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Garden Doctors: How to avoid drowning houseplants

  • Garden Doctors Dana Lozano and Gwen Kilchherr.

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.


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