How to Tell When a Plant Needs Water?

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What’s the best way to decide if a plant needs to be watered? Thank you!


Hi Sherrie,

The amount of water a plant requires depends upon several factors. The higher the temperature and the brighter the light, the quicker plant soil dries out. Plants with thin leaves need to be watered more often than plants with thick leaves. Plants with thick leaves, called succulent plants, store water in their leaves; when the leaves become come soft and flat, it is an indication that the plant needs water.

There are a couple of ways to check if a plant needs water.

You can purchase a water meter. Water meters, also called soil moisture meters, measure how much water there is in the soil and hopefully prevent you from over or under-watering your houseplants. It’s important to remember that different plants require different amounts of water. The soil of any succulent plant should be very dry before you water, while the soil of a Majesty Palm should always be kept a little moist. The head or gauge of a water meter usually has a numerical scale from 1-10 with 1 being most dry. Some water meters may also have color indicators. To use the meter, grasp the head & insert the long probe into the pot. It’s important that the probe reach almost to the bottom of the pot so the soil moisture around the roots can be measured. Remove the probe quickly and read the indicator. Water meters are unreliable when the soil has a high salt content. Too much plant food and using water that has passed through a softener leaves salt deposits in the soil. Moisture meters should be kept clean and dry when not in use. You can purchase some good water meters on Amazon.

With smaller pots, you can just stick your finger into the soil, testing to see how far down the soil has dried out.

You can lift the pot and check how heavy the plant is right after you water. and then keep lifting it every few days until the pot seems quite a bit lighter. Once you determine how many days it takes for the plant to become lighter, then you know how often to water. If you move the plant to a new location, you’ll have to repeat the process.

Physical signs can be misleading. Plants can droop when over or under-wateredd. If the plant has been over -watered, roots die and leaves droop. If plants are under-watered, the soil dries out and the leaves droop. Some plants develop crispy leaves when over watered some when under-watered. Always check the soil before watering!

It is better to err on the side of NOT watering. An under watered plant can be saved, an over watered plant quickly develops root rot and dies.