How much water do your plants need?
Plants will not thrive If they are not watered properly. It is, therefore, important to read plant labels carefully, note the specific varieties you are working with, and research their suggested water requirements.
Each plant’s current environment must be factored in as well. For example, if your heat–loving potted plant is outside in direct sunlight, it will have different water needs than if it is placed indoors near a south-facing window. Another environmental factor to take into account is that outdoor plants in the ground (or in a raised bed) will retain moisture much better than an outdoor potted plant, which will dry out faster.
Many online resources are available to help you gather insight into what your specific plants will need. One reference guide can be found on The Missouri Botanical Garden website at https://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/. This site offers a useful “plant finder” feature that allows you to search for various plants by name and research their specific requirements.
How can you check moisture levels?
The Finger Test
The Finger Test is a good guide to determine whether the soil is moist. Stick your finger into the soil up to your first knuckle (about 1 inch) for a small potted plant, and up to your second knuckle (2 to 3 inches) for a larger pot or when checking outdoor plants in ground soil. Note whether the soil is partially moist or wet. On the other end of the spectrum, is the soil dry or bone dry? This will indicate the present moisture level. Based on your findings, decide to add water, or not, so that you achieve the desired moisture levels.
Plant and Garden Moisture Meters
Another alternative is to purchase a moisture meter, which typically comes with a guide that shows the degree of moisture different plants like, so you can match up your own plants’ water requirements. The meter will show you the current moisture level on a scale of 1 to 10.
For example, hydrangeas like to be well hydrated. The moisture meter should always reflect the moist range for these plants. Read the package carefully. Mine shows that, if the red arrow is in the 1 or 2 range, that means the soil is dry. The middle range usually indicates medium moisture, and the higher range shows that the soil is wet.
Guidelines for Watering Your Garden and Potted Plants
Time of day: The best time to water is in the morning when the sun is weakest and the ground is cool, so the foliage will have a chance to dry if water ends up on the leaves. Evening watering is not recommended because it encourages bugs, fungus, and disease. It also increases the risk of foliage not drying completely, which can cause problems.
Duration: Don’t simply water your plants for 10 seconds, and then move on. Make it a practice to water deeply. This applies more to outdoor plants and to plants in larger pots. Let the water absorb into the soil and get to the roots. You should always have some amount of drainage from the bottom of the pot. This takes a little time, initially, but it will allow you to water less frequently. It will also encourage deeper root growth. This is true for many plants, including grass and trees, as well. Look at the size of a plant or shrub, see how much soil the plant is living in, and water accordingly.
Where: Try to water directly at the base and root of the plants, but avoid getting the foliage (leaves) wet. Using irrigation systems that provide water at soil level is more efficient and also helps conserves water. Don’t use sprays that send water all over the foliage and to areas where it is not needed. The foliage doesn’t need water; the roots do!
Container location: Container gardens, pots, and planters need to be monitored and watered more often, especially in the warmer months. They are exposed to more sun and dry out more quickly. Using weed-free mulch in containers and beds keeps the ground cool, deters weeds, and also retains moisture. Evaporation is reduced, and watering is more efficient. Some plants like to be ignored and watered infrequently – don’t get tricked into overwatering them!
Observation: Observe your plants, and they will give you hints as to whether they are happy with your watering routine or whether something needs to be tweaked! Read plant labels, and talk to your knowledgeable local nursery staff to help troubleshoot issues.
Hope these tips and guidelines will help your plants get the water they deserve to grow and thrive. Thank you for visiting my website! Please sign up for my newsletter!