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how to water indoor plants

How to water Indoor Plants: A Step-by-Step Guide

Indoor plants are one of the most multi-purpose projects of any house. From being amazing ornamental plants to purifying the air and maintaining the climate of the house, they can do it all. 

But knowing that plants do so much for us raises a sense of responsibility that we should be careful when taking care of the plants that do so much for us. 

Though selfless in their love for us, plants do require some things from us. Sunlight, fertilizers, proper environment, and most important of all, water. A basic need for all living beings, water is one of the most important resources your green baby needs. 

How to water Indoor Plants

But how do you do this properly? Here is a step-by-step guide of the same:

Points to Remember

Know the needs of your plant

One size fits all is not what works in the case of plants. Some plants require more water and need to be watered more frequently than others, whereas some plants don’t need flooded soil at all times. 

This becomes even more serious when you have an indoor plant. Why, you ask? Because ruining smaller plants is easier than bigger ones because the latter is more durable than the former. 

Not every kind and species of houseplant has the same watering needs, so you need to educate yourself on the plants you have or are thinking of nurturing in the future. Don’t assume that every plant wants 1 liter of water every two days because all of your plants won’t survive with that supply of water.

Let your plant decide when it needs water

It is easier to think that plants need water regularly, in a routine that you think suits them. But here is a reality check, this works for you, but not for your plants all the time. 

So instead of watering your plants with excess water every 2 days, try and understand if that is actually working for your leafy friend. Check the soil in the pot consistently and learn how often it tends to dry out and water based on that. 

You need to be especially careful in the case of indoor plants. These plants tend to have a dormant phase during the winter season, so it is quite likely they will not need to be watered as often during the said season. 

Also, a general observation: morning tends to be a good time to water your plants. Watering at night might cause your plants to catch diseases more easily because the plants don’t have time to dry before the temperature cools.

Perform a Finger Test

A finger test is the most basic method of testing the moisture in your soil. This doesn’t tell you the exact water levels or such but gives the plant parent a rough idea as to how their kid is doing. 

For this, you have to stick your finger, up to the first knuckle, in the soil. If your finger can’t seem to enter the soil, it is dry and definitely needs to be watered. 

If you reach an inch or so deep but your finger is completely dry, it probably needs water to retain moisture. If the top inch feels fairly moist, and some dirt sticks to your finger, it probably means the soil has enough water. 

You can also opt for a moisture meter that sticks in the soil and tells you if the plant needs water, which might be helpful and save you from unnecessary guesswork.

Watch the leaves

In addition to the entire finger test fiasco, you can also keep an eye out for the leaves of the plant you want to water. They are a great indicator of underwatered plants. If the leaves seem to be limp, this usually means the plant needs water. If they turn up brown, dry, or are losing leaves, this also means the plant needs water. 

But keep in mind these are extreme conditions, i.e. all these signs start showing after severe neglect. And when the plant is extremely dry, flooding it with water is more disastrous than you think. It ruins the roots and causes severe damage to the plant.

Use the right kind of water

Now that we have the dryness situation addressed, we can move on and see if the water that one receives is alright or not. You might assume that water from your faucet is just fine, but this isn’t always the case. 

City water usually has chlorine and fluoride which most plants cannot handle. Soft water might possibly have too much salt content. Tap water can turn out to be too alkaline. All this makes you think, are you caring for your plants enough?

Even though it might seem a little expensive, using purified water works best for indoor plants because they are most delicate. A little less expensive but somewhat irregular option is rainwater if you can store it.

The water should be at the right temperature

Although this might seem a little tedious, you should always let the water sit after you collect it in a container. If the plant is watered with water too cold or hot, the plant’s root structure loses its integrity. 

Room temperature water for indoor plants prevents the immediate switch in temperature and hence saves your plants from the harm the instant change can do. If you have way too many plants and need a lot of water, you can consider storing a few jugs of water somewhere that you can keep filled and ready for when you need them.

Pour the water evenly across the plant

Most people make the mistake of dumping a pint of water right onto the plant. This is absolutely incorrect! 

A little mishap with less water can be treated but overwatering turns out to be a big issue. This tends to spoil the roots of a plant as they rot very easily due to an excess supply of water. Pouring the water evenly across the soil will benefit the plant by reaching the roots in the evenest manner.

Drainage of the pot

Potting your plant in the correct pot is extremely important. The pot should have a drainage hole in the bottom. This helps the excess water seep out from the bottom. 

In addition to this, it helps add moisture to the roots from below. All you have to do is play a tray below the plant and place water on the tray and let it seep for about 20 minutes. You don’t have to repeat this too often though.

Get rid of the excess water

A low supply of water every once in a while can be resolved, but it is harder to deal with overwatering and decay of roots. It hence is important to get your plant rid of excess water at the right point in time. 

