The 10 Golden Rules For Watering Plants The Right Way

Watering Plants

Watering plants may seem like a simple task, and to some extent it is.

But there is much more to watering plants than just pouring or spraying water on them.  If it is not done correctly, your plants will not flourish.  They may even die.

Our knowledgeable Gardening Boost team explains everything you’ll need to know about watering your plants correctly.

Here’s an overview of the areas covered:

  1. How Much Water Should I Give My Plants?
  2. How Often To Water Plants
  3. Signs of Over-watered Plants
  4. Signs of Under-watered Plants
  5. The Best Time To Water Plants
  6. The Best Tools And Equipment For Watering Plants
  7. Best Type Of Water To Use
  8. Should You Wet The Leaves When Watering Your Plants?
  9. The Best Water Temperature For Watering Plants
  10. Watering Mistakes To Avoid

We cover all the important aspects of watering your plants.  So, you won’t have to guess!

If you’ve tried everything you know but your plants still look dull and droopy, your watering practices could be the culprit.  We’ll explain the key principles of watering plants that will help to revive your plants and make them flourish. 

1. How Much Water Should I Give My Plants?

How much water to give plants
Some plants need a lot of water and some don’t. Find out which category your plants fall into.

We don’t have a set formula that you can use to determine how much water your plants need.  But there are some guidelines that will help you.

If a plant is consistently getting too much water, the roots won’t get enough oxygen and it can drown.  If it gets too little water, the roots can dry out and it will eventually die.  So, it’s important that plants get the right amount of water to really flourish.

Different types of plants have different water requirements.  The amount of water a plant needs depends on the type of plant, its age, environmental conditions, climatic conditions, weather, type of soil, and drainage.

Some plants need a lot of water and some need very little water.  There are other plants that fall within these two extremes.  We’ll refer to them as requiring a medium amount of water.

It is important to know which category or categories your plants fall into.  By categories, we mean high water requirement, medium water requirement, and low water requirement.

Let’s look at each of these categories.

High Water Requirement

Some plants grow best when the soil is consistently moist.  These are classified as plants with high water requirements.

These include some perennials and bulbs, among other types of plants.

Also, plants that are native to tropical conditions require lots of water.  Most vegetables and herbs fall into this category.

If these plants are outdoors and it is hot, dry, and humid, they will require lots of water.  They will need at least ½ gallon or more of water, each time you water them.

When you water these types of plants, make sure the soil is soaked.  Ensure that the water penetrates about 4-6 inches into the soil.

You can use a moisture meter to check the soil’s moisture level at 4-6 inches below the soil.  Or, you can stick your finger in the soil to check if it’s moist or not.

After a while, with some practice, you will know how much water is enough.

It is important that water drains properly, especially if you are growing your plants in containers.  This allows excess water to run off easily.  So, even if you use too much water, it should not create a problem.

In later topics, we’ll discuss how often to water plants with high water requirements.

Medium Water Requirement

Plants in this category don’t need as much water.  They do need some moisture, but not as much as plants in the high water requirement category.

Many house plants fall into this medium category.  These plants are usually grown in containers.

When watering these plants, you can soak the soil.  Excess water will run off through the drainage holes.

They can tolerate lower soil moisture than plants with high water requirements.  So, you won’t need to water them very often.

Low Water Requirement

Plants that naturally grow in dry, desert-like conditions don’t need much water to survive.  They tend to store water in their leaves or other vegetative structures, to sustain them for relatively long periods.

Plants such as succulents and cacti fall into this category.

They have relatively shallow root systems so you don’t have to saturate the soil with water.   More importantly, ensure that water can drain off properly.  So, even if you pour a lot of water, it won’t settle at the roots.

Also, you don’t need to water them very often. The frequency of watering plants with low water requirements is much less than the other categories of plants.  We’ll discuss this below.

2. How Often To Water Plants

How often to water plants
Some plants need water every day. Others only need water every few weeks.

