How Often to Water Houseplants: How to Water Indoor Plants Correctly

how often should you water plants

Knowing how often to water houseplants can be tricky. There are so many variables that affect how you should water indoor plants. Some house plants are thirsty and need frequent watering. However, most potted plants prefer being watered less frequently when the soil partly dries out. Factors such as pot size, type of potting mix, temperature, and plant type are just some things that determine how often to water plants at home.

How often to water houseplants: Indoor plants usually require watering every one to three weeks. Water houseplants often enough so that soil is moist but not so much that it’s soggy. Rather than watering plants on a schedule, check soil moisture regularly to see if the plant needs water. The frequency of watering depends on heat, soil, light, humidity, and season.

In this article, you will learn general tips when it comes to knowing how to water plants indoors. You will also find out how often to water specific types of plants.

When To Water Indoor Plants

To decide when to water your houseplant, press the soil and if it’s dry, thoroughly water the plant. If the potting mix is moist, wait a few days before checking again. Only water the plant when the top 1” (2.5 cm) of the potting soil is dry. Check your houseplants once a week to see if they need watering. Signs that houseplants need thorough watering are wilting leaves, brown leaf tips, and slow growth.

Rather than water plants often and a little, it’s best to water occasionally and thoroughly. Deep watering every week or less frequently ensures roots get enough moisture and nourishment. To water properly, let all water drain from the pot and don’t allow houseplants to sit in water. In winter, you hardly need to water houseplants at all.

How to Know When Indoor Plants Need Watering

Let’s look in more detail at how to know when indoor plants need watering:

Type of plant affects watering needs

Every kind of plant has its watering requirements. Some houseplants such as ferns prefer damp, wet soil, and humid conditions so they may require frequent watering. Other types of indoor plants need moist soil that partly dries between watering so they only need watering when the top 1” (2.5 cm) of the potting soil is dry. Always check the plant’s watering needs and then water accordingly. If you have a variety of houseplants, you probably shouldn’t water them all at the same time.

Soil moisture content tells when to water house plants

The best way to know if a plant needs water or not is to test soil moisture levels. Poke your finger in the soil to see if the medium is dry. With most houseplants, watering is only required when the top 1” to 2” (2.5 – 5 cm) of the potting mix is dry. Waiting until the potting medium is partially dry ensures that soil at the roots never becomes waterlogged.

You should also check the soil at the drainage holes. The medium should be consistently moist. If the soil at the bottom of the pot is dry, it is definitely time to give your plant deep watering.

Top houseplant watering tip: roots poking through drainage holes is a sign that the potted plant is rootbound. A rootbound plant tends to hold too much moisture in the soil and doesn’t drain well. So, either repot your plant or go easy on the watering.

The weight of the pot can indicate when to water the plant

As you get used to caring for many houseplants, you’ll begin to tell by the weight of the pot when plants need a drink. Moist, damp soil is heavier than dry, arid potting soil. So, unless you’ve got succulents or cacti—which require seldom watering—water plants when the pots feel lighter than usual. With experience, you’ll be able to tell when it’s the right time for watering plants by picking them up.

Use a moisture meter to know how often to water plants

A moisture meter is an excellent choice if you have fussy houseplants that are picky about soil dampness. Moisture meters take the guesswork out of knowing how seldom or frequently to water plants. These devices are not expensive and can mean the difference between thriving houseplants or ones that suffer from root rot.

Using a moisture meter can also help to know how often to water plants throughout all the seasons. Houseplants need watering more often in summer than in winter. So, a meter to measure soil moisture is ideal to water just enough for your plant to thrive indoors.

Look for signs that houseplants require watering

There are often tell-tale signs that your houseplants need watering. Drooping leaves, dead leaf tips, and slow growth are signs of an underwatered plant. Let’s look in more details at the signs that your indoor plant needs watering:

  • Drooping leaves—Check soil moisture because dry soil and wilting leaves show that your plant desperately needs water. However, if the potting medium is damp or moist, drooping leaves could indicate too much moisture or disease.
  • Dead leaf tips—Plants that don’t get adequate water develop brown, crispy leaf tips. If soil is overly dry and leaves start turning brown, thoroughly water.
  • Slow growth—If you’re watering your plant, but not often enough, it could start growing slowly. Usually, new leaves will be small. Give your plant a deep watering and check soil dryness weekly.

