Plant Life Balance

Plant watering got you panicked? Here’s our top tips

Haven’t quite figured out your fronds’ perfect watering routine? Don’t stress – we’ve put together our top tips on watering your home jungle like a pro.

Watering plants: so critical to sustaining life, yet so tricky to master!

If watering is one area of gardening that you feel a little hazy on, you’re definitely not alone. According to our 2019 research,

Over 40% of plant parents don’t actually know when to water their plants.

Further to that, 1 in 5 suspected a recent plant death was due to under-watering, and 1 in 6 think it might have been overwatering.

But have no fear! Plant Life Balance is here to help you find that perfect Goldilocks balance, with some help from horticulturists and Plant Life Balance friends, Tammy Huynh and Dom and Dunc from The Plant Runner.

One caveat before you scroll on: the below article is general plant watering advice. Keep in mind that each plant variety will have its own quirks when it comes to watering, and watering advice will vary depending on your region around Australia. If in doubt, ask an expert at your local nursery or garden centre.

Overwatered, or underwatered? How can you tell?

Sometimes, figuring this out is as easy as giving your plant a good look-over. As Tammy explains,

If the leaves of your plant are soft, limp or wilted and accompanied by brown, yellow lesions, you’ve likely given them too much to drink.

The leaves may also completely yellow, and fall off.”

There are a few ways you might be overwatering without realising it: by not allowing sufficient time for your plant to dry out between waterings; if the pot’s plate has water sitting in it; or if there’s multiple people unknowingly doubling up on the watering routine.

Tammy advises that if you suspect that this has happened, stop watering until the soil is near dry and move the plant into a warm(er) spot, out of direct sunlight. If the soil is absolutely drenched and doesn’t look like it’s going to dry out anytime soon, consider re-potting the plant into fresh soil, and start again.

Under-watering symptoms can look similar to overwatering, although some plants – like calatheas – completely roll up their leaves when dry. You may also find foliage a little more on the crispy side. The best way to tell is to feel the soil: if it’s dry, give the plant a good drink until water runs out the bottom of the pot.

If the soil isn’t absorbing the water well, you may need to completely soak the pot in a bucket of water. Gently lower the pot into the bucket – some dirt will float, and that’s completely fine – and hold it down with rocks or a heavy object. Let it soak for a few hours before removing and allowing the water to drain away before returning to its usual spot, and it should perk up over the next few hours or days.

Although under-watering is usually the better of the two scenarios (if we had to choose), be aware that once soil has completely dried out (we’re talking bone dry), it can be difficult to get it back to its original state and it won’t retain water as well as it used to, so try and avoid this happening.

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Watering day at #themindwelling 🌿🚿

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The answer is in the dirt

If you can’t see any obvious signs of over or under-watering plant stress (yay!), an easy way to check if it’s time to water is by simply popping a finger in the soil up to your second knuckle (around 2 inches, or 10cm). If the soil feels moist and sticks to your finger, leave watering for a little longer. If it feels dry, it’s probably a good time to give to give your frond a drink.

You can also conduct this test more precisely with a moisture metre – these can usually be found cheaply at your local nursery or garden centre. Give them a call before you head in to check what’s in stock.

Top tips for watering smarter, not harder

So now you know what not to do, here’s Plant Life Balance’s top three tips for getting that watering balance juuuust right.

Water according to season

In the cooler months, watering requirements for most plants will change – they will be in their dormant periods, so will require less to drink. Because the temperature will have also dropped, the soil will also take longer to dry out, meaning you should be watering less regularly.

During our recent chat with Dom and Dunc from the Plant Runner, they also reminded us that that indoor heating in winter can dry plants out, too – if you’re one to blast the heater or air-con over winter, think about increasing the humidity where possible by group plants together, create pebble trays or consider investing in a humidifier.

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PLANT BATH / Tom: ‘I’m going to have a shower’ Me: ‘Ok, enjoy’ Tom: ‘But I can’t because there’s plants in the bath’ Me: ‘Oh… Yeah😐’ Is this a familiar conversation with anyone else? Just me? No? Plant baths have become a fortnightly ritual for my bigger plants. I was originally doing this monthly (and watering them a little in between too), but it seems they like it so much and have been thriving recently so I’ve treated them again to a good soak. I think they enjoy getting drenched and then draining off for an hour which they don’t have the luxury of when I water them by hand. Anyway they’re all watered and happy, and it makes me feel like an accomplished plant mum which means I must be winning at adult life. Hell yeah! Hope y’all having a great Tuesday 🌱✌️ . . . #interiorrewilding #houseplantclub #houseplantlove #plantbath #crazyplantlady #indoorjungle #jungalowstyle #urbanjunglebloggers #urbanjungle #livingwithplants #plantlife #plantaddict #mybohohome #bohobathroom #bathroomdecor #bathroomdesign #bathroomremodel #bathroomtiles #ihavethisthingwithtiles #plantsmakepeoplehappy #pilealovers #monsteraobliqua #bathroomgoals #howihome #myeclecticstyle #colourmyhome #shakeupyourstyle #interiorwithplants #homeiswheretheplantsare #howihouseplant

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Make smart species choices

When choosing new plants for your home or garden, add ‘place appropriate’ to your list of criteria. Australia has an incredible diversity of climates, and indoor and outdoor conditions can vary dramatically across the country.

Ensuring that your plants are suited to your specific room, weather and soil conditions will be an enormous help when it comes to reducing how much water they need, how often you have to tend to them, and likely they are to thrive.

Get a smart watering routine going

Small tweaks to your watering routine can make a big difference to how much and how often you need to quench your leafy friends’ thirst:

  1. Take the guess work out of watering by checking with an expert – snap some pics of your fronds, and head to your local Plant Life Balance accredited nursery to confirm their watering requirements in your specific region.
  2. Keep up that natural water retention – consider keeping that top layer covered with mulch, straw or decorative moss. This helps keep the soil moist and healthy, protecting the microfauna that live in it.
  3. Reduce, reuse, recycle – instead of emptying water from drinking glasses and bottles down the sink, empty it into the nearest plant instead.

Now you’re equipped with all the know-how you need to become a watering whiz!

If ever in doubt about your watering routine, head to your local nursery or garden centre and chat with an expert.

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