltale sign your plant is dried. However, some plants naturally droop their leaves when thirsty, so familiarity with your plant’s usual posture is essential. Curling or dry leaves can also indicate underwatering.

Remember, it’s better to go slightly underwater than overwater. Overwatering can lead to root rot, a fungal disease that can be fatal for your plant. When in doubt, wait a day or two before watering.

In the next section, we’ll delve into the specifics – “How to Water Foliage” and “How to Water Succulents” – to ensure you’re giving your plants the perfect drink, no matter their type.

How to Water Foliage

Foliage plants, with their vibrant leaves, are popular choices for homes. But unlike their succulent cousins, they generally enjoy a more consistent soil moisture level. Here’s how to water them effectively:

Drench the Soil, Not the Foliage: Instead of a light sprinkle, aim for a thorough watering. The water should reach all the roots, encouraging healthy growth. Continue pouring until water drains out of the holes at the bottom of the pot. This ensures the entire root ball is hydrated.

Mind the Drainage: Proper drainage is crucial to prevent root rot. Ensure your pot has drainage holes, and avoid letting the plant sit in water collected in a saucer. Empty the saucer after about 15 minutes to prevent the roots from waterlogging.

Frequency is Key: While foliage plants prefer moist soil, they don’t need to be constantly soggy. The watering frequency will depend on factors like the type of plant, pot size, light conditions, and season. As mentioned earlier, use the finger or weight tests to determine when your plant needs watering.

Grouping Can Help: Grouping humidity-loving plants can create a mini climate that helps retain moisture in the air, reducing watering frequency.

Following these tips, you can ensure your foliage plants get the proper water to thrive and beautify your space.

How to Water Succulents

With plump leaves and unique shapes, succulents are trendy and inexpensive houseplant options. However, their watering needs differ significantly from foliage plants. Here’s how to become a succulent watering whiz:

Less is More: Unlike foliage plants that enjoy consistent moisture, succulents store water in their leaves and prefer to dry out completely between waterings. Overwatering is the enemy here, as it can lead to mushy leaves and rot.

Soak and Dry is the Way to Go: The “soak and dry” method is ideal for succulents. It’s watering time when the soil feels completely dry, and the leaves look slightly wrinkled. Give your succulent a deep drink by soaking the pot in water until it runs out of the drainage holes. Then, drain the pot entirely and discard any excess water. Wait to water again until the soil is arid.

Light Matters: The amount of light your succulent receives can influence how often it needs water. Those in bright, sunny locations will dry out faster than ones in low-light areas. Adjust your watering frequency accordingly.

Skip the Misting: While misting might seem refreshing, it’s not practical for succulents. The water droplets can sit on the leaves too long, promoting rot. Instead, focus on watering the soil.

Cacti Follow the Same Rules: Cacti, being part of the succulent family, share similar watering needs. Soak the soil thoroughly when dry, then let it dry out completely before watering again.

By following these tips and adopting the “soak and dry” method, you can ensure your succulents get the perfect drink to stay plump and healthy and continue to add a touch of desert charm to your home.

Read Also: 7 Tips for Caring for Houseplants in the Winter

Watering Considerations

Now that you’ve mastered the art of watering different plant types, here are some additional factors to keep in mind:

  • Pot Material: Terracotta pots are porous and allow for better drainage, which is ideal for most plants. Glazed ceramic pots retain moisture longer, so you should water them less frequently. Plastic pots are good options, but ensure they have drainage holes.
  • Plant Size: Larger plants generally hold more moisture in their soil and may need less frequent watering than smaller plants in similar pots.
  • Season: During the hot summer, most plants will dry out faster due to increased evaporation. You should adjust your watering frequency accordingly. Conversely, winter usually means less watering is necessary as plants enter a semi-dormant state.

Bonus Tip: Consider using rainwater whenever possible. It’s free, naturally soft, and free of chlorine and other chemicals that can be harmful to some plants.

You can fine-tune your watering routine for your botanical companions by considering these watering considerations.