Plants With High Water Requirements

Plants with high water requirements should be watered when the soil’s moisture level (4-6 inches below the surface) goes below 50%.  You can use a moisture meter to check this.

When it is hot, dry, and humid (especially in summer) water evaporates quickly from the soil.  In such conditions, you may need to water these plants once or twice per day.

When conditions are not as dry and humid, they may only need water once a day or once every other day.

It is important to regularly monitor the weather conditions and the moisture level of the soil.  This will help to guide you in deciding how often to water your plants.

Plants With Medium Water Requirements

Plants in this category are mostly grown indoors.  Since they are not exposed to harsh outdoor conditions, water can be retained in the soil over long periods.

Generally, these can be watered once or twice per week.

Before watering, check the soil moisture.  You don’t need to water if the soil is moist. Only when it begins to dry out.

Plants With Low Water Requirements

Plants with low water requirements are accustomed to dry conditions.

If you are growing plants indoors, you can water them once every 2-3 weeks.  If you are growing them outside and it’s very dry, you may need to water them a little more frequently.  Maybe twice every 2-3 weeks.

You’ll only need to water them when the soil has completely dried out.

3. Signs of Over-watered Plants

over-watered plants
Too much water can drown your plant

Too much water deprives plants’ roots of oxygen.  Without enough oxygen, plants won’t grow well and they will eventually die.

If your plants are getting too much water, you might notice some of the following signs:

  1. Leaves begin to turn yellow and fall off;
  2. Leaves turning brown and rotting;
  3. Soil is always wet or very damp
  4. Moss on the surface of the soil
  5. Rotting roots
  6. Oedema (or edema) – when roots take up more water than the plant can use, blisters develop (mainly) under the leaves. [1]

4. Signs of Under-watered Plants

Under-watered plants
If plants don’t get enough water, they will not grow well and can eventually die.

Plants that are not getting enough water begin to suffer from dehydration.  Some noticeable signs include:

  1. Leaves will begin to wilt
  2. Leaves begin to dry out and turn brown
  3. Plants begin to droop
  4. Leaves and flowers begin to fall off;
  5. Very dry and hard soil
  6. Plants grow slowly

5. The Best Time To Water Plants

Early in the morning is the best time to water plants.

When you water early in the morning it makes water available for the plants during the day.  Also, it gives the plants enough time to absorb water before the moisture is evaporated by the sun or heat. 

The second best time to water plants is in the evening.  This gives plants a long time to absorb water before it can be evaporated by the sun or heat.  However, overnight moisture is not always best for most plants.  It creates an environment that encourages fungus and other plant pests.  It can also limit the amount of oxygen that the plants’ roots can absorb during this time.

If you water your plants in the evening, don’t give them as much water as you would during the early mornings.  You can reduce it to about 60-75%

6. The Best Tools And Equipment For Watering Plants

Best gear to water plants
You can use manual equipment or automated systems to water plants.

The best tools and equipment for watering your plants are based on the size of your garden, the type and size of plants, and the location of your garden.

If you have an indoor garden, with mature plants, you can use a small watering can.

If you want something less manual to use, you can invest in an automatic drip irrigation watering system.  Perhaps, you can consider using an electronic irrigation watering kit or plant watering globes.  There are also self-watering spikes that can be attached to recycled plastic bottles.  This transforms them into automatic irrigation drippers.

If your indoor plants are seedlings or are very young plants, you can use a spray bottle or mister to water them.  This will prevent the young plants from being displaced or damaged by the force of the water.

If you have an outdoor garden, a watering can, or a garden hose can be used to water your plants.  If using a garden hose, make sure that it is outfitted with an adjustable spray nozzle or watering wand that reduces the water pressure.  Strong water pressure can erode the surface of the soil and expose plants’ roots.  It also causes dirt and other particles to splash onto the leaves and stems, which can cause damage and diseases.

If you’re looking for automated options, you can use a drip irrigation system or sprinklers.

