Water the Gift of Lifekerstin mcguire
As with all living things, plants need water to survive. Plants that are planted in the ground by nature will grow roots reaching 1- 6 meters underground to get their source of water and nutrients. Hence plants grown in the ground do not need constant watering unless there is a drought.
Potted plants however, rely solely on us to replenish it’s water and nutrients (fertiliser) since we have removed the plant from it’s natural habitat into a cute pot. We are now responsible for caring, watering and fertilising our potted plants.
In the potted plant world, there is such a thing as over-watering and under-watering.
Over-watering is the No.1 killer of plants! This happens when the soil in the pot is too soggy and water-logged. Soil should not be too wet. If water drains out from the drainage hole at the bottom of the pot, excess water should be removed within 15 minutes. Do not let the plant sit in water for too long as it will lead to root rot and will damage the plant as roots will cease to function. Symptoms of root rot are mushy leaves. Once the roots begin to rot, leaves will start yellowing, eventually turn brown and die.
Under-watered plants are easier to remedy compared to over-watered plants. The process of deterioration of under-watered plants is easily spotted as leaves will droop, shrivel or wilt. In the case of plants that do not show symptoms of drooping or shrivelling, leaves will start to yellow and eventually turn brown and die if water is not replenished in time.
With that being said, the 2.6 billion ringgit question would be,” Just how much of water do I need for my plant?”
How much to water?
Plant Mamas & Papas are encouraged to get to know your plants’ watering requirement before purchasing your plants. For example, frequent travellers are advised not to choose plants that need to be watered frequently (eg; Fiddle Leaf Fig) and instead choose draught-tolerant plants (eg; ZZ plant).
In our previous post; The Plant Newbie: Plant 101, the rule of thumb is to water the plant to a quarter of pot size, no matter how big or small your pot is.
How to water?
Water slowly on the soil, at the centre of the plant. Water circularly around the edge of the pot, making sure to water all sides, while observing that excess water comes out from the drainage hole. Remove any excess water from the saucer.
Other considerations on how much to water is type of pot and the weather.
In hot and dry weather, an unusually large amount of water is lost due to transpiration from the leaves and roots and evaporation from the potting mixture. Therefore, you may need to increase your watering frequency. In wet and cool weather, potted plants obviously lose less water. Adjust accordingly to the current weather situation.
It is also important to note that different types of pots evaporate at a different rates. daun.com.my uses glazed ceramic pots which allows moisture to be contained longer than cement, terracotta or plastic pots, thus reducing the frequency of watering needs. If you have purchased herbs that come in a default plastic pot, do note that they need watering at least once daily, sometimes twice; once in the morning and evening if the weather has been hot and humid.
When to water?
The most obvious indication that they require water is drooping, shrivelling or wilting leaves. However, it is not the most useful indicator, as it might be too late by then. Moreover, not all plants will show signs of thirst by wilting or drooping. Therefore, it is unwise to try to judge the moisture level from the appearance of the plant. Always check the soil before watering to be sure not to over-water or under-water.
A moisture sensor is the best tool to measure the moisture in potted plants. It is available for purchase here.
Fingers or satay stick
There are various other ways to measure the moisture level. You can either probe with your finger, use a satay stick or chopstick to go farther down. Be careful not to hurt the roots, it is best to probe at the edge of the pot, away from the plant.
We normally give a general rule of watering once every 3-4 days for indoor plants. Note that drought tolerant plants such as succulents, cactus, aloe vera, snake plant & ZZ plant may require much lesser water for both amount and frequency.
Giving the right amount
We recommend three basic watering guidelines taken from Readers Digest in respect of quantity and frequency :
- Water plentifully
- Water moderately
- Water sparingly
It is best to use room temperature water, as cold water can cause spots on the foliage. The water should also be as near as possible fluoride-free.
Fluoride free water
If you are using our Malaysian tap water, it is almost likely to have fluoride. To rid the water of fluoride, let it sit in a container for at least 24 hours before using it to water the plants. Be sure not to let it sit for more than 3 days to avoid breeding of mosquitoes.
Not all plants react badly to water that has fluoride, however sensitive plants like calathea, spider plant or peace lily have a tendency to have brown tips at the end of the foliage if watered with fluoride.
The simplest, best and natural water solution for plants, if possible, is to collect and use rainwater. Plants prefer rainwater as it is slightly acidic. Distilled water can also be used but may not have as much nutrients and minerals.
Speaking of rain, every once in a few months, give your plants a good shower in your bathroom! Plants appreciate a good drench (emulating rain) of it’s roots and leaves. This will also wash away any dust on it’s leaves. Happy plant showering!