How Often to Water Houseplants

The key to growing thriving houseplants is watering them at the correct intervals. The right times to water plants depends on more than just air temperature or bright light.

Let’s look at several factors that affect how often indoor plants need watering.

Type of pot affects the watering frequency

The first thing to pay attention to is the type of container where your plant grows. The speed at which soil becomes dry affects the frequency you need to water them. For example, succulents that require less watering grow better in terracotta pots. Most houseplants that need regular watering and partially dry soil grow better in glazed, ceramic, or plastic pots.

What are the best kinds of pots for your houseplants? Here is a list of suitable container types:

  • Terracotta pots—These porous pots allow moisture to evaporate faster. They are ideal for succulents, snake plants, aloe vera, and cacti. Some plants growing in terracotta pots require more frequent watering in warm weather than if they’re in unglazed clay pots.
  • Ceramic pots—Containers that are ceramic help keep plant soil moisture at even levels. In summer, the potting mix doesn’t dry out as quickly as with terracotta pots.
  • Plastic pots—Similar to ceramic pots, plastic containers help keep the soil moist for longer. This results in less frequent watering throughout the year.

Whenever you buy a new plant, you should repot it and use a fresh potting mix. These pots are usually too small for the plant, and it becomes rootbound. Repotting also gives a chance to check for signs of disease and fungus gnats.

Top tip for choosing the right houseplant pot: whatever type of container you use, it must have drainage holes. The holes on the bottom let excess water drain away and stop potting soil from becoming damp all the time.

Size of pot

The size of the growing container should match the size and type of plant to help get your watering schedule right. If the pot is too large, it will hold too much moisture and you will get problems with dampness, houseplant mold, and rotting roots. If the container is too small, it will not hold enough moisture and the soil will dry out quicker.

As a general rule, if your houseplant needs soil that dries quickly—choose a smaller pot. If an indoor plant needs partly moist soil—pick a larger container.

Type of potting soil determines plant watering schedule

Using the right kind of potting medium for your potted plants is just as crucial as watering properly. Potting soil generally must be well-draining to prevent the medium from becoming waterlogged or soggy. Water should flow fairly freely through the potting mix.

To improve drainage in houseplant soil, you can mix in some ingredients to create the perfect potting soil. You can add coarse sand, perlite, vermiculite, or orchid substrate. These ingredients help aerate the soil and allow excess water to drain easier. You can also add peat moss because this organic matter is excellent for holding just the right amount of moisture.

Size of plant

The size of the plant greatly affects how often you should water indoor plants. For example, a large Swiss cheese plant will need more water than a small polka dot plant.

However, the watering frequency also depends on the plant’s growth rate. A large, established mature plant may need watering more seldom than a small, fast-growing plant. Also, types of epiphytic plants—some orchids, ferns, and bromeliads—have roots that absorb moisture and nutrients from that air. So, this fact can affect how often you need to water them.

Water plants more often in warm temperatures

Most living organisms—including plants—give off more moisture in hot temperatures. Moisture from plants and potting soil evaporates much faster in summer than in winter. For this reason, houseplants need frequent watering—maybe weekly or even more often—in the summertime.

The amount of sunlight shining through your window can also affect when you need to water plants. For example, a plant in a south-facing room probably needs watering more often than if it was in a north-facing place.

Humidity and watering frequency

Humidity is another factor that affects the rate of evaporation from plants and soil. Some tropical houseplants such as calatheas, monsteras, and ferns need high humidity. But each of these plant species has different watering needs.

Correctly watering your plants can be tricky in winter. Closed windows and heating tend to dry out household air. However, houseplants have minimal growth, so they require less watering. Before you decide to water or not, check for soil dryness. Most houseplants rarely need watering in winter. However, many tropical plants need regular leaf misting throughout the winter.

Seasons affect how often to water houseplants

As already mentioned, you should water plants according to the season. Spring and summer are when most plants grow vigorously. However, the majority of houseplants enter into a state of dormancy in fall and winter.

As a general rule, water plants regularly in spring and summer and feed them every three to four weeks. In the fall, start watering less often. Then in winter, water occasionally, and only when the top 1” of soil is completely dry.

