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ASK A PLANT EXPERT: How do I know if I'm watering a plant too much or not enough?

Every week we’re answering all your pervy questions about plants with the help of the plant geniuses over at Leaf Supply. Have a question you want answered? Send an email to [email protected] We’ve got you covered. 

Question: How do I know if I’m watering a plant too much or not enough?

There’s no doubt that watering is one of the things that trips plant parents up the most, particularly those just starting out on their indoor gardening journey. One of the most common mistakes people make is overwatering, it’s very easy to kill your precious plant babies with kindness!

Different plants have different water needs, so it’s important to do your research and be as informed about your plant pals as possible.

Many plants come with a nursery tag that gives very general care info, so it’s best to look a little further afield for some specific info. Google is definitely your friend or better yet, pick up one of the beautiful indoor plant care books on the market.

There are many variables which make it difficult to suggest exactly how often a plant should be watered. While many foliage plants will suffice with a good soaking once a week, it’s vital you check in with your plants regularly to make sure your watering schedule is meeting their needs.

It’s a good idea to get into the habit of checking in with your plants every 3-4 days to assess where they’re at. With many indoor plants it’s best to let the soil dry out between waterings so that the roots don’t become waterlogged. To check if your plant is thirsty, simply stick your finger in the potting mix toward the edge of the container – if the soil is dry it’s time for a water. Most plants should be watered when the first inch of soil has dried out.

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Pot drainage is really important in avoiding over watering as it allows any excess to escape the pot, moving it away from the plants precious roots. Gathering all of your plants for a mass watering over a sink or in the shower on a specific day of the week can help you keep track of how often things are getting a drink. In the shower you get the added benefit of the leaves, which are prone to gathering dust, getting a good cleaning too.

Simply let the plants drain and dry out slightly before popping them back in their regular spot. Pots with drainage holes and saucers can be watered without having to move them but you do want to make sure that any water that’s sitting in the saucer longer than half an hour is emptied so it doesn’t become stagnant and attract pests.

Plants are pretty good at communicating when things aren’t right which is why checking in regularly can help you nip any potential problems in the bud. Here are some of the issues to look out for and what they can mean:

  • Yellowing or dropping leaves: Moisture stress which can occur with both over or under-watering a plant will commonly present as yellowing leaves or may cause a plant to shed foliage. Don’t let plants go too long between watering, if leaves are droopy and the soil is dry, your plant is probably thirsty. Likewise, if a plant’s soil is constantly soggy or wet you need to reduce watering and increase drainage and ventilation.
  • Leaf curling: This can occur when a plant is subjected to long periods of drought and low humidity. Ensure regular watering and increase humidity by misting leaves.
  • Brown leaf edges: Again dry air and underwatering are probably your culprit. This can also be caused by over fertilising, so be sure to eliminate that as a possible cause first before pulling back on the watering.

Leaf Supply is an online plant store delivering lush green goodness throughout Sydney and beautiful botanical wares Australia wide. It’s the love child of friends and massive plant nerds Lauren Camilleri + Sophia Kaplan, who believe that life is better surrounded by greenery. For some serious plantspiration, follow along on instagram @leaf_supply and check out their online store

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