You can do this by tipping your pot a little while after you have watered it. After some time, the roots absorb the water they need and the excess of it flows out when you tilt the pot. 

Keep in mind that you have to do this at the right time because if the water is left in the plant for a lot of time, it might expedite decay.

Underwatering and Overwatering

Caring for plants is hard and something specifically challenging is knowing if your plant has the right amount of water. Here is what happens in two extreme conditions, underwatering and overwatering.

What happens in case of underwatering

Being underwater is not a pretty sight for your plants. It takes a huge toll on the health of the plant and here is what happens-

1. The leaves start wilting – When the plant is under-watered, you will notice that the leaves are crisp, not the usual limp. Wilting, in this case, is a sign of lack of water passing through the cells of your plant. 

Plants have pores on their leaves called stoma which allows air to enter them. When plants do not have enough water in the soil, they close their stoma to stop evaporation, to retain water and this leads to wilting.

2. Drying soil leads to poor quality roots – Plants get their nutrition and moisture through their roots. If the soil is too dry it ends up depriving the root of moisture and then the roots become weak and end up damaging the plant in the long term.

3. Slowed Growth – A slow period in growth is a sign a plant is not receiving enough moisture. This might turn out to be a temporary or permanent situation. 

If the plant experiences a temporary decrease in water supply, the growth may just slow for a short period. In the long run, it might end up hampering the leaf size and overall growth spurt of the plant.

4. Discolored Leaves – Due to the lack of water, the lower leaves turn out to be yellow and curled. If this happens for a prolonged period, the leaves also can develop dry edges.

What happens in the case of overwatering

The lack of water is bad, but an excess can turn out to be worse. Here is what might happen if you let your plants drown in water-

1. Rotting of the roots – While the roots of a plant absorb water, they do need air to breathe. Overwatering, to put it simply, drowns your plant. Healthy soil, with the right moisture content, allows for oxygen to exist in the space between particles of soil.

2. Leaves Turn Brown and Wilt – When plants lack water, leaves turn brown and wilt. This also occurs when plants have too much water. 

The biggest difference between the two, to identify the problem, is that too little water will result in your plant’s leaves feeling dry to the touch while too much water ends up giving your plant soft and limp leaves.

3. Stunted and Slow Growth – Stunted and slow growth accompanied by yellowing leaves is also a symptom of overwatering. This is also accompanied by falling leaves.

Dos and Don’ts of watering plants


1. Use a watering can. A watering can usually has a long spout that helps you to precisely direct and redirect the flow of water to the base of a houseplant. If you use a bottle or glass, it just tends to make a mess of things for you. 

Even the use of a bucket and mug, something very common in India, does not help direct the water in the most precise manner. 

2. Water Indoor Plants as Needed. Use the techniques mentioned above to determine whether or not your plant needs water. Check every single specimen – just because one needs to be watered doesn’t mean they all do.

3. Soak the Soil Thoroughly. When your indoor plants need water, don’t be a miser and give them just a tiny sip of the drink. Soak the soil thoroughly, until you see the water start to come out of the pot’s drainage holes. 

Giving your houseplants a good drink encourages healthy growth and root system development.


1. Let Indoor Plants Sit in Water. Soaking the soil in water is extremely important, but don’t go overboard and drown your plant in water – if houseplants sit in water, they might develop a case of root rot. 

If you accidentally overwater, be sure to tip the pot and drain the water at the right point in time.

2. Use Softened Water. Water softening systems present in big cities use sodium, which tends to cause harm to the health of your houseplants. As was mentioned in the aforementioned points, be careful to use purified water for your plants or an outdoor faucet that is not connected to the source of soft water in your house.

3. Follow a Watering Schedule. Having a schedule to check the moisture in your indoor plants is okay, but don’t make a rigid schedule for watering all your plants. Sticking to a 2-3 day plan can often lead to overwatering and underwatering, as some houseplants may need watered more or less often and not according to a plan.


Is following a schedule that bad?

Not necessarily. As was mentioned before, a  schedule might work for some plants as they need a regular water supply but some plants don’t need it that often hence you need to monitor them for their watering needs

What is the best time to water plants?

When you water the soil in the evening or at night, less water evaporates than it would on hot soil during the day. And the plants can sufficiently supply themselves with water before the next day’s heat.

Should the leaves be misted frequently too?

Wet leaves become diseased leaves. And when the leaves are wet overnight, it may result in leaf-mold diseases.

Which soil is best for water retention?

Planting soil rich in clay minerals tends to have better-expanding properties and can therefore retain water in the soil better but one has to prevent waterlogging by ensuring proper drainage.


Plants usually are selfless but it doesn’t mean they don’t deserve your attention. As you take care of your children and pets, plants also happen to be living beings that need your love, attention, and care.

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