Air Circulation

One of the challenges of looking after indoor house plants is lack of airflow. Stagnant air hinders transpiration from leaves and evaporation from the soil. If the soil stays damp for too long, it needs less watering. However, the plant is also at greater risk of developing root disease or fungal problems.

Make sure there is plenty of airflow to help all types of plants thrive indoors. In summer, keep windows open, but make sure the plants aren’t in a draft. In winter, if air circulation and ventilation is a problem, try using an oscillating fan to keep air moving gently around your prized indoor plants.

How Long Can Indoor Plants Survive Without Water

A common mistake when it comes to watering houseplants is to water too frequently. Most healthy houseplants can occasionally go without water for two weeks. As long as you get back to a regular watering schedule, they won’t suffer any lasting damage.

If you tend to forget to water plants regularly, pick a few drought-tolerant types of plants. For example, ZZ plants, species of sansevieria (snake plants), spider plants, and orchids can last for weeks without water. Some of these plants are also excellent low-light plants for dark rooms.

Some house plants have very specific watering requirements. For example, nerve plants and calatheas need soil that’s always moist. If soil is left to dry out or you don’t water them enough, the tropical potted plants will die.

Best Water for Houseplants

It’s not just watering houseplants often enough that’s important, the type of water and temperature is also an important care factor.

The best type of water for houseplant care

Water straight from the faucet is not great for houseplants. Faucet water can contain harmful chemicals—for example, chlorine—that can build up in the potting soil. Over time, these chemicals can affect plant growth and damage your houseplant.

Suitable water for house plants is rainwater or filtered faucet water. You can also leave a container of water out for 24 hours to let the chemicals evaporate.


Cold water can shock plant roots—especially in sensitive plants. Leaving water out for 24 hours or just overnight allows it to get to room temperature—just perfect for watering all your beautiful houseplants.

Best Ways to Water Indoor Plants

Potted plants growing indoors need thorough or deep root watering. A mistake that some houseplant owners make is to water plants shallowly and frequently. However, it is better to water less often and deeply. This type of regular plant watering allows moisture to get to the roots and prevent soil mold.

To deeply water houseplants, evenly pour water in the pot until it drains out the holes in the bottom. Wait until the last drops of water have dripped out. Put your houseplant back on the saucer or tray and return to its place.

Some plants, such as cacti, succulents, and African violets, prefer absorbing water through the container drainage holes. To water these plants, pour water into the container’s saucer. Wait until all the water is absorbed and add more water. Continue this watering process until the plant doesn’t absorb any more water. Discard excess water from the saucer.

How to Tell if You’re Overwatering Your Houseplants

Watering houseplants too frequently is one of the most common reasons for plants dying. In general, indoor plants grow better in drier soil rather than soggy soil. Some of the signs of overwatered plants are wilting and wet leaves, yellow leaves, brown leaves, and root rot. Let’s look at the signs of overwatered houseplant:

  • Wilting and wet—One sign of overwatering is if your plant’s leaves are wilting and the soil is damp. To prevent further damage, only water when the soil is partly dry—even if you have to wait for two to three weeks.
  • Yellow leaves—A classic sign of watering plants too often is yellowing leaves.
  • Brown leaves—If you see brown leaves, don’t assume you must drench your plant in water. If the soil is soggy, leaves will turn brown and die off. If you don’t stop watering, the whole plant will die.
  • Root rot—Too much watering causes the root systems of the plant to rot. You can notice root rot when repotting plants. Brown, gray, and slimy roots will eventually cause your plant to wilt and die.

Examples of Some Plants and How Often to Water Them

Let’s look briefly at how to water some types of popular and unusual houseplants:

Succulents and cacti

Cacti and succulents can last for many weeks without water. These plants are very drought-resistant and store moisture in their leaves. Only water whenever the soil has completely dried out.

Indoor palms

If you grow types of indoor palms at home, check the soil every two to three days for dryness. Palms have high water and humidity needs to thrive indoors.

Broad-leafed houseplants

Houseplants such as golden pothos, hoyas, peperomias, begonias, ivies, and ficus plants only require water when the top 1” of soil has dried completely. Check your plants’ soil weekly and thoroughly water as necessary.

Some plants hardly ever need watering

Many plants require very little water. Some of these types of plants you only have to water rarely include snake plants, mother of thousands, ponytail palms, some kinds of orchid, and ZZ plants.

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