7. Best Type Of Water To Use

Let’s start with tap water since it’s the most widely available source of water.

Tap water can be used for watering most plants but it is not the best.  That’s because it contains additives like chlorine and other chemicals.  While most plants can tolerate it, it’s not the best thing for them.  It can negatively affect some (sensitive) plants. 

If you’re using tap water to water your plants, it’s best to use a filter to remove some of the chemicals. 

Distilled water is another option.  The problem with distilled water is that all chemicals are removed, including minerals that are helpful to plants.  So, you can use distilled water but it is not the best option.

The absolute best types of water for plants are spring water and rainwater.  They come from natural sources and contain minerals that help plants to grow better.  Also, they don’t have added chemicals (like tap water does).

The challenge with spring water and rainwater is that they may not always be available when your plants need them.  So, you may have to store them.

8. Should You Wet The Leaves When Watering Your Plants?

When watering seedlings, it’s okay to wet the leaves.

But, when watering mature plants you should aim the water at the base of your plants.  It’s not necessary to water the leaves.

When you water the soil at the base of plants, it goes directly to the roots, where it can be quickly absorbed

When you water from the top of the plant, the pollen or flowers can fall off, especially if the water pressure is strong.  Also, watering the leaves (excessively) can create moisture below the leaves.  This can cause fungal and bacterial infections. 

9. The Best Water Temperature For Watering Plants

Room temperature water for plants
Use room temperature water to water your plants.

Room temperature water is ideal for most plants.  An average temperature of 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20⁰C) is considered room temperature.

The water temperature doesn’t have to be exactly 68⁰F.  Most plants can tolerate a few degrees above or below this average.  A range of 65-77 degrees Fahrenheit (18-25⁰C) is okay for most plants.

You can use a thermometer to check the water temperature.  With some experience, you will be able to tell if the water temperature is okay by touching it.

If water is too hot or too cold, it can damage your plants. Extreme water temperatures can cause shock to plants and damage their roots.

10. Watering Mistakes To Avoid

If you want your plants to grow well and flourish, pay attention to your watering practices.  

Let’s round up this article by looking at some common watering mistakes you should avoid.

  1. Don’t overwater your plants.  Too much water will deprive your plants of oxygen, which can eventually kill them.  
  1. Don’t underwater your plants.  When plants are deprived of water they will not grow properly.  It’s important to know how much water your plants need.  Then water them consistently, according to their water requirements.
  1. Avoid watering plants during the heat of the day.  This will cause moisture to evaporate quickly from the soil.  Plants won’t have enough time to absorb the water.  It’s best to water plants early in the morning.  When that’s not possible, the second-best time to water plants is in the evening.
  1. Avoid wetting the leaves (excessively) when watering plants.  This can cause an accumulation of moisture below the leaves, which attracts bacteria and other pests.  Aim the water at the base of your plants.
  1. Don’t use excessively cold or hot water to water your plants.  This can shock the plants and cause them to die.
  1. Finally, don’t use strong water pressure when watering plants.  This could displace the topsoil and damage the plants’ roots.  It can also cause soil and other particles to splash onto the leaves, contributing to diseases.  So, avoid using devices that create high water pressure, when watering your plants. You can also use mulch to soften the impact of water on the surface of the soil.  It also helps to keep moisture in the soil, so it doesn’t evaporate too quickly.

Time To Start Watering Your Plants The Right Way

Watering plants is an important aspect of successful gardening.  Don’t take it for granted.  Without good watering practices, your plants won’t grow and flourish very well. 

We have provided many useful tips to help you to start watering your plants correctly.  Apply these vital plant-watering principles and your garden will begin to flourish.

For more great gardening tips and information, please check out our other gardening guides.


Our team of experienced gardeners has put together this article to help you with your gardening journey. Our goal is to ensure that your gardening experience is enjoyable and rewarding. We are constantly adding and updating articles, so take some time to explore our site.

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