Signs of Overwatering

Even with the best intentions, overwatering can happen. Here’s how to identify if your plant is suffering from too much moisture:

  • Drooping Leaves: While drooping leaves can be a sign of underwatering, they can also indicate overwatering. However, the leaves will often feel limp and mushy with overwatering rather than dry and crispy.
  • Leaf Discoloration: Yellowing or browning leaves, especially on lower parts of the plant, can be a sign of overwatering. These leaves might also feel soft and mushy.
  • Stem Rot: Overwatering can lead to stem rot, where the base of the stem feels soft and mushy. You might also notice discolouration or mould growing on the stem.
  • Stunted Growth: If your plant seems to be growing slowly or not at all, it could be due to overwatering. The roots may be damaged, hindering the plant’s ability to take up nutrients.
  • Fungus Gnats: These tiny flying insects are often attracted to moist soil conditions. Their presence can be a sign of overwatering.
  • Soil Smell: Healthy soil should have a pleasant, earthy smell. A foul odour from the pot can indicate root rot caused by overwatering.

If you notice these signs, it’s time to take action! The following section will cover how to save an overwatered plant.

Signs of Underwatering

Just like overwatering, underwatering can also happen. Here’s how to recognize when your plant is yearning for a drink:

  • Drooping Leaves: This is a classic sign of underwatering. The leaves will wilt and lose their turgor (firmness). Unlike overwatering, however, underwatered leaves will feel dry and crispy, not mushy.
  • Leaf Curling: Leaves may curl inwards or downwards, becoming wrinkled and distorted as the plant attempts to conserve moisture.
  • Leaf Discoloration: Underwatered leaves may turn yellow or brown, typically at the edges or tips first. These leaves will eventually dry out and fall off.
  • Dry Soil: This is an easy giveaway! Sticking your finger into the soil and finding it completely dry to the touch is a clear sign your plant needs water.
  • Slow Growth: Underwatering could be the culprit if your plant grows at a snail’s pace. The plant isn’t receiving enough water to support healthy growth.
  • Stunted or Smaller New Leaves: New leaves emerging smaller than usual can indicate your plant isn’t getting the moisture it needs to produce healthy foliage.

The good news is that underwater plants often recover well once they receive a proper drink. In the next section, we’ll discuss reviving an underwater plant.

Is Tap Water Okay?

Tap water is convenient but can sometimes contain elements that aren’t the best for all houseplants. Here’s a breakdown of what to consider:

  • Chlorine and Fluoride: Municipal tap water often contains chlorine or chloramines for disinfection and fluoride to promote dental health. While these are safe for humans, some plants can be sensitive to them. Chlorine can irritate leaves, and fluoride buildup can harm certain plants like spider mites and dracaenas.

What You Can Do:

  • Let it Sit: If you’re concerned about chlorine or chloramines, leave tap water in an open container for 24 hours. This allows these chemicals to evaporate.
  • Rainwater Rescue: Rainwater is an excellent option as it’s naturally soft and free of chlorine and fluoride. However, depending on your environment, be mindful of potential pollutants.
  • Filtered Water: Filtered water removes chlorine, fluoride, and other impurities. This is a good option if you have susceptible plants or tap water has a high mineral content.

Not all Plants Mind:

The good news is that many houseplants tolerate tap water just fine. If your plants seem happy and healthy, switching to a different watering method is unnecessary.

Observe and Adapt:

The key is to observe your plants. If you notice signs of decline, such as brown leaf tips, and suspect it might be tap water, try switching to filtered or rainwater and see if there’s an improvement.

Consider these factors to decide the best watering method for your specific plants and tap water quality.


Do I need a strict watering schedule for my houseplants?

No! Plant needs vary so that a rigid schedule can harm them. Learn to identify when each plant needs water based on its individual needs.

How can I tell when my plant is thirsty?

Stick your finger in the soil! If it feels dry to the touch, it’s time to water. Other visual signs include wilting or drooping leaves.

Is it better to underwater or overwater my plants?

Underwatering is generally easier to fix than overwatering. Overwatering can lead to root rot, which can be fatal. When in doubt, wait to water.

Should I use tap water for my plants?

Tap water can be okay, but some plants are sensitive to chlorine or fluoride. If your plants seem happy, there’s no need to switch. Rainwater or filtered water are better options for sensitive plants.

My succulent looks wrinkly. Does it need water?

Probably yes! Succulents store water in their leaves and prefer to dry out completely between waterings. Wrinkly leaves are a sign they’re thirsty.


Congratulations! You’ve taken a giant leap toward becoming a houseplant watering pro. By understanding the unique needs of your leafy companions, you can ensure they thrive and bring life to your space. Remember, the key is to ditch the rigid schedule and focus on the signs your plants give you. With some practice and the knowledge you’ve gained here, you’ll be watering your plants confidently, nurturing a flourishing indoor jungle for years to come.

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