Lori K. from Santa Rosa asks: I would like to know how often I should water my houseplants, because the answer isn’t as simple as “once a week.”

Fear not, Lori! With just a few guidelines, you’ll be watering like a pro!

It‘s very rare when all of the plants in your house need to be watered at the same time. Although this is a convenient way to water, this is how the habit of over-watering starts.

So each time you bring out that watering can, avoid watering all of your plants in a routine manner and treat each plant individually. Start by feeling how wet the soil is for each plant before you just go ahead and water.

Due to gravity, the soil dries out from the top of the pot and continues down toward the roots.

To check the moisture level, look at the color of the medium’s surface. Usually, dry soil is lighter in color than wet soil.

Check the weight of the plant. Water adds weight to the soil, so a heavier plant means wetter soil. And lastly, feel how wet the soil is. Stick your finger down into the soil an inch or two to get an idea of its moisture content or use a moisture meter specifically for gauging the moisture level of soil.

Now that you know what your plant’s moisture level is, what’s next?

Since different types of houseplants, or species, prefer different soil moisture levels, be sure you know what each plant needs. The following categories will make your watering decisions easier. They are: wet, moist, and dry.

Plants that prefer a “wet” soil means that the surface of the soil should never be allowed to dry out between waterings. “Moist” means that approximately ¼ — ⅓ of the soil should be allowed to dry out between waterings. “Dry” means that the entire container of soil should be allowed to dry out between waterings, often for extended periods of time.

Leaves can help tell you that your plant needs water. For example, the leaves of many tropical plants will have a grayish-blue hue when the plant’s too dry, and the foliage of other plants may start to wilt. Stems will also droop if they don’t have enough water. But be careful, because plants with rotting roots, which could be the result of over-watering, will show these same signs. So, instead of relying on a set watering schedule, follow those simple guidelines and you’ll have much happier and healthier plants!

Cindy M. of Healdsburg asks: What are ‘neonicotinoids’? I hear that those of us who are gardeners should not be using these types of garden products. Can you explain?

Neonicotinoids are a group of insecticides that are widely used in home gardens and farms as well as around our homes, schools, and city landscapes. They are used to protect plants from sap-sucking and leaf-chewing insects. Neonicotinoids insecticides are systemic, which means they get absorbed into the plant tissues and are in all parts of the plant, including the nectar and pollen. These insecticides are thought to beseriously harming honeybees, butterflies, and other flower-visiting insects. What is extremely concerning is the prolific inclusion of these insecticides in home gardens and the number of gardeners are using these products.

To know if you are using such a neonicotinoid insecticide, read the label carefully for the following active ingredients: Imidacloprid, Clothianidin. Thiamethoxam, Acetamiprid and Dinotefuran. Amdro, Bayer, Green Light, and Ortho are just a few manufacturers of neonicotinoid garden products.

The Xerces Society (www.xerces.org), is a nonprofit organization that protects wildlife through the conservation of invertebrates and their habitat. For over 40 years, the Society has been at the forefront of invertebrate protection worldwide, harnessing the knowledge of scientists and the enthusiasm of citizens to implement conservation programs. Look at their website for more information.

Dana Lozano and Gwen Kilchherr are garden consultants. Send your gardening questions to The Garden Doctors, at pdgardendoctor@gmail.com. The Garden Doctors can answer questions only through their column, which appears twice a month in the newspaper and online at pressdemocrat.com.